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….
George Lucas was a student of mythology and Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces was a heavy influence on him as he devised and wrote The Star Wars in the mid-70's. In Faces, Campbell dissects the archetypical hero's journey, breaking down the standard types of stories we see, from ancient myths to modern films. Oftentimes, the structure of these tales are devised subconsciously by the authors who create them. They see the storytelling methods which worked best in their favorite books and borrow or improve on these developments when crafting their own works.
According to Campbell, the hero's journey generally follows the same steps. This structure especially prevalent in A New Hope, and although the overarching story of the Original Trilogy is a better example of these points, we can still find Campbell's outline in the middle chapter of Empire Strikes Back.
The ORDEAL usually occurs in the middle of a story, in which the hero faces his greatest fear (for Luke, it's the appearance of Vader and the start of their duel in the film's last act). In many ancient stories, the ORDEAL is followed by the REWARD, where the hero wins a treasure for defeating his main obstacle (in Empire, it's more of a shock than a prize, but Luke's REWARD is when he's told that Vader is his father - this truth drives the rest of Luke's journey). The ROAD BACK brings the adventure full circle and often involves a chase to convey the high stakes of the hero's quest (i.e. the Millennium Falcon's escape from Cloud City). The RESURRECTION is the last test and purification of the hero (Empire appears to have the ROAD BACK and RESURRECTION happen hand-in-hand: when faced with the truth of his parenthood, Luke decides to escape Vader and save the galaxy in one move - opting to jump into an endless chasm rather than join his evil father). Finally, the RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR features the hero returning home with his prize, along with the ability to change the world in the same way he has been changed (in Episode V, Luke is reunited with the Rebel Alliance - but now he knows who Vader really is and he's armed with a new sense of purpose. It's this new motivation that allows Skywalker to save himself, redeem his father, and bring freedom to the galaxy)
I bring all this up because we're heading into one of the most thoughtful and metaphorical scenes in all of Star Wars - Luke's challenge in the cave. When he faces the dark underground energy, Luke follows in the footsteps of every fantastical, mythical and biblical character before him. Like Odysseus, he's journeying into hell to fulfill his quest and learned about himself in the process. Whether the audience makes this connection consciously or subconsciously, these character choices and plot points elevate Luke's journey beyond mere popcorn entertainment. It's scenes like this that allow Empire Strikes Back to remain popular and copycat blockbusters like Flash Gordon to become the subject obscure trivia questions. And we haven't even entered the cave yet!
Best Performance by a Human: Luke's self-doubt in the face of this new challenge.
Best Performance by a Non-human: Yoda's simple way of relaying complex ideas.
Best Line: Yoda's response to Luke's question of "what's in there?" - "Only what you take with you."
Rating: 1196 out of 1200 B.C., the year Homer's Odyssey is set.
This was originally posted on Mindctrlaltdel.tumblr.com