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….
It's Minute 54:00 and that means it's time for a visit from everyone's favorite creepy uncle, Sheev Palpatine!
It's true, no first name is scuzzier than Sheev. And Sheev's not even short for anything. This guy has a fluke of a career - he hails from a backwater planet of Naboo that's basically RGTV (the Rome and Garden Network) populated by a bunch of dumb frog/stereotype people, and lucks his way into becoming president of the universe. The only reason he isn't stabbed in the back Julius Caesar-style is because he's killed anyone capable of holding the laser-knife.
When I was a kid, Palpatine didn't have a first name and knowing that it's now simply "Steve Palpatine" spoken with a speech impediment is a big disappointment.
Old Palp-daddy appears to Vader and tells him that "the son of Skywalker" must not become a Jedi. Vader, with perhaps some subconscious fatherly concern, proposes "if he could be turned, he could become a powerful ally." This seems to brighten the emperor's dark side and thus we get a peek at what's driving the Empire's motives from here on out.
Look, I understand that this iteration of Palpatine doesn't have the same guttural evil as Ian McDiarmid's performance in Return of the Jedi and the three prequels. His performance in ROTJ is top-notch and his over-the-top portrayal in Revenge of the Sith is so ridiculous it steals the movie (in a good way - that movie needed to be stolen). But, call me a purist, because there's something subtle about actor Clive Revill's reading of these lines and Marjorie Eaton's deliberate mouth movements that downplay the character in a way - making the emperor seem more mysterious. For a cameo appearance in a middle chapter, mystery is just what we need.
And yes, you heard it right. Clive Revill is credited as playing the Emperor in the theatrical version of Empire Strikes Back, but he only portrayed the voice (another famous character he voiced is Alfred Pennyworth on Batman: The Animated Series)! Marjorie Eaton, a British character actress, born in 1901 and with an appearance in Mary Poppins on her resume, wore the facial prosthetics and played the Emperor's physical form. A third actress, Elaine Baker, was married to makeup designer Rick Baker - she portrayed the Emperor in all of this sequence's test footage. Even this simple 45-second-long scene required a ton of work.
All of that work was cut, like Luke's lightsaber hand, when Lucas added Ian McDiarmid into this scene for the 2005 re-re-re-release. When I first heard of this redo, I worried that changes in dialogue would give away Empire's game-changing twist. Yet, it's not as bad as it seems. While the lines are altered a bit, the intention is the same and thankfully, nothing's given away... except a part of our souls.
With a brewing confrontation between Vader and Luke, we transition to Yoda's quaint hut on Dagobah. R2-D2 is left outside in the rain, like a neglected dog and we're left out in the cold alongside him. It's nearly a full 20 seconds before we also see what's going on inside the hut... and we'll have to keep waiting to find out.
Best Performance by a Human: Emperor Palpatine, played by Clive Revill/Marjorie Eaton.
Best Performance by a Non-human: R2-D2 giving his best puppy dog eye.
Best Line: Vader's "he will join us our die, master."
Rating: 2.8 out of 3 actors to play Emperor Palpatine.
This was originally posted on Mindctrlaltdel.tumblr.com