This article was written by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan as part of the Breening Thursdays series.
Today is Thursday, so it’s time for another Breening Thursday article. We are getting into a fairly consistent schedule of publishing Breening Thursday articles every other week, writing Film Fashion Fridays on the odd weeks. Following this pattern, we Brannan sisters are collaborating on a breening project this week.
On May 7, we breened Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope from 1977. In honor of Star Wars Day, May the 4th Be with You, we decided to watch and breen the first film in the Star Wars franchise. It was our first experience seeing a full Star Wars film. We received very positive feedback to that article, including a few desires to see us breen more movies in the saga. Thus, we are continuing the series is chronological order of their release. This month, we are breening Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back from 1980, which we are publishing on the Force (4th) of June. Interestingly, this year marks the fortieth anniversary of this film’s release.
Most people who read this article have probably seen this movie. Even those who haven’t are probably familiar with the premise. Just to be clear, however, let’s include a brief summary of this movie’s premise. This film takes place three years after the action of the first movie. The opening crawl tells us that the Rebellion is facing dark times, having been pursued by the Empire until they established a secret base on a remote ice world, the Hoth system. The main players are the same as in the predecessor, young farmer turned Rebel fighter and Jedi in training Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Rebel Alliance leader Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and self-serving pilot and Rebel ally Han Solo (Harrison Ford). The main villain is still the menacing Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones), the Imperial lord who pursues the Rebel Alliance, particularly Luke Skywalker, with a vengeance. After the Rebellion evacuates Hoth, having been discovered by the Imperial fleet, the trio is separated, with Leia and Han taking the Millennium Falcon on various adventures, ending up at Cloud City, where Han sees his old “friend” Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). Meanwhile, accompanied only by R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), Luke flies to Dagoba, where he meets Yoda (Frank Oz).
Chewie, haven’t you fixed that hyperdrive yet? We need to jump to hyperspace to start our breening adventure!
Note: We are breening the original release version of this film, not one of the later releases. We will specify when referring to special edition changes.
In the opening scenes of this film, we see Luke exploring the frigid ice planet Hoth on his Tauntaun. Suddenly, a Wampa, a huge ice monster, appears. He knocks Luke off the animal, scratching his face before similarly knocking down the Tauntaun. We see that Luke’s face is very bloody. He looks too gruesome. The way his face looks in the next scene, in the Wampa’s cave, is acceptable. He should look like that after his face is first scratched.
Han is very concerned when Luke doesn’t return to the base. He decides to go out to find his friend. One of the other men at the base warns him that he won’t survive the frigid terrain. Han replies, “Then I’ll see you in -.” Suffice it to say that the italicized word doesn’t stand for heaven. This is the only usage of profanity in this film. This line should be changed to the following sarcastic but not profane expression, “Then I’ll see you the next time we live.”
One of the main special edition changes in this film is more prominent featuring of the Wampa. The production crew had difficulty creating an effective Wampa suit when the film was first made, so very little direct shots of the monster are included. Thus, it is completely acceptable. However, in the special edition, when Luke regains consciousness in the Wampa’s cave, the monster’s fur is bloodied as he eats disgusting-looking meat. In general, I would say that it is more Code-compliant to remain with the original footage in the Wampa lair, including the indirect shots of its arm being cut off. However, if a special edition were released under the Code, the Wampa shouldn’t have blood on his fur, and his arm shouldn’t actually be seen being dismembered.
After Luke flees the Wampa’s cave, he collapses from exposure in the cold. Thankfully, Han, riding a beleaguered Tauntaun, finds him before he dies. Han needs to warm Luke up to keep him from freezing while he puts up a shelter, so he cuts his dead Tauntaun open and puts Luke against it, if not inside it, for warmth. When he cuts the animal’s stomach open with Luke’s lightsaber, its entrails leak out. This shot is really revolting, as is the idea itself. Instead of cutting it open, he should just put Luke up against the animal’s body for warmth.
As Han puts Luke against the Tauntaun, he mutters, “I thought they smelled bad on the outside.” Since Han no longer cuts the Tauntaun open, this line doesn’t fit anymore. Instead, he should say, “I guess these things are good for something after all.”
Back at the base, Luke recovers from his injuries in the rebel infirmary. When Han comes to visit him, he says, “You look strong enough to tear the ears off a gundark.” This is rather grotesque. The line should be changed to, “You look strong enough to take on a gundark.”
Darth Vader is infamous for his powerful Force choking ability, which was first seen in A New Hope. In this film, he again uses this power against Imperial officers who fail him. After Admiral Ozzel (Michael Sheard) accidentally alerts the rebels to the Imperial fleet’s presence near their base, Vader holds him accountable for failing him “for the last time.” Over a hologram, he Force chokes him to death. There should be no cracking sounds during the virtual force choke.
During the Battle of Hoth, Rebel pilots attack Imperial AT-AT walkers. Several of them are destroyed, so Luke and Zev of Rogue 2 (Christopher Malcolm) are soon the main pilots. Unfortunately, Rogue 2 gets shot, and the ship crashes. Zev is shown yelling as he is shot down. Although the casualties of battle must be shown in a war film like this, the camera shouldn’t focus on the pilot when he is shot down. Instead, his ship should just be shown burning and crashing.
After the Rebel Alliance has evacuated Hoth, the Millennium Falcon evades the Imperial Fleet. However, the hyperdrive is damaged, so they land in a cave in a huge asteroid to fix it. The ground begins to move while Leia and Han are in the cockpit. Leia falls against Han, and he catches her. As he pushes her away, his hands are too close to her chest. They should be lower on her torso.
During this awkward moment, Han tells Leia not to get excited. Leia coldly replies, “Captain, being held by you isn’t quite enough to get me excited.” “Sorry, sweetheart,” Han replies, sounding greatly offended as he pushes her away. “I haven’t got time for anything else,” he adds, smirking roguishly. The second part of this line is suggestive, as is his manner of delivering it. Instead, he should sarcastically say, “I didn’t mean to offend your worship.” I think a more sarcastic line like this would more appropriately match his offended expression.
Meanwhile, Luke arrives on Dagobah, a swampy planet. Earlier, Obi-wan’s Force ghost (Alec Guinness) told him to go to the planet to be trained by Yoda, a Jedi master. He spends a good deal of the film on that planet. On Dagobah, there are many random snakes in the background, including in Yoda’s house. This is disgusting. They should be eliminated.
Back on the Falcon, Han and Leia share a private moment while repairing the ship. Ultimately, the scene culminates in the couple’s inevitable first kiss. This kiss is slightly open-mouthed, mainly because it begins when Leia is still speaking. She says, “I happen to like nice men.” “I’m a nice man,” Han replies, leaning in toward her. “You’re not a…” she begins, but he interrupts her by kissing her. This is a technique frequently used in post-Code films. Her line should trail off, and she should close her mouth before he kisses her. Thus, the kiss should be close-mouthed and within the limits of proper Code kissing, not excessive or lustful.
While the ship is being repaired in the cave, a mynock attaches itself to one of the windows. This parasitic bat-like creature is very grotesque-looking in the first shot where it is seen clinging to the window. Its appearance should be less gruesome in this first shot. As a note, the multiple mynocks look acceptable when they are seen in more distant shots as they fly around the Millennium Falcon.
When Han and Leia go outside the Falcon, they notice that the ground of the cave feels squishy, unlike rock. Also, the ground has been moving while they have been in the cave. When Han shoots into the floor, he confirms his suspicion that the cave is in fact a giant animal. When he flew into the cave, Han was unaware that the cavern was in fact the inside of a giant space slug, or exogorth. The idea that the Falcon is inside a monstrous creature is disgusting, especially the details like the squishy floor and the closing fangs. Instead, they should have just landed on top of some huge animal inside a cavern. That would account for the rumblings. However, it wouldn’t be disgusting like the idea that they are in a space slug’s stomach.
Back on Dagobah, Yoda sends Luke into a cave which is full of the Force’s Dark Side. Inside, Luke encounters Darth Vader and battles him, not realizing that he is nothing more than a vision. The battle ends when Luke decapitates his spectral opponent. Although Vader does not actually lose his head, or helmet, since he isn’t really there, this is too violent. Instead, Luke should “kill” him by stabbing him in the torso.
After Luke cuts off Vader’s head, he stares at his helmet lying on the ground. Suddenly, Luke’s face appears inside the helmet, his huge blue eyes staring up with startling wideness. We both find this shot to be the most terrifying moment in the film. Instead, the helmet of the fallen Vader should turn into Luke’s face, his eyes closed. This would be much less gruesome if the helmet were still attached to his body.
The real Darth Vader pursues the Millennium Falcon relentlessly in his own ship. When his officers lose site of it, Captain Needa (Michael Culver) offers to take the full responsibility and apologize to Vader. The results of his bravery are disastrous. The next time we see him, we see Needa’s horrified face as he falls to his knees, completely overpowered by Lord Vader’s Force choke. After he collapses on the floor, Vader ironically says, “Apology accepted,” before motioning for two minions to take the body away. There is too much focus on Captain Needa’s horrified face as he is choking. We should see him from more of a distance.
At Cloud City, Imperial officers torture Han. We see him strapped against some apparatus as Darth Vader and stormtroopers stand by. Then, the camera closes up on a horrific piece of machinery with needles. The two pieces of machinery start to come together, bringing the horrified Han closer to the glowing red machinery. We see it zap his face a few times before the camera cuts away to Lando, who is standing in the next room with Boba Fett. Han’s chilling screams can be heard in the background. Then, Darth Vader comes out. This scene is too horrific. The electrical shocks Han gets in the face are awful, and many long-time Star Wars fans in YouTube comment sections confess that they have always found Han’s screaming very disturbing. The element of torture is very important, but it shouldn’t be shown in such awful detail. The opening of the scene could be the same, with Han strapped to the wall. However, the camera should close up on Darth Vader instead of the strange machinery before cutting to Lando. No screaming should be heard in the background. In some ways, showing less would make the scene more chilling and suspenseful, since we wouldn’t know what is happening to him. The most effective part of this sequence is the next scene, when Han is brought back to Leia. That scene is perfectly acceptable, and it really creates the emotional impression of Han’s suffering.
That concludes the surface breening of this film. Like A New Hope, this film has two core problems which need to be addressed. In fact, they are the same core problems which I discussed in the first film. The first one is the issue of Luke and Leia being implied love interests in the first two films before being revealed to be twins in the third film. This accidentally incestuous relationship comes to a head in The Empire Strikes Back, in which Leia kisses Luke on the lips twice. Before I saw this movie, I wasn’t sure if the twin element could remain, just from what I knew of the series, since I feared that they seemed too romantic in earlier films. However, seeing the complete Episode V clarified the whole situation. Although there were hints of an attraction in the first film, the love triangle has really fallen by the wayside in the second film. In this film, Han and Luke are shown to be close friends while a serious romance blossoms between Han and Leia. This is largely because Luke is by himself for much of the film, leaving Leia and Han together. The first kiss occurs when Leia visits Luke in the infirmary after his Wampa encounter. Han is also there, and his pompous assertions of Leia’s affection for him anger her. To spite Han, she kisses Luke before leaving the room. Luke does look rather pleased, but the action seems mainly like an effort to make her real beau jealous. However, the kiss seems much more romantic when you see the first half of the scene, which was deleted before release. You can see it in the above YouTube video. If that footage had remained, the love triangle would have persisted throughout this film, making the twin angle unacceptable. However, without the deleted exchange, the romance seemed to have fizzled out. Thus, the kiss can easily be deleted. Leia should just tell Han that he doesn’t know everything about women before walking out. The second kiss occurs near the end of the film, when she is tending the wounded Luke after his battle with Darth Vader. Before leaving the room, she gives the patient a quick peck. It seems more fond than playful, but it should be changed to a kiss on the forehead just to remove any last hints of romance. With these changes, the issue of the Skywalker twins has been fully resolved for the whole saga.
The other issue is the Force itself. While the sibling issue is one which can be permanently solved in the first two films, the Force is a point which must be reconsidered with every film, since it develops and changes as it is further described. In this film, Yoda describes the Force to Luke, saying, “My ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere. Yes, even between the land and the ship.” In Obi-Wan’s Force speech from the first film, we changed the phrase “an energy field created by all living things” to “an energy field which powers all living things.” I think a slight rewording here is also all that is needed to make it fantastic and magical rather than New Age ideology. Instead of saying, “Life creates it, makes it grow,” Yoda should say, “Living beings awaken it, make it grow.” That continues the idea we started in the breened first film that the Force is something outside living beings, not inside them. People, and other creatures, can tap into the power and feel it in their blood, perhaps through midichlorians, which we will discuss when we reach that point.
Tiffany’s Conclusion: I really enjoyed this film. I appreciate that it had far fewer Code violations than its predecessor. There was only one instance of profanity, and there were no unacceptable costumes. The main problems were violence and some vulgar or distasteful lines. The first five Star Wars films were rated PG. Like the first film, I found this film to have the Code compliance, or lack thereof, of a late 1950s Shurlock Era movie. Thus, the light breening we suggested would easily make it completely Code compliant. This film is often regarded as very dark. Personally, I appreciated the deepening of characters, expansion of themes, and inclusion of more serious topics, such as a developing romance and the establishment of the famous familial relationship. Neither the wars, the romance, nor the evil of the Empire are intrinsically against the Code. The Breen Era welcomed serious topics in movies, as long as they are handled properly. Regarding the fact that “bad boy” Han becomes the main romantic lead, as opposed to “good boy” Luke, I don’t find this to be a Code violation. If Han remained a selfish scoundrel throughout the trilogy, I might question his depiction as a sympathetic character. However, I feel he undergoes a significant transformation, beginning with the end of the first film. He risks himself multiple times for Luke and the Rebel Alliance, which shows he cares about others and the greater good. I personally preferred this movie to the first one and look forward to seeing and breening the third installment in the original trilogy.
Rebekah’s Conclusion: I’ve heard it said that most Star Wars fans consider The Empire Strikes Back the best of the Star Wars movies. While this was a wonderful film and certainly set itself apart as a success in the world of sequels, I personally preferred A New Hope. Perhaps it’s just because, in any series, nothing can ever quite compare to the first film. In fact, George Lucas originally considered this to be the worst of the films, until he heard his fans saying differently. The first film really focused on Luke’s journey as he met new characters and developed friendships. At the beginning of this film, this path seemed to be continuing, as I noticed that the rivalry between Luke and Han had all but disappeared, and the two men were now very good friends. However, once Luke departed for the Dagobah system, the story seemed to cease being about him and largely focused on the romance between Han and Leia. While I did find this romance quite touching and an excellent story line for the film, it wasn’t until Luke arrived on Cloud City that I felt the story returned to its original track. One can tell merely from the various posters and covers for this film that Luke’s journey has been moved slightly to the background. However, over-all, I found this to be a very good film and an excellent installment in the Star Wars saga. Once again, I hope that we have not offended any of our Jedi and Sith readers. I sincerely believe that our breening points do not do anything to alter George Lucas’s story. I have the greatest respect for his vision, as a writer myself, and I greatly look forward to seeing the saga continue in the future.
Let us know what you think of our breening of the second installment in the epic Star Wars saga. Stay tuned for our breening of Return of the Jedi, which we plan to publish in August. May the Force be your ally until we see you again!
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