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 sequel that started it all, The Empire Strikes Back. Join me and together we will watch Star Wars. . . .
At the start of Minute 4:00 we see Luke and he’s… doing some menial tasks in the Arctic tundra? This guy wanted to be a hero so much, he spent all of high school daydreaming directly into two suns. It’s amazing he isn’t blind! All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Now, having torpedoed the Empire’s greatest weapon, he’s forced to ride a muppet-snowhorse around the base like some kind of featured extra. How much did he tick off Princess Leia to get this gig?
Apparently, Han’s out in the wilderness too and since it’s just the two of them patrolling the perimeter of the Rebel’s Echo Base, they most likely said some tasteless joke about exploding planets to really set the Princess off. OR, she just came up with an excuse to get them both out of the base so she could figure out who she’d rather date (spoiler alert: she's into bad boys).
If you consider all the facts, Luke’s probably on the outs because of Corvette Summer. Released in 1978, Mark Hamill starred in the movie about "a high school grad and a hooker-in-training try[ing] to track down his stolen Corvette" (according to IMDB). Time wrote: “As long as one doesn’t demand too much of it, Corvette Summer delivers a very pleasant two hours of escape.” Unlike Corvette Summer, the Rebel Alliance needs to demand too much of Luke - he saves them in EVERY battle.
Luke reaches out to Han to say he’s placed all the sensors but doesn’t catch any life readings – which is light foreshadowing for the event that happens next minute and deep foreshadowing for an entire subplot involving ice creatures attacking the base - cut from the first act. We’ll get to that in a later minute.
Luke’s suspicious of the “meteorite” and just when he’s about to investigate it, his tauntaun panics. We think it’s because a probe droid’s about to pop out and glide over to Luke, but something much worse is going to overtake him.
When Han responds to Luke saying “there isn’t enough life on this ice cube to fill a space cruiser,” we just see a high angle shot of Han’s distant figure, guiding his tauntaun back to base. Either the creative team didn’t show us Harrison Ford’s face because this entire opening moment is about Luke’s journey, or Harrison Ford was already so over playing Han Solo that he phoned his dialogue in, LITERALLY.
In the above video, at 4:49, you'll see how they handled the first shot of this scene. To get the movement required of the tauntaun for wideshots, a small-scale model was created. Industrial Light and Magic painstakingly choreographed this shot frame-by-frame with special effects gurus, Phil Tippett and Dennis Muren, filming one second per hour against a blue screen backdrop. Played at 24 frames per second with the whiteout effects of a blizzard superimposed over it, this visual looks as impressive as King Kong was back in 1933.
With Luke’s reintroduction to a rabid fan audience, you’d expect something more dramatic. Apparently, this was not how we were originally supposed to meet our hero. Here's an excerpt from the earlier version of this scene....
INT. TAUNTAUN STABLE – NIGHT
REBEL PATROLMAN enters and salutes COMMANDER.
But who’s going to set up all these sensors around the base?
A door opens and light spills into the floor. Into the light steps the shadow of a familiar figure. PAN UP to REVEAL the man we’ve been waiting for, LUKE SKYWALKER, 22 or however old Leia is (don’t worry this will all make sense in 1983).
Don’t worry, I’ve got this.
Thank you, sir.
Don’t call me, sir. Call me, LUKE SKYWALKER.
Ok… well, here’s a bag of sensors. Go hog wild.
And watch out with this tauntaun, he smells worse
on the inside… but don’t ask me how I know that…
I mean, that would have been an AMAZING scene, right?!?
Since Luke doesn’t get a Nick Fury entrance, we’ll have to settle for what we have. As a result, this minute gets Echo 5.5 out of Echo 7.
Stay tuned for Minute 5:00 when we debate whether George Lucas creates plot points to justify his lead actors getting into car accidents!
This was originally posted on Mindctrlaltdel.tumblr.com