This week JJ and Kelly continue their series on dissecting fictional properties, this time with the second installment of the original Star Wars trilogy: The Empire Strikes Back. Arguably the best of the original three (and possibly all seven), they try to pick apart why it is both a critical and fan favorite. Also, musical theatre nerds, this week's off menu recommendations are for you!
We think Empire is the best-written of the three for multiple reasons, but especially characterization. Everyone's characterization gets sharper (via dialogue), and their narrative arcs get more complicated.
Stakes get personal for everyone, so the audience becomes more invested. This is the movie where the relationship between our protagonist and the villain becomes explicit, not just with the infamous twist at the end ("No, I am your father"), but because the villain now has something he wants from the protagonist: his Force abilities.
Consequences from the first movie are also brought to fruition. In the first movie, Han has a bounty on his head which he skips out on in order to save his friend/join the Rebellion. In other words, no good deed goes unpunished for our smuggler with a heart of gold.
Luke's good traits from the first movie, his idealism and enthusiasm and love for his friends, also have darker sides (the Light and Dark, so to speak). They contribute to recklessness and an inability to see the larger picture, especially when Yoda and Obi-Wan's Force ghost warn him against going to rescue his friends. Luke can't separate his feelings from What Needs to Be Done.
This movie is also about failure. Our heroes aren't perfect; they make mistakes, and those mistakes have consequences. These consequences actually make us care more about our characters because we become invested in them correcting or making up for their mistakes.
Despite not a lot happening plot-wise in the middle of this film, it doesn't sag. The stakes get upped personally for everyone: Luke struggling with his impatience to become a Jedi, Han and Leia coming to terms with their feelings for each other.
A note about the romance: Bicker Bicker, Kiss Kiss is a trope that works only when both parties actually respect the other as a person. In the case of Empire, Han and Leia actually have a pretty good working relationship when it comes to the Rebellion, and when their romantic feelings aren't the subject of discussion, they seem to get along really well. It's only when kissy feelings come up that they start bickering; Leia to disguise her growing attraction to Han, Han because he likes to tease Leia about it. It's good-natured bickering, and that's why this romance works. (Contrast this with other Belligerent Sexual Tension relationships, which can sometimes border on abusive or contempt.)
What We're Reading
Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow
Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda (a.k.a. the Hamiltome)
JJ is still reading her ENORMOUS Beethoven biography, so expect to hear about this for a while y'all
What We're Working On
Kelly is still recovering from vacation
JJ should be working on the companion book to Wintersong, but is procrastinating by going to the gym instead.
Off Menu Recommendations
Season 2 of Chef's Table
The 2016 Tony Awards
That's all for this week! Next week we will be finishing up the original trilogy with Episode VI: THE RETURN OF THE JEDI. As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to let us know!