When this movie came out, it was dogged. The critics went to town on it, really beating it up. Why? Lots of reasons.
* It suffers the same fate as that other great cinematic achievement, Back to the Future II, in that it’s a bridging film. It has no real beginning, and no real end. it just is.
* The storyline is a lot more complicated and advanced that Star Wars IV, with deep emotional and intellectual issues. It’s no Western, that’s for sure.
I’ll admit — when this movie came out, I was underwhelmed, if you can be that as a pre-teen. Really, I liked the fighting on Hoth, which was totally cool, but the rest of it — all of the grown up crap — just had me wanting the next movie to be released so we could get back to the adventure stories. (and — my God! — those were a long three years waiting for the next movie!)
But now that all of the movies are out, and we all have the chance to watch the story unfold from the beginning, I think I’m not alone in saying that this may well be the best of the six. It’s only real competition is from III — that whole “turning to the dark side” / Anakin choosing to side with the Chancellor and the Republic when the Jedi Knights try to stage a coup d’?tat. While III has the more complex internal struggle issues of Anakin, this is a complex study of interpersonal relationships.
Also, watching the movie changes so much now that 1-3 are out. Vader is his father? No surprise there, though it was a HUGE deal back in 1980. Vader is actually human? Well, duh — we saw him suit up in his rig in Star Wars III. Luke and Leia are twins brother / sister? Uh huh, yeah, we know.
Of these, though, the biggest change in perception is with the whole Vader / Luke dynamic, and what this does to the movie. In 1980, it was the mega shocker of the year, a plot twist that put The Crying Game to shame. Now that we’re past all of that, the revelation really ties into a key element of the film, and helps to define the road ahead for both Vader and Skywalker.
And while this movie also makes great advances in the character development of the 4-6 folks — Luke, Leia, Han, etc — it’s also, as I see it, the turning point for the Empire. Sure, the Death Star was blown up — big deal. They obviously got over that. But by the time we get to this movie, the Emperor has done nothing to resolve the issues that caused the conflict in the first place. All those issues remain unresolved. The Empire is no better than the Republic.
And yes, I realize that I probably sound like a broken record, spouting off Army doctrine, and “counterinsurgency” this and “counterinsurgency” that. But hey — that stuff is important today, and both understanding it and applying it are important things. So, bear with me — it’s important.
But for all of the fun and games of watching the Emperor struggle with leadership and civic duty, with war and peace and conflict and unruly systems, it’s a lot more fun to watch Han and Leia in this movie. Yeah, yeah, yeah — I’m a big softy, and I get a kick out of their back and forth banter. They are, at times — a lot of times — worst than high schoolers. And it doesn’t hurt that Leia is pretty damn cute in this film (and so is R2D2). It’s a good chuckle seeing Leia kiss Luke, to spite Han — back in 1980, we didn’t know they were twins. Now, though, it’s either comical or, well, creepy.
I wish we got more of Leia’s story. From the looks of it, she’s got some of the same issues her mother has.
It’s an honest film, not trying to be a marketing tool first and a movie second. There’s no Jar Jar in here, no Ewoks. And frankly, that’s refreshing. Before 1-3 came out, I shunned this movie; now I look forward to seeing it.
(and when they run into Yoda, shouldn’t R2D2 recognize him?