I know this one’s the critical darling and literally everyone on Earth says it’s their favorite, but my favorite is actually RotJ. HOWEVER, this one introduces my favorite Star Wars character, features my favorite battle, and ends up at my favorite location, so it’s a super good one!
Episode Number: 5 — Released: 1980 — Production Number: 2
From Farmboy to Freedom Fighter
So, I heart Luke, but the opening crawl is all, “freedom fighters, led by Luke Skywalker,” and I’m all, “Um, no, Leia is leading them.” Luke may lead Rogue Squadron (which they appear to have created in between the first movie and this one to celebrate Jyn and Cassian and all their amazing friends who captured the Death Star plans), but he isn’t in charge of the rebellion yet…
He’s in a weird midway point here, which is fun. He’s still impatient and defeatist when things get rough, but he feels a lot more put together, which is nice. He doesn’t whine anymore. So see, there’s already hope for him! He’s waaaay past the point where his father was in his development. He doesn’t feel like he deserves anything, but he is so devoted to THE CAUSE that he has trouble pulling himself out of the situation and thinking rationally, which is understandable.
But it’s nice to see Padme’s more grounded genes kicking in and Luke not being a whine-factory who is sad because he doesn’t own his own planet or whatever.
All You Need is Love
Overall, one of the best things about this one is the Han/Leia romance. When you watch these in story order (rather than production order), it’s a huge relief to see a healthy romance finally.
And it’s hysterical because they spend most of their time arguing, while Anakin and Padme had lots of quiet talky scenes in which she was wearing romantic outfits and he smiled a lot. Leia wears a pretty-but-practical outfit on Bespin, but for the most part, she’s wearing survival gear that match the fact that they’re on the run and there are no shopping malls to be had. So, take note, folks. The secret to a healthy relationship isn’t beautiful dresses and romantic conversation. It’s snark and mutual respect.
I just really love Han and Leia so much. They’re the perfect couple. He never takes advantage of her and she never has to give up any of her authority or brain cells to make things work. They just fit together and it makes me so happy.
And Vader is, of course, AMAZING. He goes through a million admirals in this one, which gives Piett the fastest promotion track in the Empire, jumping him from Captain to Admiral in a matter of days. I think it’s nice that Vader doesn’t kill Piett at the end when the Falcon escapes, even though you can tell from Piett’s face hat he’s totally expecting that.
But Vader, since he doesn’t have a HUGE arc, is more the Lurking Menace behind everything.
But once he’s finally able to get to Luke and try to convert him (to further his own plans for being Emperor), you can see something shake loose in him right after Luke jumps down into that impossible infinite pit. And I think that’s why he doesn’t kill Piett. He’s distracted by other thoughts. I mean, meeting Luke would have OBVIOUSLY reminded him of Padme and of his own horrible mistakes, and I love that, though Vader is still pretty deep in Dark Side Land by the end of this one, there’s like 1.1% of Vader that’s started going, “Wait a minute!”
And that’s pretty cool.
I’ll look at Yoda from two perspectives here.
Production Order: First Impressions
Yoda is adorbs and marvelous. I could listen to his amused giggle on repeat all day every day for a week and never get tired of it. Even when he goes into serious Jedi mode, you can’t help but find him just the most precious green creature ever. Also, I love how literally everyone involved in the production of the film just refers to him as a frog, even though he looks nothing like a frog.
But like he is a frog.
Mister Miyagi has some serious competition with this li’l dude. He’s just the best. And even though we don’t reeeeally get to see him go into Full Power mode, we know this dude could like squash a planet with his brain. or something.
Yoda is a delight.
Story Order: Fallen Master
My impressions of Yoda during this latest go around were super different. I felt bad for him.
He was once respected and powerful, and now he’s holed up in this crazy swamp planet and, even though he’s probably just playacting so Luke underestimates him, you really do get the feeling that Yoda has gone a bit nuts living all alone for so many years in close proximity to a dark side nexus (or whatever that messed up tree thing is).
He was a general during the Clone Wars and he trained younglings. This dude had one of the most fulfilled existences of anyone in the galaxy. He did everything selflessly and never sought personal gain or fame or anything. He just gave everything and never expecting anything in return.
Obi-Wan even fell prey to the lure of heroics from time to time.
But Yoda didn’t. And Vader’s betrayal cost Yoda his purpose in life. He can’t train anyone and he can’t help anyone and he can’t share his knowledge with anyone.
Until Luke arrives. And despite being given this fantastic opportunity to be what he has always been, he resists because he was so broken by Anakin’s betrayal that he’s terrified of the same thing happening again. Especially since Luke knows where Yoda is, and if he turned, Yoda would have nowhere to hide lest the Emperor seeks him out and sends Vader to finish him off.
He’s just such a tragic character! I still love him dearly, but story order hits home just how much Anakin destroyed Yoda’s life. And yet Yoda doesn’t resent him. He’s sad about what happened to Anakin and regrets that he couldn’t help him.
A City in the Clouds
Bespin is just the coolest. I’m a big fan. I know it’s this industrial thing and probably isn’t the greatest n terms of actually living there (since I imagine everyone who lives there are either workers or families of workers) but I just love the concept. The city itself is isolated and yet full of lots of cool stuff. I wish I could just run around and explore.
Who am I kidding, I want to live there. Literally.
Also Lando is the best.
I love him because he’s not REALLY a bad guy. He has a selfish moment where he truly doesn’t understand that there’s no way he can make a deal with the Empire that doesn’t involve people getting hurt or killed. He doesn’t know Luke, so he feels OK with having Vader scare Han to lure this Luke guy to the city. But when he realizes Han is going to be put into carbon freeze and given to Jabba the Hutt, he realizes he’s made a horrific mistake, so he tries to maneuver things so Leia and Chewie can stay with him. But then Vader changes the deal again. So he straight up rebels, breaks Leia and Chewie out and escapes with them, and then leads the mission to rescue Han.
It’s a miracle he’s able to save Han because if he hadn’t, I don’t think Lando would have been able to function after that. He pays for his betrayal, and he’s able to redeem himself, and I just really like that. He teeters on the edge of making a life-altering error, but is able to catch himself at the last minute and become a hero of the Rebellion.
Lando is awesome. And that’s why he’s my favorite character.
That and he wears capes. Capes are cool.
This movie sort of breaks a whole bunch of rules in terms of what makes a blockbuster. It’s the middle act. It’s not really a complete movie. It’s just a part of an unfinished story. Like, look at Indiana Jones. Each movie has its own MaGuffin, it’s own love interest, and its own villain. They’re separate stories. But with this one, it’s got these ellipses going off in either direction. And that’s weird. Also, it has all the action scenes at the beginning, which is also weird.
But it works.
I could ramble on a WHOLE lot more, but this is getting long, so I will sign off for now.
Star Wars is amazing, y’all, and don’t you forget it!
Next week, we’re wrapping up the Original Trilogy with RETURN OF THE JEDI!