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….
Yoda and Obi Wan pose for the album cover for their duo group, Simon and Darth Unkle, as Luke takes off. Yet, originally, their pleading with Luke to complete his training was supposed to include an entirely different character. There's a conspiracy theory out there that Darth Vader wasn't always planned to be Luke's father, and the truthers point to this moment. At least, this sequence as it was written in the early drafts of Empire Strikes Back. Back then, the ghost of Anakin Skywalker appeared alongside Ghost-bi Wan and Yoda and he stuck around long enough to serve as guest lecturer. Beyond the fact that Vader=Anakin is a bigger twist than R+L=J, the appearance of Luke's father at the end of Empire's second act would have just been part of the problem. Having Luke hobnob with his dad would've deflated all the tension and emotional release before a Vader confrontation. Instead Vader's reveal answers questions we didn't even know we had, and then introduces a whole new slew of problems.
For a second, let's just imagine what could have been. Here's a sampling of some lines we might have seen, which were to be followed by a pledge of allegiance to the Jedi Order (courtesy of Uproxx):
SKYWALKER: You've grown well, Luke, I'm proud of you. Did your uncle ever speak to you about your sister?
LUKE: My sister? I have a sister? But why didn't Uncle Owen?
SKYWALKER: It was my request. When I saw the Empire closing in, I sent you both away for your own safety, far apart from each other.
LUKE: Where is she? What's her name?
SKYWALKER: If I were to tell you, Darth Vader could get that information from your mind and use her as a hostage. Not yet, Luke. When it's time…
LUKE: Will you take, from me, the oath of a Jedi knight?
Written in the first draft by Leigh Brackett (the veteran writer of The Big Sleep and Rio Bravo who passed away two weeks after handing in her script), the dialogue's a bit more stilted and lacks in urgency, subtext, and fun. For all the trash talk of Lucas' writing skills, 1980-Lucas at least knew how to write a Star Wars movie.
Fortunately for the audience, the revelation of there being "another" hope is way better in the final version. It's one of my top three favorite shots in the movie and it was also probably the cheapest to shoot. Just Yoda's upper body against a pitch black Dagobah set, with sound effects to communicate Luke's X-Wing taking off. It's like a mini-radio play!
While the "other" was always supposed to be Luke's sister, she wasn't always intended to be Leia. Some of Lucas' compatriots would later argue that Lucas made Leia into the long lost sister so he could wrap up the franchise with one last movie - in Return of the Jedi.
This brand of cutting-corner-storytelling is what may have wedged a divide between Lucas and producer Gary Kurtz (although George accused Gary of allowing the budget to balloon to unaffordable heights). But the bigger divide we're facing here is the confrontation between the Light and Dark sides. So, the X-Wing emerges from Dagobah's atmosphere and John William's sweeping music whisks as back toward the rising action...
...And you couldn't have planned it better... We go from Yoda revealing that there's "another," and the next character we see is the "other" herself - Leia. In order to reach that matte shot of Leia pacing by the window, we're taken into the skyline by following one of Cloud City's twin-pod cloud cars.
Of the three Special Edition revamps of the Original Trilogy, Empire is the least changed. Still, out of all of the updated effects, the establishing shot of Cloud City on the left might be the most dated - the floating metropolis looks the most like a matte painting and the cloud car appears too fuzzy and superimposed. However, the shot on the right, incorporating twin-pod models, a painting, and a princess in a window? That's priceless.
How did they make a fake cityscape feel so real?
Too bad Leia doesn't care about the scenery. She's worried, for the first time, about Threepio. But what about you, audience? Do you even care?
Best Performance by a Human: Sir Alec Guinness, phoning it in from the spirit realm.
Best Performance by a Non-human: Yoda, finding his best light.
Best Line: Obi Wan - "that boy is our last hope." Yoda - "No, there is another."
Rating: 1.9 out of 2 pods in a twin-pod cloud car.
This was originally posted on Mindctrlaltdel.tumblr.com