28 June 2015

Fathers And Justice

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The Empire Strikes Back continues the story of Luke, Leia, and Han as their importance in the universe continues to grow and their incestuous love triangle reaches its fever pitch. Luke begins his training with Yoda, an alien that both looks and sounds exactly like the disabled love-child of both Kermit and Miss Piggy, whilst everybody else just tries to avoid the massive shiny helmet of Darth Vader. Meanwhile, Vader himself is attempting to track down the young Skywalker with all the determination of a knob that's dressed up as Batman, whilst hanging a 'Fathers For Justice' sign off Buckingham Palace. For most people, this is the best film in the Star Wars franchise and for others it's simply the best film ever made. On the flip side however, some people even consider this film a further stain on the reputation of cinema after the dumbing down of movies began in the mid-70's with its predecessor and Jaws. I won't really be giving that train of thought much time here though on the grounds that those people are simply pretentious, boring twats.

This was my favourite film as a child, but thanks mostly to my failure to die, I've since grown up and found myself drifting from it. Before the other night, I hadn't watched it in years and so I was curious as to whether or not it would hold up against both my own nostalgia and the infectious disease of continuity errors that have arisen from the prequels. From about four seconds in however, I was aware that this movie is clearly a total fucking masterpiece. I essentially got in a time machine and arrived back in my childhood via an irrelevant opening text crawl and an attack on Hoth. I think I may also have figured out what makes this film so good, too. I mean it obviously helps that George Lucas didn't helm it, with Irvin Kershner taking over the directorial reins. In case you've never heard of Kershner, he also directed the shitty Robocop 2 and the huge, flaming pile of wank that was Never Say Never Again... which just goes to show how good of a director you have to be to make a better Star Wars movie than Lucas... however the reason this movie is so great is because it takes the structure of a blockbuster and then kicks it right in the balls.

...Or maybe I'm giving the film more credit than it deserves? This was one of the very first sequels of its size, and so maybe they'd simply not discovered the formula that most films would eventually become so obsessed over. Either way though, it still feels like a minty breath of fresh air in the shitty old anus of formula that most movies tend to now fall back on. I mean, look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe right now and all the good it's doing, and yet beyond "the baddie isn't Tom Hiddleston", the most common complaint with the films is the predictability of their third act battles. Like having a quiet drink in Liverpool, these films are obsessed with simply dropping everything and having a load of people punch the shit out of each other as closing time draws near. The difference with The Empire Strikes Back however is that it's more like taking some Liverpudlians for a quiet drink in Manchester and so rather than waiting until the end for our third act battle, we actually get it right away. The film begins with the huge action scene on Hoth and then heads towards a more subdued conclusion as the characters contemplate their future, and Luke considers putting his hand on his sisters sexy little bum.

By getting this big set-piece out the way within the first thirty minutes, the film then allows us to concentrate on the character development as Leia and Han begin to fall in love and Luke endures psychological torment from an actual muppet. Obviously there is a battle at the end between Luke and Vader too, but it's in no way a larger spectacle than the opening, with the standard rule being that a film increases in size as it goes on. So here you have the giant AT-AT's at the beginning, which are clearly the basic models for a cow that was found in the bin of Ray Harryhausen's studio, and we end with a screaming young man getting his wanking-hand lopped off. The dialogue between Han and Leia is also really well written, as they attempt to verbally abuse each other into bed. Compare that to the prequel trilogy in which there weren't even any fucking characters for any good dialogue to be spoken by and it's easy to see why 1999 might not have been the best year for thirty year old virgins.

If Empire has any problem then it's in the weird time period that it's meant to take place over, as Luke seems to receive a significant amount of training in the space of about a day. In the time it takes the Millennium Falcon to get from Hoth to Bespin, Luke has gone from playing yank the sausage with Yoda to standing on his head and balancing the mouldy Gremlin on his feet. Then again, maybe it's not that Luke got trained really quickly but rather that the Falcon took fucking ages to get to where it was going. You know that bit were it hid on the back of the Star Destroyer? Maybe that was actually like six months of waiting. When Leia later tells Han “I love you”, and he responds “I know”, maybe that wasn't him being cool. Rather that she'd been fucking saying it over and over again as they were stuck together and Stockholm Syndrome started to sink in. Or maybe, more likely, the timescale of this movie is just a little bit fucked.

As for the ending of this film, I actually disagree with most people's assumption that it finishes on a cliffhanger. Rather, it seems to me that it does indeed have a sense of closure, but simply one in which the baddies actually win for once. I suppose the whole parent-reveal thing requires further investigation in future instalments, but it's not like it doesn't work as a standalone thing as it is. Plus it's one of the few times that Lucas has made shit up as he went along that hasn't completely fucked everything else up. Although if I'd been the scriptwriter for Return Of The Jedi, I think it would have just been a two hour argument between Luke and Obi-Wan's ghost with the phrase “You lying prick!” coming up fairly regularly. In fact, the real mystery isn't what Luke will do with this revelation, but why wasn't Obi-Wan screaming in Luke's head to muffle the fact that he's been a deceitful little bell-end. As for Han being plonked into cement and shipped off with Boba Fett, again that just means that the bad guys have won. It's no more sequel-baiting than the end of A New Hope in which we see Vader's ship rolling about and spinning out of control like David Hasselhoff eating a burger on the bathroom floor.

In actual fact, it doesn't seem like this movie has been tainted by anything in the prequels at all, really. I suppose all that midichlorian shite now hangs over the Yoda training sequences, but it's hard to focus on that when we're seeing Mark Hamill piss about with a creature that looks like the rotten corpse of Dobby the House-elf. I suppose the coolness of Boba Fett has been slightly diminished too, knowing that he's actually a cloned version of that stumpy New Zealand guy from Episode Two, but oh well. To be honest, it's not like the character does much anyway, really. He lingers about in the background with a bucket on his head, turns Han Solo into a nice new decorative table top, and gives a bit of sass to Darth Vader. But is mouthing off to the franchise's primary villain such a cool thing to do or is it actually an indication that you're a bit fucking stupid. The Sith Lord kills his own staff over minor quibbles and he's presumably contractually obliged to keep them safe in the work place. If some unconnected bounty hunter starts getting a bit too lippy then I'd say he's fucking lucky that Vader didn't force crush his head and then take a dump in his helmet.


The ironic thing really is that, despite all the crap that the prequels kicked up, most of the continuity issues arise from the original trilogy. It's this film in which they announce who Luke's Dad is, rendering everything Obi-Wan previously said to be total bullshit, and it's Return Of The Jedi in which we find out that young Skywalker has spent the last two films blue-balling over his own sister. However despite all of that though, the The Empire Strikes Back does still remain a masterpiece. It also does wonders for racial equality by having a black character play such a prominent role that could just as easily be played by a white man. Then it ruins that goodwill by having the black man betray everybody whilst playing his part like a 1970's New York pimp. Oh well. This was my favourite film as a kid and I think now that I've seen it again, it hasn't reclaimed its place on the top spot. But it's still fucking amazing, and how can't I love a film in which Harrison Ford proves himself to be a true hero by slicing open an alien-horse, ripping its guts out, and popping his mate in for warmth. Thanks for reading motherfuckers, and see you next time!

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