Happy 30th Birthday, Greatest Movie Ever!
I don’t know if I have a whole lot to everything that has been said about The Empire Strikes Back over the last thirty years, from examinations of its impact on Generation X to nerdy arguments over its place in the pantheon. There’s a lot of well-trodden ground around this movie, and many many of us have left footprints there. It’s not my favorite movie ever, but it’s up there; it’s my favorite Star Wars movie, but not by as wide a margin as you might think. I wasn’t even a year old when it came out, so I didn’t even get to participate in the film’s cultural moment, didn’t get the thrill of being there when it all went down; my fandom only came into full flower in its wake. (I did see Return of the Jedi in its original run, or at least part of it; Yoda scared me so bad I ran out of the theatre and refused to go back in.) Anything I have to say about this movie is going to be something you’ve heard before.
But I will say this. More than any of the other Star Wars movies, Empire is a collection of indelible images: AT-ATs lumbering across the icy plains of Hoth, Chewie mournfully crying out for his lost friends, Vader’s pale, fragile head in his weird pyramid meditation thing, Yoda’s sour little face, C3PO in pieces, riding in Chewie’s backpack, Han in carbonite, Luke and Vader’s lightsabers flashing in the dark. These images, and dozens more from the film, have been a part of my mental slide carousel for literally as long as I can remember. They are bound up with my memories, just as they might be with yours, if you’re of a similar age and disposition. For many of us, they have become primal memories, something we all know and draw on. And so when I think of Empire, I don’t think of it just as a film or as a story, as a product or a cultural artifact; I think of it as an experience that I’ve shared with the people I’ve loved, a hundred different times and in a hundred different ways. Its energy surrounds us and binds us.
Plus the original draft of the screenplay was written by Leigh Brackett, possibly the only person who ever collaborated with both William Faulkner and George Lucas, and that’s pretty awesome.
p.s. The Policeman’s Ball case resumes on Monday, with shocking revelations about the mysterious cufflink! Have you figured out what the numbers mean yet?