Even pulpier than the film itself! “A big new sprawling space adventure!”
This past Friday was the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, which was released on May 21, 1980. Which means it’s been 30 years since my 10-year-old brain was darkened and depressed by this grim film. Yeah, it’s got funny robots and smartass quips, but it also has Han Solo frozen in carbonite and Luke losing his hand and discovering that Darth Vader is his father and a betrayal by Lando who is supposed to be Han’s second best friend (after Chewie, of course), all of which culminated in the knowledge that we’d have to wait three years before we learned how it would all turn out.
On May 21, 1980, my parents agreed to take me to see The Empire Strikes Back. That day, my innocence died a little. From what I had been told about Star Wars, I expected a fun-filled ride. Yeah, that didn’t happen. What I saw was C-3PO get blown into a million pieces; Luke Skywalker cut off the head of Darth Vader only to see his own face (you think that scene is trippy now, try it as a five-year-old), then, later, get his hand severed by his own father; and Han Solo get frozen in Carbonite and, for all I knew, killed. Actually, my parents got me to the film a little late, so the first piece of action I ever saw on a proper movie screen was Luke Skywalker getting slashed in the face by a Wampa—a Wampa that later got his arm cut off. Again, with all due respect to George Lucas, this is not a fucking kids movie!
Empire’s plot taught a generation of children that when life gets you down … it’s probably only going to get worse. The most positive people I know all love Return of the Jedi; the cynics love Empire.
I’m one of those who loves Empire.
(Thanks to bronxbee for the reminder of the anniversary and the suggestion of this film for this week’s retro trailer.)