November 24, 2013

Queer Review: Star Wars: Episode VI - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Star Wars: Episode IV - The Empire Strikes Back
Director: Irvin Kershner
Writers: Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan, and George Lucas
Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Alec Guinness, Jeremy Bulloch, James Earl Jones

Continuing the adventure started with A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back takes the saga in a very different, and much darker direction. A shocking twist (now ruined for anybody who watches the films in chronological order) elevates this entry onto a much higher level.

Following the destruction of the Death Star, the evil Empire is desperate to capture the leaders of the Rebel Alliance. While Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) heads to Degobah to be trained by the ancient Jedi Master Yoda (Frank OZ), Han Sol (Harrison Ford) and Leia (Carrie Fisher) find themselves in desperate flight from Darth Vader (David Prowse, James Earl Jones). However, Darth Vaders' plans are much bolder than capturing a few Rebel Leaders. Vader wants to lure Luke out of hiding so he can use a dark secret from the Skywalker family past to turn Luke to the dark side.

The Queering
The Empire Strikes Back does what few sequels actually do. It takes the premise of the original as a springboard for a different story. Better yet, A New Hope was a fairly light hearted space romp, The Empire Strikes Back introduces not only a darker tone, but legitimate substance into the saga.

While Empire Strikes Back is the darker, and most mature out of all the episodes, it is also the one that gives it's female lead the least amount to do. Leia is pretty much on hand this time around solely to flirt with Han Solo and yell at Luke "it's a trap!". Hard to imagine a farther cry from the princess in the last flick who picked off stormtroopers with a blaster and boldly took charge of her own rescue before it had even properly begun.

I mentioned before how the Empires' Stormtroopers, are named after a NAZI militia. Here, the ground troops who attack the Rebels on the Frozen planet Hoth, are given uniforms that make them more or less resemble the white hoodies of the KKK. I am not sure what to make of this. Since the rebels are pretty much mostly white, it feels a like drawing any kind of parallel between the rebellion and the civil rights movement feels a bit appropriative.

As for queer subtexts, Han Solo once again not only proves himself willing to put his life on the line to rescue Luke Skywalker, yet he's more than willing to delegate protecting Princess Leia duties to Chewie (Peter Mayhew). Worse, when during a key dramatic moment, when Leia tells him she loves him, Han is unable to respond with a "I love you too" but rather "I know". Really Han? Meanwhile, while Darth Vader showed absolutely no hesitancy when it came to torturing Leia in the last episode, he decides this time around that the best way to lure Luke out of hiding is to torture Han. I wonder, does this mean that Luke cares more about Han than Leia?

All in all, the darker tone and grown up attitude, helps elevate this Star Wars entry a true classic.

See this flick, or do not see this flick, there is no point in merely trying to see this flick.

The Rating
4 stars out of 4


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