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What's so great about ESB?

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Don’t get me wrong, it’s darn good film, but as far as Star Wars goes, it’s fairly middle of the road. Can somebody please explain to me why it’s seemingly universally considered the best in the Saga? Hoth is fun, albeit a little meandering initially. Luke and Yoda is all well and good, but Han and Leia’s storyline besides being fairly unengaging features some really creepy romance. The finale is pretty good, but I always feel bad for how everyone treats Lando. He comes to rescue you and the first thing you do is choke him? Really?

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IMO it’s the only film in the trilogy that’s a true serial installment. Star Wars was a one-off fantasy adventure that built a world for you, and left some threads open for future films. Jedi wrapped up all the loose ends and put a bow on top. But Empire was a serial – you already knew the characters, you had an adventure with them, and the adventure ended with a ton of loose ends and cliffhangers to follow up on in the next installment. Some dig that, some don’t. I really do.

Also, Empire maintains a split storyline longer than the other films. Some find it unfocused, but again, I dig it.

As far as other things go, the music is best in Empire (which is why the Special Edition is such a shame, because it mangles one of the best parts). The romance is definitely a product of its time, to put it generously.

I personally love Lando, but can completely see why he gets choked. He may be rescuing you, but he (perhaps) killed your lover/friend five minutes ago in front of you. So yeah, choking.

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Something that I can never quite get over is how real Yoda is as a character. It’s totally believable for this puppet to be a wise Jedi Master, and it’s so good that you forget how damn impressive that is. The model work throughout the film is solid to excellent, and the Imperial Walkers continue to be frightening despite being stop-motion. Apart from Hoth, there are no real locations in this film but it never feels like the world is anything but boundlessly vast.

In addition, none of the characters feel shortchanged by this film. Everyone gets their moment to shine and the small moments between characters feel authentic in a way that hasn’t been achieved since.

Finally, this movie distills the message of Star Wars into its purest form. Yoda’s speech to Luke IS the gospel of the Force, and Luke’s coming of age story is as timeless as storytelling itself.

Star Wars might have been the best contained story of the series, but Empire feels more than any other film like you have stepped into an ancient world where things of myth and archetype are happening all around you.

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Agreed, the model work/practical effects in Empire are both ambitious and successful. It occurred to me that it was Empire’s wildly successful integration of Yoda into the film that spawned the 1980’s phenomenon of movies like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth – which, to be honest, weren’t nearly as successful in that regard. Yoda was lightning in a bottle – a very, very tough act to follow.

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ray_afraid said:

Anakin Starkiller said:

somebody please explain to me why it’s seemingly universally considered the best in the Saga?

You’ll understand when ya grow up. Kind of a pointless conversation right now.

Gotta love the blatant ageism. Empire is great, but it isn’t the kind of movie where you can only truly appreciate it as an experienced adult. At its core, it’s still a blockbuster action movie.

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Besides, it’s not like I’m child. I guess you don’t mean literally an adult but rather an older, more experienced adult.

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Empire is a magical film. I once heard it called the best 80’s fantasy film ever made, and I have to agree.

As others have mentioned, the effects, the music, the writing, the character development. It’s all top notch. It’s a movie made by some of the most talented filmmakers when they were at the absolute top of their game.

Also this:

NeverarGreat said:

Star Wars might have been the best contained story of the series, but Empire feels more than any other film like you have stepped into an ancient world where things of myth and archetype are happening all around you.

Very well said NeverarGreat!

An aside:

What’s wrong with the romance between Han and Leia? Their back and forth banter is one of the oft-cited strengths of the film, and I agree. Their chemistry on screen is really fun and engaging.

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canofhumdingers said:

What’s wrong with the romance between Han and Leia? Their back and forth banter is one of the oft-cited strengths of the film, and I agree. Their chemistry on screen is really fun and engaging.

It’s basically the “boy sexually harasses girl until she gives in” storyline. It’s very well done for one of those, but that’s the core. There’s also moments that undercut that angle and add a little more depth and real connection, giving Leia a little more agency in the relationship, I’m not denying that either, and the onscreen chemistry is undeniable. But it’s definitely a problematic part of Empire IMO.

That said, Empire is my favorite film of the trilogy by far. But if I’m giving advice to my sons about how to approach romantic relationships, “Don’t be like Han Solo” is right up there.

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CatBus said:

canofhumdingers said:

What’s wrong with the romance between Han and Leia? Their back and forth banter is one of the oft-cited strengths of the film, and I agree. Their chemistry on screen is really fun and engaging.

It’s basically the “boy sexually harasses girl until she gives in” storyline.

And when she finally gives in, it’s at the worst moment: they should all be working hard to fix the Falcon’s hyperdrive to escape the Empire and Han has no better idea than to go bothering her to get his kiss.

But it’s definitely a problematic part of Empire IMO.

It hasn’t aged well that’s for sure. In fact, Harrison Ford movies from the eighties haven’t aged well, as explained in this video: Predatory Romance in Harrison Ford Movies

Han: Hey Lando! You kept your promise, right? Not a scratch?
Lando: Well, what’s left of her isn’t scratched. All the scratched parts got knocked off along the way.
Han (exasperated): Knocked off?!

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Predatory? Sorry but that’s a bit of an extreme description of Han and Leia’s relationship. Han is a typical overly confident buffoon but Leia is a strong and confident woman who is never forced or coerced into anything. She’s clearly in control of any situation she’s placed in with any of her “suitors” throught the OT.

But their relationship is portrayed in the very classic style of the lovable buffoon pursuing the fiercely independent woman that goes all the way back to Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.

I agree that I wouldn’t point to Han as a romantic role model, but I’d stop way short of calling him predatory.

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Z6PO said:

CatBus said:

canofhumdingers said:

What’s wrong with the romance between Han and Leia? Their back and forth banter is one of the oft-cited strengths of the film, and I agree. Their chemistry on screen is really fun and engaging.

It’s basically the “boy sexually harasses girl until she gives in” storyline.
It hasn’t aged well that’s for sure. In fact, Harrison Ford movies from the eighties haven’t aged well, as explained in this video: Predatory Romance in Harrison Ford Movies

Agreed. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it’s a bit more uncomfortable these days than it would be in the ‘80s. This Pop Culture Detective guy has many a good point, folks.

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canofhumdingers said:

She’s clearly in control of any situation she’s placed in with any of her “suitors” throught the OT.

Yeah, I wouldn’t go as far as predatory either. But her side of the story is that she plays the sexual harassment game. She’s in control in the sense that she willingly plays along. It’s all just well-meaning banter, it’s even charming. This isn’t just Empire, this is commonplace throughout film in general, and more overt in older films and literature. The man harasses, and the woman, whether she opts to fight back or not, ultimately blushes because harassment is just so flattering. That’s the problem. It’s the storyline in general, not whether Leia can handle herself within that storyline.

Watching it today, there’s some wincing in parts, as with many older films with this type of romance. Not because Empire is particularly bad in this regard – in fact, I’d say it’s better than its contemporaries – but because writers from that time period regularly normalized this sort of thing, that’s all. That said, I cheer a little inside when Han asks Leia’s opinion of where they should go next when they’re drifting in the Anoat system. It’s a little seemingly inconsequential moment that helps give their relationship a much-needed sense of partnership. It’s not all bad.

Again, Empire is a classic film and a favorite of mine. I love Casablanca as well too, but I also wince at how Sam is treated, even though I know it was very progressive for its time. There’s no such thing as a timeless film.

Project Threepio (Star Wars OOT subtitles)

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That wasn’t complicated at all. I actually quite agree with that article. Nice post. And for the record, I totally disagree with wincing or cringing at anything between Han and Leia in the OT. And I think that article better articulates why than I could. Han is often stupid (or really good at appearing stupid). And he doesn’t always know the best way to pursue Leia (despite his over-confident swagger). But calling their interaction sexual harassment is an over reaction imo.

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GlastoEls said:

Complicated, and only cited for a contrary opinion: https://decider.com/2015/05/04/han-solo-star-wars-secret-feminist/.

Not actually that contrary. The gist of the article is that he likes Leia for who Leia is: her brains, her character, her wit, which doesn’t seem that controversial or complicated. The logical leap is that this somehow makes him a feminist. No, it just means his feelings for her are genuine, that’s all. Love doesn’t make you a feminist, it makes you human.

He harasses her. In the same way a zillion other male heroes throughout literature and film harass their own love interests. Some with genuine feelings of love, some superficial. All of them are normalizing a form of sexual pursuit that’s far too common in real life, and much more insidious than it is usually presented onscreen.

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I’m just gonna keep on enjoying Empire without wincing at anything but Luke’s severed hand.

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THE WAYS OF HIS HEART ARE MUCH LIKE THE SUN. SONIC RUNS AND RESTS; THE SUN RISES AND SETS.
DON’T GIVE UP ON THE SUN. DON’T MAKE THE SUN LAUGH AT YOU.

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Dek Rollins said:

I’m just gonna keep on enjoying Empire without wincing at anything but Luke’s severed hand.

Well, there’s also Lando’s cape.

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What’s wrong with Lando’s cape? Lando will forever be “da man”. His character is just one of the many reasons I love Empire so much. Billy Dee Williams absolutely nailed his performance.

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It’s a credit to Lando’s performance that he’s still awesome even with the cape. It’s just one of the lesser fashion crimes, that’s all. Agreed Lando is a huge part of what makes Empire great.

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