Written by Richie Pepio
During the 124 days before the release of The Last Jedi, I’m reviewing all 124 minutes of the theatrical version of
The Empire Strikes Back. Join me and together we will watch Star Wars….
After following a format of one scene per minute, Empire’s 17th 60-second-increment is an all-you-can-eat buffet of bantha fodder – there’s nice character-building moments, droid hospitals and deleted sibling flirting.
First, we get Rogue 2’s satisfaction over discovering Han and Luke – and if Rogue 2 (Zev Senesca) doesn’t get a raise for this good deed, he should defect to the Empire. Speaking of compensation: does the Rebellion have its own form of currency? According to the internet, they do; but since the Empire doesn’t recognize it – their currency is only accepted on the black market at an exchange rate of 25 Alliance credits = 1 Imperial credit. No wonder there’s no Rebel mechanics around wiping the scorch marks off all the ships.
Second, we learn that Han’s idea of camping is just making a snow mound and sticking metal rods out of it. I don’t know how he and Luke survived, but it's not worth questioning. Just marvel at how close that snowspeeder swoops overhead without looking superimposed. Seriously, for a practical effect from 1980, this shot is incredibly solid. Personally, I’ll always prefer seeing the real thing to a cartoony CGI, even if I can see the black outline of the model in the shot. Lucasfilm pushed the envelope by showing spaceships mid-flight during daytime (since nighttime or space backgrounds are better at masking superimposed models) and their hard work pays off. Although they fail to answer the biggest question: how did Rogue 2 fit both Luke and Han into the backseat of his speeder? Did he drag them along with a tow cable?
After landing back at base, we immediately cut to a quick moment in the Rebel Alliance’s version of Massage Envy, as Luke floats around in a tank like he’s doing viral marketing for Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water.
Han, Leia and company watch Luke, hoping he's going to come out of this okay. Then Skywalker floats up and out of the tank after medical droid 2-1B buzzes in to tell him his table is ready. If Olive Garden had an in-tank waiting room, I would eat there every weekend.
While Luke should be happy to return to reality, Mark Hamill was probably just happy to leave the tank behind. According to J.W. Rinzler’s The Making of Empire Strikes Back, Hamill was nervous to shoot the scene submerged in a tub while heavy lighting hung precariously overhead. The production team assured him the rig was secure but before he could dive into the tank, the lighting beat him to it. Watching the electrical equipment surge through the water would make anyone horrified, but like a true professional, Hamill went ahead and filmed the sequence anyway. It wasn’t any short scene either. Although the theatrical cut only shows us about 10 seconds of Luke-in-Bacta-Tank time, the original moment was a bit longer…
Once Luke finishes his hydrotherapy sesh, we see Skywalker in the recovery room. Han enters and heads straight for Luke, ignoring Leia. The only two human males in the room take the time to have one of their few heart to heart’s in Empire with Han noting that Luke “looks strong enough to pull the ears off a gundark.” Why you would want to pull the ears off a gundark, we’ll never know, but Anakin and Obi Wan once had a run in with these creatures during the Clone Wars. Since they're scary even by Jedi standards, Luke can take this as a compliment.
But did you know this scene also featured a much longer exchange between Luke and Leia, alone? Carrie Fisher gives some weird line readings and the two characters flirt and kiss in a way intended to amp up the love triangle tension. Instead, the finished product, merely shows Leia kissing Luke once at the end of this scene (spoiler alert: Minute 18:00). There, it plays more as a way for Leia to make Han jealous rather than hinting at the romantic connection between the two. Although cut for all the right reasons, the deleted dialogue does shed light on the main trio’s relationship and cracks away at the lie that Lucas always meant for Luke and Leia to be siblings.
Lucas tends to say that all the twists and turns in the Star Wars trilogy (i.e. the Vader, Luke and Leia connection) were pre-determined while he was writing the original film. Yet, I’ve always preferred the idea that these bombshell surprises were all made up on the fly. It speaks more positively to the collaborative process of movie-making and that, even though multi-million dollar franchises can be planned and budgeted out far, far in advance, major strokes of inspiration can still come at the last minute and change everything. Ultimately, there’s still room for surprises between all those profits.
Best Performance by a Human: Luke Skywalker suspended in Bacta.
Best Performance by a Non-human: 2-1B, the Hoth healthcare professional (highest ranking in 5 parsec radius on Zocdoc).
Best Line: Han’s “you look strong enough to pull the ears off a gundark.”
Rating: 1.7-1B out of 2-1B.
Stay tuned for Minute 18:00 where we find out who’s scruffy looking….
This was originally posted on Mindctrlaltdel.tumblr.com