music friday, 1971 edition
flaws: boardwalk empire and the newsroom

by request: the empire strikes back (irvin kershner, 1980)

(This request comes from Tomás.)

Perhaps my cranky attitude is already apparent in the way I refuse to call this movie by that long mess of a Part Five it is now known as. It was The Empire Strikes Back when I first saw it, and that’s how it remains in my mind.

I’ve long claimed that this was the best of the Star Wars movies, but having watched it again, I’m not sure why. Not that it’s bad, but it feels a part of the first three movies in a way that I can’t see why I bother separating this one from the other two. The truth is, I’m not sure I’d even seen The Empire Strikes Back since 1980. I saw the original some years ago, dutifully watched the three prequels when they came out, and I saw Return of the Jedi, which at the time I found more annoying than the others. But you aren’t talking to a hardcore fan … if memory serves, I’ve now seen the six Star Wars movies a total of eight times, all of them included.

I remember when Star Wars came out. I liked it … who wouldn’t? … but I felt it lacked anything beyond its cheesy roots. Fun, but not transcendent. When Close Encounters of the Third Kind came out later in the year, I told anyone who would listen that this was what I wanted from science fiction … a sense of awe. (It’s not entirely fair for me to compare a movie to Close Encounters, which made #25 on my Facebook Fave Fifty list.)

And it’s been more than 30 years, so I can’t really remember why I liked Empire more than Star Wars. I liked the big mechanical attacking horse thingies in the snow battle (see, if I was a good fan, I’d know what those were called … now I have to look it up … Walkers!). I’d say the whole thing about The Force had more impact, which might add the transcendence I wanted, except Yoda bugged the shit out of me.

I’m happy to say that Yoda wasn’t nearly as awful as I’d remembered. (Does he have a bigger part in Return of the Jedi?) He’s not on that much, and his way of speaking, which is really what annoys me, didn’t seem all that bad. On the other hand, C-3PO is still the Jar Jar Binks of his day. I still don’t get why people like the character. I know he is meant to be annoying, but that doesn’t make me glad when he chatters away. Darth Vader is still impressively scary, even with the hindsight of knowing his full story. There are a few special effects that reach that place of awe I want … the Walkers, the Cloud City sitting on the impossibly slender stand. The acting of the humans doesn’t seem as purposely bad as it did in Star Wars.

But it’s time to admit that I am not the audience for these films. That was clear when the new trilogy came along … only Revenge of the Sith was even tolerable to me. But the fact that I don’t have any real desire to watch Star Wars movies over and over, even as I’m always ready to sit through Attack of the Crab Monsters one more time, says it all. I suppose when I’m asked, I’ll still list The Empire Strikes Back as my favorite. But that’s mostly because it’s the kind of thing one should have an opinion about. #330 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 7/10.



I love the Attack of the Crab Monsters line. Odd about the timing of things like this. I'm not sure I could ever make a ten favorite list that didn't have at least one of the original 3. But it's all about the context--my context, at least.


BTW, your Spotify playlist of R&B hits from 60-63 tore it up at my wife's bday party this weekend. Lots of compliments to you from my family & friends...

Steven Rubio

Glad to hear it! I added a few tunes this morning, when someone I don't know subscribed to it.


Probably my cousin subscribing.


I was at Comic-Con 2010, in Hall H (the largest venue) when Joss Whedon first stated publicly that "The Empire Strikes Back" is not a complete movie in his opinion. The silence was amazing. It's been taken out of context a lot since then for shock value (and I think he's repeated it for emphasis) but it made total sense at the moment because the discussion between him and JJ Abrams on that panel had been about telling stories on television versus in the movies. Whedon stated that if you tell a story, you tell the whole thing and his problem with "Empire" is that Han is still encased in carbonite at the end of it. The story is not done and therefore the movie is not complete. It requires "Return of the Jedi" to tell the story. :)

I have a negative reaction to the film personally because my high school boyfriend made me go see it on its digital re-release when he'd promised to take me to see Evita. Told me we'd go to Evita the next week instead. Next week came around and which film had closed and which was still there, I ask you? *grump*

Steven Rubio

I seem to remember Back to the Future II getting a lot of flack for being a clear "come back for the next one" movie. But I don't remember too much complaining about Empire Strikes Back. My memory, of course, is faulty.


I'm sure Whedon didn't complain about it himself the very first time he saw it...

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