One Score and Half Later: 30 Years of <em>Empire</em>

When I was young my grandparents owned a VCR (this was back in the day when the common person either rented a VCR or had to go to the theater to watch a movie) and a copy of Star Wars. My absolute favorite thing to do was watch that over and over again.  At that age, The Empire Strikes Back and (I think) Return of the Jedi had already been out, but my love affair was with the first movie.

On that video tape, however, was a short documentary-like show that also showed some clips from the other movies. This fascinated me to no end, because OMG!!! THERE'S MORE STAR WARS??!!! I don't remember the first time I saw The Empire Strikes Back, but the enduring memory has been that it was (and still is) the best movie.  Ever. 

Some movies don't age well, or put another way, don't age well with audiences.  As a kid I always loved The Dark Crystal. It was a pretty scary show, but it was Jim Hensen with puppets.  It was cool. Fast forward twenty or so years when I was in college and I decided to take a trip down memory lane (no, the nostalgic kind and watch the movie as an adult). Big mistake. The movie was terribly slow and uninteresting.  I got about 20 minutes into it and had to turn it off, a childhood memory destroyed. 

But not Empire. It still stands as the best movie I have ever watched.  The entire duration of the movie is filled with the Rebels on the move, freezing like popsicle sticks, getting eaten by giant space worms, getting marooned on strange, but fascinating planets, getting backstabbed, having appendages slashed off by their father, and finally catching up with the law. By the time we get to the end of Empire, the good guys are effectively chased out of the galaxy and prospects are pretty bleak. This is a pretty tough pickle all around.  And therein lies the secret sauce, at least for me.  While Return of the Jedi was fun, too, it would have been worse if Empire hadn't set things up like it did.

So what are the lessons from a darker galaxy far, far away?

  • The good guys don't always win.
  • Your 'friends' aren't always good ones.
  • Women say they like nice men, but it's the scoundrels that take them home--and later get frozen in carbonite.
  • Bounty hunters rock.
  • Even though your dad may chop your hand off, that doesn't mean that he doesn't still love you.
Posted on May 22
Written by Wayne Hartman