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…
No place is safe. Spoilers are everywhere. A Facebook may have revealed a mild spoiler to myself as I write this. I have a friend who logged onto Twitter after a two-month-long self-imposed ban and the first tweet he saw listed what probably are the four biggest events in the movie. The good thing is: while I’ve seen much of the locations and teases of some action sequences in the trailer, I don’t know what characters are doing, I’ve yet to even hear a line of dialogue from Laura Dern or Benicia Deltoro’s mouth, and I have no idea what other surprises are waiting just out of reach, like a mynock in the shadows. If you’re like me and want to remain as untouched by story details as possible, then you came to the right place. Here, we’ll go through the second-to-last minute of Empire Strikes Back. Yes, the movie is over, but John Williams’ end credits medley continues as the Imperial March blades ironically over the cast of Rebel soldiers (including John Ratzenberger). The music eventually gives way to a reprise of Han and Leia’s theme.
As the music takes us away, let’s dwell a bit on one of the most important names among this list of production people. Lawrence Kasdan gave a pretty interesting interview to Starlog Magazine in the mid-80’s where, like Leia in the South Passage, he revealed his true feelings to us. Ultimately disappointed in the finished product, he goes on to express his mixed feelings about the project. This may help explain why he turned down an offer to help write the Prequels but later decided to return to the franchise...
"Once I got the job I was excited because I liked Star Wars very much. I thought it was great art, in that Star Wars hooked into the archetypical images registered in our subconscious of how children perceive the world." When he accepted the Empire assignment, Kasdan was handed a second draft script to work from that George Lucas had written. In fact, Kasdan never thoroughly read Leigh Brackett's screenplay.
”George's draft was something that he wrote very quickly when Leigh passed away," Kasdan continues. "George had the story very well outlined, but there were sections in his script which, when I read them, made me say to myself, 'I can't believe that George wrote this scene. It's terrible.' I later learned that George wrote stuff like that simply so that whoever did the next draft would know that a scene covering approximately the same kind of material that his se- quence dealt with belonged at that point in the script. My job was basically to take George's story and make it work through altering dialogue and structure. Naturally, a movie is not a screenplay, but you can't make a good movie without a good script.
"We had very intense sessions on how the story would be done," Kasdan remembers. "I had much less of a free hand on Empire than on anything else I've ever written. When I took the script on, there was very little time left to do it in. Preproduction was already well under way, which usually doesn't hap- pen until a script is essentially completed. Because of that time factor, I felt that the best thing for me to do was to be an instrument for George and Kersh. That suggests a very mechanical form of writing, but it really wasn't. I mean, I had a big influence on Empire, but probably the smallest influence that I've ever had on a film that I've written.”
When Kasdan's script was put before the cameras, his imprint became even more diluted. After seeing the finished film during the spring of 1980, Kasdan became disappointed by many of the same Empire components that bothered other Star Wars fans. One such factor was C3PO's evolution from an intelligent sidekick to a whining buffoon. "It was almost a built-in problem with George's design for Empire that C3PO wouldn't be able to come off well," Kasdan observes. "C3PO didn't really have anything to do, so I tried to keep his lines in my script to a minimum. I also had C3PO being a little more intelligent. Yet, due to Empire's struc- ture, I'm afraid that even in my script, C3PO was superfluous. Then, to make matters worse, we had to give C3PO more dialogue during looping. That wasn't a good idea, because everything that C3PO said made him sound like a cranky nag, simply because he wasn't integral to the story. Of course, giving C3PO more lines during looping to help add something to a scene is always an easy solution, because his mouth doesn't move. You can have him say anything. "What disappointed me even more than C3PO was what happened with Chewbacca. I had had the idea that Chewy would have a real emotional response to Han's courtship of Leia; that it meant something to his relation- ship with Han. Some of that good stuff was filmed, but it got eliminated when editing choices had to be made. At least Chewy's character development originally had some dynamics, but C3PO's never did."
"Han and Leia's relationship is not at all what I envisioned," says Kasdan. "I could be the only person who feels this way, but I thought that their romance had a touch of falseness about it. Han and Leia's scenes were among what I was proudest of in my script, but they barely remained. Their being changed had a lot to do with the circumstances of filming, Kershner, and the actors' feelings about doing their roles again.”
A certain segment of the fanbase seem to share Kasdan’s opinions when the movie initially came out, but we tend not to hear those complaints from the majority of fans today.
Rating: 150 out of The Last Jedi’s 150 minute runtime.
This was originally posted on Mindctrlaltdel.tumblr.com