I know yesterday I spouted about people overlooking A New Hope in favor of The Empire Strikes Back, but the thing is, when you watch Empire, you remember how god damned perfect it is and why everyone decides it’s the best Star Wars movie.
The thing that’s been striking me with the old vs. new trilogy is the pace. The Prequels tend to meander, whereas the originals get going and do not stop, Empire especially, where barely a half hour in, we’ve had Luke attacked by Yeti creature, Han rescuing him and The Battle of Hoth. That there is Avengers style pacing.
It’s also a plus that the two plots, Luke on Dagobah with Yoda and Han and Leia running from Vader are equally weighted and equally effecting. And there’s something uniquely magical about that moment where Yoda lifts the X-Wing out of the swamp. There are so few movie moments like that, that take their time and are still completely thrilling, and more love to throw on Mark Hamill, who, I don’t know if it’s just my new nerdier brain, or a maturity thing, or having seen too many boring *insert yourself here* protagonists, I’ve just been thoroughly enjoying during this rewatch. He’s acting his butt off in this movie, and it’s really cool to see.
I’ve mentioned that I consider Han and Leia’s story to be my favorite love story ever right? I love them, and there’s something so perfect about the scene with their first kiss. You know, the “scoundrel” scene? It’s so good. And Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford are the best in it.
Also Lando. I love Lando. I have always loved Lando and feel like Star Wars comes to life when he shows up. (Not that A New Hope isn’t awesome, it is, but it’s just, I mean, Lando, man…) Billy Dee Williams is exceptionally good as well, it just feels like everything is firing on all cylinders.
The thing I want to call attention to here more than anything else though is James Earl Jones’s voice performance. I notice voice acting in a way that I never used to because of my year or so close animation watching and Vader really is a masterful performance, here even more than in A New Hope, and knowing the fact that him talking the Emperor out of killing Luke is saving the only family he has left (that he knows of) does make that scene more affecting, and having just watched the prequels, it’s hard not to see him wanting to save the only connection to Padme he has. But there’s so much emotion in Jones’s voice and there’s a desperation to this performance.
Maybe I’m projecting, I don’t know, but I thought it was interesting.
I also want to talk about Yoda, and how miraculous it is that this is a character that works at all. I guess it’s Frank Oz being the best at what he does, or a script that willingly plays with how silly he is as a factor, or something, but the ancient tiny Jedi should be ridiculous and for some reason isn’t, he’s instead compelling.
So those are the things that really stood out to me about this, the best Star Wars movie, a title that Empire deserves almost to distraction.