Criticizing Empire Like It’s The Last Jedi

I don’t normally do this, but this time, I’m going to start with my conclusion. Because I want you to know where this is going before you get into the pointed jokey part. So here’s the main point I want to make:

You are allowed to like or not like any Star Wars movie. But it’s time for you to acknowledge that your preferences are emotional, not rational.

Those of you who hate The Last Jedi (even if you’re not an utter jerk about it) are doing so for emotional reasons. All the rational criticism you like to throw around is what your brain does to legitimize a decision you’ve already made. This is not an insult, it’s just how human brains work. We fool ourselves into believing that we make logical choices, but most often those logical chains are built to justify rather than to decide.

I’m going to show you how this works by criticizing Empire Strikes Back in all the same ways that many people have criticized The Last Jedi.

Ground Rules

Before I start, I want to explain how I’m approaching this. To be completely fair to both films, it’s important that I do the following:

  1. I can only use knowledge that was available at the initial release of the film. I must assume I have only seen Episode IV and maybe the Holiday Special. For this reason, I will also be referring only to the original edition, not the updated 90s edition.
  2. I will not be racist or sexist. Criticisms of The Last Jedi from those standpoints are both offensive and ridiculous, and I will not dignify them even with parody. Empire Strikes Back has plenty of flaws for me to access without dredging that particular swamp.
  3. THIS IS A PARODY. None of this is my actual belief. But it is based on observations of real flaws in a movie that many people believe (incorrectly) to be perfect.

All set? Let’s go!


Hoth

Hoo boy. We open right up with a ton of ridiculous science. Like I get that we had an entire desert planet in Star Wars and now we have an entire ice planet (apparently this is a thing Lucas likes doing, which makes me wonder what mono-ecosystem Alderaan was), but at least in a desert I kind of believe that animals might live there.

Apparently Wampas eat Tauntauns, but what do Tauntauns eat? They’re modeled after grazing species, but where is the grazing in all this ice? And for the love of Porkins, why can’t Tauntauns survive the Hothian night? How did this species even make it long enough for the Rebellion to show up and domesticate them? I’m sure the Rebels didn’t bring the Tauntauns with them, because they’re obviously on the run and not prepared for much of anything…so, what the heck, Tauntauns?

But no, the kids need some new toys, so there they are.

And speaking of toys, why do we need new flying things? What was wrong with X-Wings? It’s not like you can’t fly X-Wings in the cold, because after all they’re normally used to fly THROUGH SPACE. Nope, we need new toys so that we can have TWO figures in them and make kids buy more figures. Oh, also we need GIANT WALKING ROBOT DOGS.

Hey Darth Vader, what’s wrong with tanks? Not cool enough for the kids? Or did that seem too on the nose in contrast to your otherwise oh-so-subtle WW2 imagery?

Also, we can’t leave Hoth before introducing the new garbage that is the Force, which is apparently mostly just telekinesis now. But we’ll get into more of that next…

Dagobah

Hooray! Now we have an entire swamp planet! Such variety!

And a Muppet. A literal honest-to-Henson Muppet voiced by Fozzie Bear himself. If there was ever any doubt that Star Wars is now all about pandering to children, this should put that to rest entirely.

You can tell this is the “for kids” part because this is where some of the dumbest humor comes in. I half expected Yoda to make a fart joke, especially because we start with having R2 eaten and then belched out of a swamp monster. Plus, half the sounds Yoda makes as he walks around sound like an old man trying to cover his farts. But we still have a bunch of other stupid jokes and visual gags, like the Muppet troll fighting with the trash can over a piece of food.

And then of course we get the BIG REVEAL that this is in fact the Jedi Master that trained Obi Wan. But why do this? Because we shouldn’t judge people by their appearance? Didn’t we already say that with the Ben Kenobi / Obi Wan Kenobi reveal in Star Wars? This is just a repeat of the same thing, but with Muppets.

Meanwhile, Yoda starts talking about the Force and Luke does a bunch of running and more telekinesis, and…this is where we have to talk about this garbage.

The Force is supposed to be a connection between living things (and apparently also previously living things, like Ben Kenobi), so why does that suddenly translate into an ability to lift rocks and lightsabers and X-Wings? Again, the answer is – it’s for the kids.

You see, kids need a way to visualize the Force. They can’t be content with implied power, like the ability to sense people from far away or picture the perfect firing position for your torpedoes. They need to SEE it. Thus the telekinesis. Kids, you know that Yoda is powerful because look at this big thing he lifted! And you know that Luke is getting more powerful because he stands on one hand and lifts a few rocks! That’s so much better than just a lightsaber!

But all this does is make the Force less of a mystical connection and more just straight up magic. It cheapens it from a story perspective. In Star Wars, Han was able to be legitimately skeptical about the Force even in the same room where Luke is training. Which is great! It sets up the tension of belief vs non-belief. But how skeptical can you be when someone is throwing rocks around with their mind? It completely negates Han’s attitude from the first movie.

This also opens the possibility for doing even more blatantly magical things with the Force in the next movie. No idea what that will be, but I bet it will be stupidly flashy.

Escaping the Empire

Intercut with the admittedly very dull Dagobah scenes are the (mostly) action scenes of the Millenium Falcon escaping the Empire.

The first problem with this is that the Han and Leia scenes take place over the course of hours, while the Luke scenes take…days? Weeks? We don’t know. This weird disjointing of time helps break up the monotony of Luke’s training and Yoda’s pontificating, but it makes no sense from an editing perspective, because these things can’t possibly be happening at the same time.

Anyway, this sequence, while more exciting, brings us back onto the topic of stupid science. One problem is mildly forgivable, and that’s the idea that an “asteroid field” is full of closely-packed asteroids drifting in a bunch of different directions. That’s not how asteroids work, and it’s not how gravity works, but whatever. It’s hard to make “flying through space” exciting, so you need to fill the screen with something.

But then we have the sock puppet.

This is without a doubt the most ridiculous thing Lucas throws at us in the entire movie. I understand suspension of disbelief, but this just pushes it way too far. Here we have a creature that survives in the vacuum of space – which is enough of a stretch in the first place – but again, WHAT DOES IT EAT? If you thought Hoth was a tough environment for foraging species, try living in a cave on an asteroid.

But here’s the real kicker – Han and Leia get out of the ship with nothing but loose-fitting oxygen masks. Which means there’s at least some form of atmosphere INSIDE this creature. How does this work? (Hint: it doesn’t.)

And where do these mynocks come from on the outside of the ship? Are they living in the asteroid creature? Or did the Falcon pick them up somewhere along the way in space? Which…if these are creatures that feed on the power of passing ships, that’s kind of a rarefied food, don’t you think? Seems like a rough life to roam space just hoping to come across the odd ship here or there. And if they’re like barnacles, that means the Falcon would have had to pick them up on Hoth, but there’s no way a mynock could survive Hoth. Even native Hoth species don’t survive on Hoth.

Meanwhile, on the various Star Destroyers, Darth Vader goes through Admirals like Pringles (once you pop…), after which some Imperial officer makes the colossally stupid comment, “Bounty hunters? We don’t need their scum.” Yes you do. You very much do. They’re great scapegoats for you to blame so you can avoid the choke for just a little longer. You should be hiring bounty hunters by the dozens to keep Vader occupied.

But of course, they’re mostly here to sell more toys. Thankfully, that one bounty hunter looks better than he did in cartoon form during the Holiday Special. And he’s not calling everyone “friend” all the time, so that’s an improvement. But these others are on screen for like two seconds. They’re just there because we haven’t had a cantina full of aliens yet in this movie and we’ve gotta have more alien figures.

Which brings us to…

Cloud City

Okay, at least gas giants really are a thing. This is the most believable planet so far.

Overall, the last act of the movie is reasonably exciting and even interesting in some places, so I won’t go into it too much. But there are a couple of problems here too.

The first is the love story between Han and Leia. I know the physical flirting is basically there throughout, but this is a pretty garbage romance. Han is constantly pushy and sleazy and never respects Leia in the slightest, but she falls in love with him because reasons. At one point she even calls him on his crap and he responds with, “You could be a little nicer too,” which is just the worst.

Cutting off Luke’s hand is kind of the topper on the list of dumb science things. The idea that a lightsaber can cut straight through a limb (or metal struts!) in one blow AND cauterize the wound AS IT PASSES THROUGH is completely ludicrous. Cauterizing takes time. The heat required to cauterize instantly would melt the person holding the saber. Even if you could keep that heat contained, it would raise the temperature at the point of contact so much that Luke’s arm would immediately start cooking.

And finally, there’s the SURPRISE ENDING!

Which I know is supposed to be such a shock, but his name is after all “Dark Father.” Come on. But the real issue with Vader being Luke’s father is that it’s lazy writing. It completely contradicts what Ben told Luke in Star Wars. They’re throwing out the previous background and retconning the story so that we can have this surprise ending. It feels very forced (ha).

And then there’s the whining. Oh man, Luke is just so whiny in this scene. It’s terrible to see someone who’s supposed to be a hero treated this way. Luke started out okay on Hoth, but the entire rest of the movie he’s presented as just worthless. That’s not what the fans want to see!

Lucas should never have let someone else write the screenplay. He needs to fire Kasdan and immediately apologize to the fans. The next movie needs to fix all the problems in this one – get rid of the Muppets, make it so that Vader was lying and he’s not actually Luke’s father, make Leia end up with Luke instead of Han, and write a better story that’s full of action instead of sitting in a swamp half the time.

Because clearly we fans know how to make this story better. So Lucas should definitely listen to us.

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