Sunday, June 30, 2019

Don't Make a Scene: Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

The Story: Call this "Star Wars Episode VIII (Addendum): The Last Defense of The Last Jedi."

Personally, I don't think it needs defending. But, some things need to be brought up just so folks will remember what they've forgotten and has been supplanted with their memories. Like this scene from Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Many folks consider it "the best" Star Wars film. They might remember this scene from it, at least they would do well to remember it.

Like in their memory of the character of Luke Skywalker, awesome Jedi Knight. Well, maybe that was another "Luke Skywalker," but the one we saw was a whiny farm-boy, too old and too impatient, and, frankly, too much of a hot-headed flake. "Reckless." "He has too much of his father in him," said the charitable Aunt Beru in A New Hope. "That's what I'm afraid of," said the more practical Uncle Owen.

But, to Luke's credit, he has more heart. When we see him here, he's still too passionate—too impetuous—to keep from bumping his head on Master Yoda's ceiling. But...on the other hand...his instincts are good. When his Uncle and Aunt are slaughtered by Imperial storm-troopers, his first thought is not revenge (as was his father Anakin's actions when his mother dies), but of sacrifice—"I want to come with you to Alderaan...I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my Father." Irony. At this time, Luke still does not know the truth about his Father—his Uncle and Aunt hadn't talked about it, discouraged it, and Gen. Kenobi has obfuscated (well, no, he flat-out lies "from a certain point of view") to ensure his long exile on Tatooine bears fruit.

Luke is not an impeccable hero. The only reason he triumphs in Return of the Jedi is a combination of great luck (posing as "The Force"), the very impetuousness that his Masters criticize (when he attacks Vader for threatening to turn Leia to the Dark Side), and the heart to empathize with his father (looking at his father's severed hand and back to his own mechanical one) in his moment of defeat, even at the risk of his own life...going so far as to throw his light-saber away (he could always get it back, of course). Not the best of strategies—a bit of a mess, really—but, it worked. He's no Jedi Master, but then, who, in the series, really is?

Not Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson's knight in The Phantom Menace), he's a zealot. Not Obi-Wan, he's, at the very least, an unreliable narrator and manipulator, and Yoda...he's at his wisest in hind-sight (which, at 900 years, he has a lot of).

But, then, the Jedi Knights are not a noble group when you look at their actions. Their equivalent in the real world would be Navy Seals, with the huge difference being that the Jedi act autonomously without the benefit of oversight, choosing their own actions, instead, by a self-governing Council...with Yoda himself sometimes acting for the Council. Historically, they are similar to the Knights Templar, but without the financial skills. Their instincts, for all their vaunted mental abilities, are faulty and unreliable. And that they are more susceptible to the abuse of their own power is clearly evident in how many of them turn to the Sith. The Jedi are elitist shock-troops with the added burden of being stewards of their discipline, and they're pretty damn lousy at it.

As, evidently, is Luke. From what we've seen in the Sequel Trilogy, he found a student more powerful than he was (Kylo Ren, or Ben Solo as he was born), and tried to suppress it rather than nurture it. Which makes Yoda's comments to him in Episode VIII all the more poignant: "We are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all Masters." As it should be. Students should grow beyond their teachers, no matter how much the teachers may regret, and even resent, it. Evolution is a harsh, harsh task-master, even more than a Jedi Master. And having fulfilled his task, however reluctantly, it was time for Luke to pass on, after a desperate act of self-sacrifice...as seems to be "the Jedi way."

But, he was right about one thing—the Order of the Jedi has to go. If democracy is the goal in the galaxy, there is no place in it for religious fascists...even incompetent ones. Sure, they mean well. But, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Sometimes the road to the Dark Side, as well.

The Set-Up: On the ice-planet of Hoth, a vision of slain Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) has instructed Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to seek out the Jedi Master Yoda (Frank Oz) in the Dagobah system to continue his training to become a Jedi. Following a rout of the rebels by the Empire, Luke separates from his friends to travel to Dagobah, where he meets a diminutive creature, who knows Yoda and promises Luke to take him to him. But, first, they must get out of the rain and eat. And observe. The creature has his own secrets that he is compelled to keep from Luke.

Action.

EXT. DAGOBAH - CREATURE'S HOUSE - NIGHT 
A heavy downpour of rain pounds through the gnarled trees. A strange baroque mud house sits on a moss-covered knoll on the edge of a small lagoon. The small, gnomish structure radiates a warm glow from its thick glass windows. 

As rain tap-dances a merry tune on Artoo's head, the stubby little droid rises up on his tip-toes to peek into one of the glowing portals. 
INT. CREATURE'S HOUSE 
Artoo, peeking in the window, sees the inside of the house - a very plain, but cozy dwelling. Everything is in the same small scale as the creature. The only thing out of place in the miniature room is Luke, whose height makes the four-foot ceiling seem even lower. He sits cross-legged on the floor of the living room.
The creature is in an adjoining area - his little kitchen - cooking up an incredible meal. The stove is a steaming hodgepodge of pots and pans. The wizened little host scurries about chopping this, shredding that, and showering everything with exotic herbs and spices. He rushes back and forth putting platters on the table in front of Luke, who watches the creature impatiently. 

LUKE Look, I'm sure it's delicious. I just don't understand why we can't see Yoda now. 
CREATURE Patience! For the Jedi it is time to eat as well. 
CREATURE Eat, eat. Hot. Good food, hm? Good, hmm? 
Moving with some difficulty in the cramped quarters, Luke sits down near the fire and serves himself from the pot. 
Tasting the unfamiliar concoction, he is pleasantly surprised. 
LUKE How far away... 

LUKE ...is Yoda? Will it take us long to get there? 
CREATURE Not far. Yoda not far. 

CREATURE Patience. Soon you will be with him.

CREATURE (tasting food from the pot) Rootleaf, I cook. 
CREATURE Why wish you become Jedi? Hm? 

LUKE Mostly because of my father, I guess. 

CREATURE Ah, your father. 

CREATURE Powerful Jedi was he, (hee-hee)

CREATURE Mmmm.  

CREATURE Powerful Jedi, mmm. 

LUKE (a little angry) Oh, come on. 

LUKE How could you know my father? You don't even know who I am. 

LUKE (fed up) Oh, I don't know what I'm doing here. 

LUKE We're wasting our time.
The creature turns away from Luke and speaks to a third party.
CREATURE (irritated) I cannot teach him. 

CREATURE The boy has no patience.

Luke's head spins in the direction the creature faces. But there is no one there. The boy is bewildered, but it gradually dawns on him that the little creature is Yoda, the Jedi Master, and that he is speaking with Ben. 

BEN'S VOICE He will learn patience. 

YODA Hmmm. 

YODA Much anger in him, like his father.
BEN'S VOICE Was I any different when you taught me? 

YODA Hah. 

YODA He is not ready.
LUKE Yoda! 


LUKE I am ready. 

LUKE I... Ben! I can be a Jedi. Ben, tell him I'm ready. 
Trying to see Ben, Luke starts to get up but hits his head on the low ceiling. 

YODA Ready, are you? 

YODA What know you of ready? 

YODA For eight hundred years have...
YODA ...I trained Jedi. 
YODA My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained! 

YODA A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.

YODA (to the invisible Ben, indicating Luke) This one a long time have I watched. 

YODA All his life has he looked away... 

YODA ...to the future, to the horizon. 

YODA Never his mind on... 
YODA where...he...was. 

YODA Hmm? 

YODA What he was doing. Hmph. 

YODA Adventure. Heh! 

YODA Excitement. Heh! 
YODA A Jedi craves not these things. 

YODA (turning to Luke) You are reckless!
Luke looks down. He knows it is true.
BEN'S VOICE So was I, if you'll remember. 
YODA He is too old. 
YODA Yes, too old to begin the training.
Luke thinks he detects a subtle softening in Yoda's voice.
LUKE But I've learned so much. 
Yoda turns his piercing gaze on Luke, as though the Jedi Master's huge eyes could somehow determine how much the boy had learned. 

After a long moment, the little Jedi turns toward where he alone sees Ben. 
YODA (sighs) Will he finish what he begins? 
LUKE I won't fail you - 

LUKE I'm not afraid. 

YODA (turns slowly toward him) Oh, 

YODA ...you will be. 

YODA You will be. 
EXT. SPACE - STAR DESTROYERS - ASTEROID FIELD

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Words by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan (and George Lucas)

Pictures by Peter Suschitskey and Irvin Kershner

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is available on DVD and Blu-Ray on Fox Home Video.