Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Part I)
It’s been a while since I tried to recap multiple movies at a time here on Snark Wars — and to be honest, I’m not super sure it’s a good idea because these recaps tend to be more labor-intensive than some of my others. But, here we are, because I want to continue my quest to finish ALL of the original six saga films, and I’m only gonna get there one way — so let the insanity, uh…continue, I guess.
Oh, Empire. Oh boy. I’ll be honest: there’s a small part of me that can’t help but sigh in annoyance at certain mentions of this movie, and it has nothing to do with the film’s actual content, which I love for all the same reasons I love anything else about Star Wars. No: my eye-rolls stem from the segment of the fandom that treats this movie like…well, like it’s something I’m supposed to be taking seriously. Empire? Oh, Empire’s like, a masterpiece, man. It’s the Serious Star Wars Film for the Serious Star Wars Fan. Some of those other movies, with their teddy bears and CGI and whatnot — those are silly. Not this! This is all DARK and MOODY and the BAD GUYS WIN.
I know I can’t imagine a Star Wars movie with a darker ending than this one. *sips coffee loudly*
…All right, I’m being salty, I’m sorry. I could go on here, but I won’t. TL;DR: annoying fandom discourse was ever-so-slightly tarnishing this one for me for a while, but fortunately nothing can truly shake my love for Star Wars, or ruin my fun in lovingly mocking it. So, in some ways, I’ve really been looking forward to recapping this one, because making fun of it, even in my gentle way, sort of feels sacrilegious somehow. And yet, from where I’m sitting, this movie is ABSOLUTELY as goofy as all the rest of the original six are.
OK — so let’s see: last time we saw the gang in a saga film, Dorktastic Farmboy Luke Skywalker stopped by a Sad Old Man’s house. While there, they got to talking about Luke’s dead dad, and as it happens, he discovered that his dad wasn’t just Some Dead Guy — he was, in fact Some Dead Guy Who Was a Brave Jedi Knight (and I don’t wanna get too far ahead of myself yet, but let’s just say we’ve got some additional ground to cover on this topic for poor Luke. You’re getting warmer, Luke!) The Sad Old Man — also known as Actual Superhuman and Best Hair-Haver of the Clone Wars, Gen. Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ret.) — dumped a bunch of backstory on Luke about the Force and the Jedi and artfully left out the part where Luke’s dad maybe murdered a few thousand people or so and became an agent of evil after Obi-Wan left him home alone for half a day. Luke was understandably intrigued by all of this, and had set out on an Adventure to learn how to be a Jedi, even though that has generally been a bad career path for absolutely anyone to pursue.
Eventually, the Empire’s first-but-not-last Death Star was blown to bits, Obi-Wan flipped Anakin the bird one last time before “dying”, and Smug Smuggler Han Solo somewhat grudgingly joined his Future Estranged Wife Leia Organa in helping Luke in his hero’s journey and the overall cause of Good.
What’s the gang up to right now? Fortunately The Famous Opening Crawl’s on hand to set us up: we learn that even though the Death Star went KABOOM, the Rebellion still isn’t doing so hot — they got kicked out of their base and are now scattered across the GFFA. We learn that Luke is currently holed up on the ice planet Hoth, leading a group of freedom fighters and wearing a cute hat with ear flaps. We ALSO learn that Anakin, who is still a Drama Queen, is on the hunt for Luke (comics readers will recall that canonically Vader has known for some period of time about Luke’s identity, after sending Boba Fett on that mission where he basically fucked up and got his ass kicked but did manage to learn Luke’s name.) The crawl would like us to know that Anakin is now “obsessed” with finding Luke. I mean, I guess since Obi-Wan’s dead the guy’s gotta fill his days somehow, and his Obikin fanfic-writing can only fill so many hours a day. With that, the Weird Ellipses With an Extra Dot arrive and we know it’s time to begin our story . . . .
Recurring Theme: The Revolution, Brought To You By Complete Dweebs
And so we set off to Hoth, where we first watch an Imperial probe droid land and begin its patrol:
Shortly after this, we see Luke, riding on yet another Star Wars Mythical Creature called a tauntaun (and really, if you haven’t ever watched how they shot this scene, please do. It’s pretty great since Mark’s just kinda sitting on some wooden stilts and the only part of the creature that’s actually there is its head.) He pulls off his goggles, takes in the scenery, and comms over to Han. Entertainingly, he says the following:
The last time we watched this, my husband was like “…why did they bother with code names if he’s just going to immediately call him Han?” LOL. Star Wars viewings are fun in my household.
The two of them have some Banter, because the Skywalker boys cannot help themselves, and they determine that there’s no life around here to be found, and they should both head on back to base.
The script amusingly says that Luke’s “lizard” senses something, and Luke (still, I should note, evidently unable to sense danger very well) is all “what’s that, girl? Trouble at the old mill?” just as a giant wampa swings at Luke and knocks him out cold. Well. Great. Four minutes in and a Skywalker almost died (you’ll NEVER guess who he finds making an appearance in his hour of need later, either.)
Well, It IS Irritating
Han arrives back at the base and, after getting yelled at by Chewie for being late or not helping him or whatever, Han goes into one of those rooms the Rebellion always has that’s just a bunch of sheets of plastic with glowy lines all over them, and people standing by on headsets like it’s a Time Life call center. (Yes, that was indeed a reference basically as old as this movie. Which is, in fact, older than I am and therefore likely much, much older than most people reading this.)
Leia takes note of Han’s arrival by staring awkwardly, and slightly angrily, at him without speaking. Yep, no Skywalker genes in that girl or anything. Ahem. Maybe if we’re lucky she’ll head over there and tell Han how she feels about snow. (Of course, it’s her Naberrie genes and Organa upbringing that are keeping her together and behaving like a normal person, because if she was all Skywalker here she’d have tripped over Han, started crying, and then begged him to tell her what to do with her VERY SOUL because SHE WILL BURST INTO FLAMES IF SHE HAS TO LIVE ONE MORE SECOND OUTSIDE OF HIS EMBRACE.) (Boy, would I have loved to see Han’s reaction to THAT.)
OK, so Han talks to General Rieekan and is like “I gotta hit the road, I owe a giant slug some money and he’s gonna kill me, enjoy your rebellion love you byeeee!” I’ve really gotta use that excuse to get out of doing stuff sometime.
Recurring Theme: Ah, Young Love
Han approaches Leia and is like “welp, see you around or whatever” and she’s like “…’K”:
He gets all huffy and storms off and then SHE chases him down the hallway to do some more sexually-frustrated yelling at him. OH MY GOD, once again our heroes and their Love That Manifests Itself As Bitching have left me feeling sorry for ALL OF THEIR COWORKERS. I felt bad for Rex and Cody and Ahsoka back in the day, and I’m feeling it for everyone at this Rebel base now.
So they go blahblahblahing about how Leia wants Han to stay and fight because he’s a good rebel guy and not because she likes him because EW THAT WOULD BE GROSS, and Han is like OH REALLY BECAUSE LIKE NO ONE BELIEVES THAT ORGANA, but he does it in this just…majorly dickish way, with the pointing and the whining and the whole “YOU COULD USE A GOOD KISS” bullshit and I just…I don’t even know what to root for here. As usual, I find myself wanting them to just make out already but also I’m Very Tired of both of them.
At Least She Didn’t Grow Up On Naboo
Speaking of bitchy old married couples, here’s Threepio and Artoo, and Threeps is complaining about how it’s so cold in Leia’s chambers that they’ll never get all her clothes dry. Hey, thank your lucky stars she’s only packing Alderaanian-levels of luggage, my golden friend.
Artoo beeps and blips and makes a scene and finally Threepio angrily yells “oh, switch off!” and he seriously sounds so annoyed (LOL) and Artoo bloops back at him and like…is the cold just getting to everyone? Everyone’s going to end up breaking up if they have to stay here much longer.
Recurring Theme: Skywalker Boyfriends
Threepio trundles over to Han and is like “hey dude Leia’s still trying to call you, why aren’t you answering?” and Han all snottily is like “Yeah I don’t WANNA talk to her mmkay? Did you not see my passive-aggressive Facebook status?” Threepio continues: it’s just that she was wondering where Luke is. Han starts to reply that he doesn’t know where Luke is, and Threepio is like “well that’s just it: no one does!” and BOY HOWDY does that get Han’s attention. (So every Skywalker dude has this effect on someone? At this point can we just assume that some guy is gonna fall in at least moderate love with Kylo Ren before the sequel trilogy is over for Callback and Continuity purposes? I suppose the smart money’s on Hux at this point. He is red-haired and seems extremely annoyed with Kylo, for one thing, so maybe it’s their subtle homage to the prequels/TCW era.)
Aaaaanyways, Han yells at Some Guy to get a move on checking for Luke, and then, completely distracted by this Very Distressing Information about his friend, walks off in a daze.
Well, That Escalated Quickly
Han, still Worried about Luke, walks over to a group of rebels and asks if their speeders are ready to go out and look for him. He’s told that they aren’t adapting to running in the cold well, and Han’s like “welp, looks like we’ll just have to take tauntauns instead” and saddles up. Someone, out of genuine concern, tells him that it’s too cold to take the tauntauns out and that he’ll freeze out there and Han, riding off, hilariously yells back that he’ll SEE THE GUY IN HELL, THEN. LOL. Oh my GOD, Solo, get a hold of yourself. Are we sure HAN isn’t the one who’s related to Anakin? FFS, Solo, calm the crap down: your boyfriend’s been taken hostage by a snow monster, but they’re not gonna kill him off less than halfway through a trilogy, mmkay? Deep breaths.
Recurring Theme: Force Episode
In the wampa’s, uh, lair? I guess? Luke is hanging upside-down and gradually comes to. His boots are frozen to the ceiling! Oh no! He’ll be killed for sure!
Nah. Naturally, his lightsaber is right below him and he does that thing where he looks like he’s going to pass out or have some kind of Episode and The Force Theme plays as the saber (THAT ONE THAT KILLED EVERYONE BTW, FRIENDLY REMINDER,) goes flying into his hand. I hope that music plays in-universe so Luke always knows when he’s on the right track.
The wampa comes after him, but he gets to his feet in time and slices off the beast’s arm. Hey! I guess Luke really does take after Uncle Obi after all. (Don’t point this out to Anakin, though. He’s probably already paranoid enough about Luke’s parentage as it is, thanks to Sheev.)
Luke tears out of the cave and…I’m sorry, but he looks REALLY funny flailing around in the snow out there. God, Luke has had to put up with SO much bullshit because of his dad’s mistakes and IT WILL NEVER END.
Recurring Theme: The Skywalkers and Their Robots
Artoo is keeping vigil back at the base, scanning for Luke like a forlorn mariner’s wife on a widow’s walk. Threepio tries to tell him not to panic, because Luke will obviously be fine, but the two of them are both worried. Threepio tries to cajole Artoo back in, as he entertainingly walks past what appears to be a group of Rebels on a tram to the parking lot at Magic Kingdom.
In the meantime, as Han continues his search for Luke, Luke is…not doing super well, and collapses in the snow.
Damnit Anakin, THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT.
Inside the base, a status update comes through, which Leia’s coworkers try to keep respectfully low-volume: no one’s heard or seen Luke OR Han now, and it’s getting dark, and they’re going to have to close the doors for the night. Chewie looks utterly forlorn about this:
Threepio ALSO stops by to be like YEP AND ACCORDING TO ARTOO’S CALCULATIONS THEY’RE PROBABLY GONNA DIE. Swell. He then backs off and hedges: uh, Artoo’s wrong, um, sometimes…anyways I bet they’ll be FINE, and he pats Artoo on the head. Awww.
Recurring Theme: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Handing Out Homework Assignments From Beyond the Grave
Out in the snow, Luke has face-planted and is well on the way to becoming a cute little force-sensitive Popsicle when he hears a pompous, lecture-y voice, and his DNA compels him to respond:
Oh, yay! It’s Obi-Wan. Man, I am literally ALWAYS glad to see him, even when I know he’s gonna be there. If he makes a surprise appearance in the sequels I might be excited enough to forgive The Powers That Be for some things. Maybe.
Luke groans: Ben?! Could it be, or is this just another one of those Beautiful Dreams all Skywalkers have sometimes?
I laugh FOREVER at this exchange, because here’s Luke, at death’s door (and as far as I am aware this is the first time he’s ever SEEN Ben’s ghost,) and Obi-Wan has like exactly ZERO time for small talk. He doesn’t even take one second to be like “don’t worry, you’re not going to die because your boyfriend’s gonna rescue you in a moment”, he just jumps right on into doling out an assignment: Luke needs to go to Dagobah, and meet with Yoda: a Jedi who instructed Obi-Wan once upon a time. (He leaves out the part where, as per the New EU canon, Obes stopped by Yoda’s house to prep him for this eventual meeting and Yoda was pretty much like “Goddamnit, do I HAVE to train him? Really? Why can’t I train his sister instead? ARGH FINE I’ll do it, GEEZ but only because you were always one of my favorite kids and btw I saved your old school projects.”) (Note: I am barely exaggerating there.)
Luke, because he is half-dead, just sort of mumbles words back to himself in a daze, and Obi-Wan…just leaves as Han appears. Hahahaha, God I just love the idea that Obi-Wan maybe squeezed this appearance in last-minute, and now he’s gotta run because he’s planning on pantsing Vader during an Empire All-Staff Meeting. (Any universe where Obi-Wan’s ghost does NOT prank Vader for years is no universe I want any part of.)
Recurring Theme: Han Solo, Day-Saver
Han goes running over to Luke and as he does, his own tauntaun keels over and dies of hypothermia:
He looks over to the dead animal, then to Luke, and crafts a plan, dragging Luke’s body over. Hysterically, Luke continues to whimper Obi-Wan’s name this entire time. I assume Vader’s doing the same thing on a star destroyer somewhere.
Han takes Luke’s lightsaber and rips open the still-warm belly of his deceased tauntaun, and pulls Luke over to this newly-found heat source. Luke is now moaning and rambling about Dagobah and Yoda AND Ben and it sounds like he’s having the most upsetting sexual nightmare ever.
Anyways, Han gets Luke all set up and gets to work on setting up a way to communicate back to base, and really — this was both very brave and also pretty damn smart, Solo. I’m proud of you, buddy.
Recurring Theme: Thing That Wasn’t Especially Emotional Before Is Now
The next morning, a pilot is out on patrol in search of the boys.
After some time of trying to reach them, he eventually establishes contact with Han, and “Rogue Two” informs Echo base that he’s found our boys. Aww. Rogue Two. Hang on, I have something in my eye.
The boys are taken back to base and Luke is going for a dip in a bacta tank (and wearing a diaper, according to my youngest child):
So, Han is completely fine? I mean I know Luke had more of an ordeal, but Luke basically died 12 times overnight and Han’s just like, hanging out without a scratch after spending all evening in a cold so bitter it felled a giant animal he was riding on a couple hours in? Wow. Are we sure Han Solo is made of organic material?
Recurring Theme: NO STAR WARS STOP BAD STAR WARS
BONUS Recurring Theme: That Never-Fail Star Wars Humor
Later, Luke’s on a hospital bed of sorts recovering and he and Han share a Moment and I shake my head:
Han then turns to Leia: well, sure looks like you got what you wanted after all, Leia! She’s all “WHATEV I DON’T EVEN WANT TO MAKE OUT WITH YOUR FACE OR ANYTHING” in response. Han presses: nah, you just couldn’t let a guy like me go! and Luke legit eye-rolls behind him and then Leia literally calls Han a “laserbrain” and Han calls Chewie, who laughs at this, a “fuzzball”, AND Leia then calls Han a “scruffy-looking nerfherder” because in case we (I) forgot Star Wars is actually for children. Oops. LOL.
This barrage of incredibly dopey insults aside, Han is like “WELL! I guess SOMEONE’S a little touchy because I’m CORRECT that she LOOOOOVES ME,” like, way to endear yourself to her, Solo, and then Leia retaliates by announcing that Han doesn’t know everything about women and doing this while I yell at my TV:
YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GO TO THE OPERA WITH A WICKED OLD CREEP AND DO STUPID SHIT THAT BREAKS DEMOCRACY, ANAKIN? Your children end up raised apart because of your murderous boss (and self), and then don’t know about their family history and they wind up doing ill-advised things like this. BRA-VO, SKYWALKER. BRAVO.
Recurring Theme: We’re Outta Here
With this now-traumatic experience behind us, Han and Leia learn that there’s been some kind of noise detected out there and whatever it is, it doesn’t sound friendly. Treepio confirms that it’s not anything used by the Alliance, so perhaps it’s Imperial. DUN DUN DUUUUN!
Han and Chewie go out to investigate and sure enough, there’s that probe droid before that we were all supposed to forget about when we got distracted by Luke trying to get himself killed for the billionth time.
Han takes a shot at it and it blows up in a big way. He comms over to Leia that he barely hit it — it must have had a self-destruct mechanism! Leia confirms it’s an imperial probe droid, and that means? The Empire knows they’re there.
They’ll have to begin evacuating the base — and we’ll have to begin evacuating this recap, because that’s it for this time! Join me for the next visit to this movie, where we’ll get to check out Anakin’s dorky little Vader pod, things heat up at Echo base, and maybe if we have time we’ll squeeze in a quick holo-Skype with Sheev (during which, naturally, Vader will be unable to avoid mentioning Obi-Wan because he is a ridiculous person.) See you all then!