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…
At the start of Minute 109:00, Lando leads the group back into the Falcon and they do the opposite of his name: they take off-o. It’s a denouement of sorts for Leia’s story and even though the good guys are rushing away in defeat, it’s satisfying enough that they got away with their lives. Also, the cityscape with it’s weird spires looks gorgeous against the blue sky and orange gases in the distance. The 1980 visuals hold up and we’re left asking ourselves: is this the best takeoff scene in the series? NO!
Here are THE BEST TAKE OFFS IN STAR WARS:
8. The Phantom Menace: The best take off in TPM is still the worst in the series. This one still stands out though, because, while the movie is mostly stale and hard to watch, the moment comes at a time when the film sorely needs some action. As the Naboo N-1 starfighters take off from the Theed docking bay during the climactic battle, the Pikachu-shaped ships are underscored by John Williams buoyant score, which includes a new spin on Anakin’s theme. Parts of this movie still hold a nostalgic place in my heart.
7. Attack of the Clones: When Count Dooku’s ship escapes from the Battle of Geonosis, the fluid-like solar sails expanding from the front of the cruiser give it extra points for originality. It’s weird, different and - like Christopher Lee’s performance - makes Dooku a slightly more interesting character.
6. Revenge of the Sith: Anakin and Obi’s crash landing on General Grievous’ capital ship goes a long way to make up for the long slog of Clones. It’s a shame ROTS takes this to heart and sidetracks too much of the movie with pointless action around General Robo-Dracula. Also, minus some points for the overly cartoony look of the sequence but, hey, with the prequels we need to take what we can get.
5. Rogue One: The reveal of Leia’s consular ship, the Tantive IV, during the final battle practically steals the movie. On the whole, the finale of Rogue One bests most of the action in The Force Awakens, it just seems to lack the heart and likable characters of the latter movie. CGI Leia looks awkward but Vader watching the ship depart in fist-shaking fury is the icing on the cake to the excellently choreographed battle.
4. The Force Awakens: In its first appearance on camera, it was called a piece junk. TFN subverts expectations by having Rey refer to it as a piece of junk as it sits off camera. When we see it for the first time and old themes play over the soundtrack, we’re just happy to see the Millennium Falcon’s familiar face. In this moment, the Falcon still dodges and weaves like the best cheeseburger-shaped stunt car around.
3. Empire Strikes Back: I’m tempted to give top marks to the take off of the Falcon as it escapes from Cloud City in Minute 109:00; it is the most emotionally climactic take off to choose from in this movie, but the Falcon’s escape from Hoth just seems like a more complex special effect, and Han gets extra credit for managing to get away with Vader himself on their tail.
2. Return of the Jedi: Luke piloting the Imperial shuttle out of the exploding second Death Star is an escape that only a Jedi could pull off. While ROTJ can often be a mixed bag when compared to ESB and ANH, it’s a great looking effect. And we can enjoy this moment as the last action sequence from a new Star Wars release for over 30 years.
1. A New Hope: Without the budget to meet his high expectations, Lucas cut corners and he still creates better visuals than almost any other movie from the time period. Whether it’s the shootout in Docking Bay 94 or the deployment of X-Wings and Y-Wings before the Battle of Yavin, Lucasfilm makes the most out of ILM's model work and Williams' music while small specks fly off in the distance. Over all of these effects, the top take off in ANH would have to be the Falcon’s complicated escape from the Death Star docking bay. It backs up, turns and jets away in a shot that was probably painstakingly difficult to pull off.
Now, back to the movie..
The matte/live action combo of this establishing shot on Luke on the catwalk of Cloud City’s ventilation fin looks great. And to prove that this movie is subtly stacked with details, I can say this is the first time I noticed that the broken window is in this shot. You know, the one Luke was thrown through.
Before receiving a surprise from Vader, he walks down a corridor that looks like a leftover set from Alien. But that's probably just the dim lighting and dark walls. It's that unsettling mood that makes us feel like something terrible is about to happen. And it does.
After the original Star Wars came out, a generation of production design teams had the incestuous habit of working on each other's movies. While no art director nor production designer worked directly on Alien, Ridley Scott stated in Deadline in 2015 how his first viewing of Star Wars changed the course of his career: "by the time the movie was finished, it was so stunning that it made me miserable. That’s the highest compliment I can give it; I was miserable for a week. I hadn’t met George at that point, but I thought, ‘Fu*k George.'" He changed his next project from a romantic medieval epic to Sci-Fi horror.
On top of that, production designer, Norman Reynolds, later worked on Alien 3 and one of Empire's art directors, Harry Lange, had previously worked on the original film that blew everyone's minds: 1968's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Thankfully, the competition between hotshot directors and production teams led to a golden age of thoughtful blockbusters in the 1970's and early 80's. Without the modern look defined by 2001, we might not have been treated to the stark, steel visuals that characterize Empire's most important scene... which happens to be coming up.
Best Performance by a Human: Vader popping out of the wall like the Demogorgon.
Best Performance by a Non-human: C-3P0 being puppeteer'ed as he's dragged in his bag.
Best Line: Threepio's "I thought that hairy beast would be the end of me." Then to Artoo, "of course, I feel better!"
Rating: Speaking of Demogorgon, 1.9 our of 2 seasons of Stranger Things.
This was originally posted on Mindctrlaltdel.tumblr.com