The Bones of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

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The Bones of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

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Today we’re talking about what most people feel is the best film in the Skywalker Star Wars Saga!

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

If you missed any of the previous installments of Good Bones, you can find them here:
Episode I
Episode II
Episode III
Episode IV

Let’s dive right in!

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

I honestly wasn’t ready for this film. I was only 5 years old when it came out, and I think I was only six or seven the first time I saw it.

Back then I was idealistic, and didn’t understand a flawed hero or the second act of a story. Yoda was mean, Degobah was icky, something bad happened in the cave, Han Solo ends up frozen, Luke got his hand cut off, and he didn’t win!

To tell you the truth, I mostly tolerated this film until I was in my early teens, when I suppose the hormones kicked in and I finally “got it.”

The Bones:
What happened to the rebellion after they blew up the Death Star?
How is the Empire taking this?
What’s Darth Vader up to?
Where is Luke at with the Force?
Are Han and Leia flirting?
Jedi Training?
Luke…I am your father…

What happened to the rebellion after they blew up the Death Star?

They’re hiding. Again. They seem to be low on resources and places to run.

I noticed something in the opening scroll the other week when we watched this movie. It states that “a group of freedom fighters led by Luke Skywalker has established a base…” I’m not usually sensitive about this stuff, but Like is far from in charge. Maybe the fighters are led by him, but I didn’t see that in the film either. Don’t get me wrong, Luke is my hero in these movies, but give credit where it’s due!

Leia is clearly in charge, which is awesome. I’d never noticed that she doesn’t get credit for that in the opening scroll.

How is the Empire taking this?

The Empire is hunting the rebellion, and considering the Empire has an endless array of assets to throw at the search, it’s only a matter of time before they find them.

Can I just say how much I like Admiral Piett? The fact that he makes a few mistakes and personally apologizes to Vader for them, knowing full well how that might end, makes him one of the biggest bad a**es in the film!

What is Darth Vader up to?

He seems to be heading up the hunt for the rebels. However, he’s really after Luke. He strangles one of his commanders to death, then assaults at least two more in this movie.

As a kid I was terrified of Vader! For good reason, mind you, but after seeing the prequels, this is just Anakin’s impatient, whiny side coming out. Now instead of not getting his way, he kills people who hold him back. Not cool, man.

Although it is a great way to show us how crazy he is at this point.

If you look through the eyes of the prequels, this is the son of the woman he thought he’d killed. Luke is his hope to defeat the Emperor, and bring the kind of order to the galaxy he’s always wanted. Vader is genuinely desperate in this film.

Where is Luke at with the Force?

At first we see Luke doing a mundane patrol. Then he gets attacked and taken by the Wampa. So far no Force stuff.

Then Luke wakes up hanging from the ceiling and sees his lightsaber nearby but out of reach. The Wampa is coming for him, and he takes a moment to calm down and uses the force to cut himself free and chop the Wampa’s arm off.

This gives us the sense that Luke has been exploring his powers.

Then Obi Wan’s force ghost appears to him, giving him orders to find Yoda.

The battle of Hoth ensues, the rebels get clear by the skin of their teeth, and Luke goes off to find Yoda.


He doesn’t tell anyone.

This has always irked me. Han Solo and Luke are clearly good friends by this point, but Luke keeps his secret from everyone. As Yoda later says, Luke doesn’t think before he acts. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s bad.

Are Han and Leia…flirting?

Yes, yes they are.

Leia even kisses Luke to make Han jealous.

The banter between Han and Leia is hilarious in this film.

Han : You want me to stay because of the way you feel about me.
Leia tries to hide her feelings. Yes, you’re great help to us. You’re a natural leader.
Han Solo : No! That’s not it. Come on. Come on!
Princess Leia : You’re imagining things.
Han Solo : Am I? Then why are you following me? Afraid I was gonna leave without giving you a goodbye kiss?
Princess Leia : I’d just as soon kiss a Wookiee.
Han Solo : I can arrange that.
[Leia walks away]
Han Solo : You could use a good kiss!

What is that? Maybe ten lines of dialogue? The romance is already better than the prequels. The fact that several people walk between the arguing couple tells me they’ve been at it for quite some time.

Oh George Lucas, why didn’t you let this writer create the dialogue for Episode II?

And let’s not forget
Leia : I love you
Han : I know
Right before he gets frozen in carbonite. That’s pretty awesome.

Luke, I am you Father…

I won’t get into everything on Degobah. Luke starts his Jedi training and leaves before it’s complete.

Pfft. He was there what, maybe a week? The prequels showed us that Jedi training takes a lifetime. What could Luke possibly lean in a week?

I give Yoda props here for thinking outside the box. He knows he won’t have much time, and has probably seen the outcome of Luke and Vader’s first meeting already. Still, he decides to forego the ancient ways and try something different. Darth Sidious blind-sided him and I’m sure he’s been thinking about that for the past twenty years. Luke can’t be a traditional Jedi.

Luke once again reminds us that he’s related to Anakin when he runs off to save his friends without listening to his elders. Still, Han came back for him at the end of the last movie, and I’ve always liked the fact that Luke held his friends in such high regard. Maybe the Jedi were weak because they had no ties. Love does make you stronger.

Vader is clearly toying with Luke in their fight. Trying to provoke him into doing something stupid. Luke’s ideals—his friends and the fact that he sees the Empire, along with Vader, as evil—keep him on the right track. Even when Vader reveals that he’s Luke’s father.

Which, by the way, was quite a shock to those of us who only had Episode IV before this. Luke’s response is overly emotional, but that actually works. Instead of allowing his emotions to carry him to the dark side, he instead decides he’d rather end his life than let Vader have him.

It’s hard to pick at these bones. There is a reason a huge amount of fans count this as their favorite film. It’s well written and works as the perfect second act to the original trilogy.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

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