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The Empire Strikes Back is junk?

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The Empire Strikes Back is junk?

Old 08-14-04, 12:38 AM
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The Empire Strikes Back is junk?

I was searching for old reviews of old movies and somehow I bumped into this. What do you guys think? Also, what the hell is up with all the food talk?


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv...backmartin.htm


'The Empire Strikes Back'
By Judith Martin
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 23, 1980




To call "The Empire Strikes Back" a good junk movie is no insult: There is enough bad junk around. And surely we're getting over the snobbery of pretending that it is undemocratic to recognize any hierarchy of culture, as if both low and high can't be appreciated, often be the same people.

But when light entertainment is done well, someone is bound to make extravagant and unsupportable claims for its being great art. You will hear that this sequel to "Star Wars" is part of a vast new mythology, as if it were the Oresteia. Its originator, George Lucas, has revealed that the two pictures are actually parts four and five of a nine-part sage, as if audiences will some day receive the total the way devotees now go to Seattle for a week of immersion in Wagner's complete Ring Cycle.

Nonsense. This is no monumental artistic work, but a science-fiction movie done more snappily than most, including its own predecessor. A chocolate bar is a marvelous sweet that does not need to pretend to be a chocolate soufflé; musical comedies are wonderful entertainment without trying to compete with opera; blue jeans are a perfect garment that shouldn't be compared with haute couture. There are times when you would much rather have a really good hot dog than any steak, but you can still recognize that one is junk food and the other isn't.

"The Empire Strikes Back" has no plot structure, no character studies let alone character development, no emotional or philosophical point to make. It has no original vision of the future, which is depicted as a pastiche of other junk-culture formulae, such as the western, the costume epic and the Would War II movie. Its specialty is "special effects" or visual tricks, some of which are playful, imaginative and impressive, but others of which have become space-movie clichés.

But the total effect is fast and attractive and occasionally amusing. Like a good hot dog, that's something of an achievement in a field where unpalatable junk is the rule.

In this film, as in "Star Wars," a trio of nice, average-looking young people (Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford as Han Solo and Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia) is pursued by a sinister figure in black mask and cloak, Darth Vader. It is hard to avoid the suspicion that Skywalker is dull-witted -- for various reasons, he is hanging upside down during most of this film and is always having to be rescued by the others -- but brave young heroes traditionally are.

There are new bad robots, as well as the good robots, C-3PO and R2-D2, whose humanistic fussiness charmed audiences in the earlier film. A new puppet, representing a great guru but looking like an elderly, Eastern rodent, is a success; an invented beast of burden that looks like the rear half of a cheap camel costume is not. The monkish character played by Alec Guinness is back with sparkling lights on his shoulders and a transparent body to indicate that he was killed off in "Star Wars."

The Future is no longer quite pictured as belonging to white males plus one pedestal princess in a white gown. The princess has put on more sensible clothes for wartime, and there is exactly one other woman in the universe, who can be glimpsed working at the home base. There is one black, Billy Dee Williams as a man who seems to have been set up with his own planet by the Small Business Administration and keeps complaining that he has "no choice" about betraying everyone.

At the beginning and end of the new film, the bad Empire and the good Rebellion are still at odds. The fact is that there is no beginning or end, just several middle-of-the-story chases -- one on ice, several using spacecraft in airplane dog-fight style, and some classic duels, except that the swords are laser beams and use of the mystical "Force" means that one can will one's weapon back in hand after it is knocked away.

As for the idea of the Force, it is a mishmash of current cultic fashions without any base in ideas. It doesn't seem to be connected with ethics or a code of decent behavior, either. Shywalker is never called to account for having behaved unpleasantly to his guru before knowing who he is -- even to the extent of knocking food out of the hungry guru's hand. How many religions of any kind would tolerate a disciples having refused to share his food with his disguised spiritual leader?

But then, you don't go to junk movies for your philosophy or religion, do you?

© Copyright 1980 The Washington Post Company

Last edited by Lara Means; 08-14-04 at 12:43 AM.
Old 08-14-04, 01:53 AM
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Most genre films are, by virtue of their adherence to conventions, their reliance on cliches, their capitulation to the lowest common denominators, their focus on action or special effects, and just their general pulpy nature (comic books, adventure stories, and yes, science fiction) are rightfully considered junk. I have no problem with a critic calling the STAR WARS flick the same.

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is highly entertaining, exceptionally well-crafted, and very clever in parts. But it ain't art.
Old 08-14-04, 02:18 AM
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Oh, that's not suprising. When the movie first came out everyone - and I mean all the critics - hated it. Like Phantom Menace level of hate directed at the film.

It's shocking to see people's opinions turn around after years and years.
Old 08-14-04, 02:55 AM
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Originally posted by El-Kabong
Oh, that's not suprising. When the movie first came out everyone - and I mean all the critics - hated it. Like Phantom Menace level of hate directed at the film.

It's shocking to see people's opinions turn around after years and years.
I think you will see the same turnaround for PM and AOTC. These are very underrated films and fit very nicely with the originals. They just had too much to live up to and too many crazy fans who worshipped the originals for 20 years.
Old 08-14-04, 04:20 AM
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Originally posted by El-Kabong
Oh, that's not suprising. When the movie first came out everyone - and I mean all the critics - hated it. Like Phantom Menace level of hate directed at the film.

It's shocking to see people's opinions turn around after years and years.

i was 13 when ESB was released, apart from Vincent Canbys (IIRC) from the NYT, this film got universally VERY positive reviews- no way, shape or form similar to the reception of TPM.

what you wrote is just not accurate.
Old 08-14-04, 05:11 AM
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Let's start here:
Judith Martin was not the film critic for The Washington Post in 1980 (or ever, for that matter).
She reported on DC "high society" and was a drama/theatre critic --her attitude towards EMPIRE is starting to make more sense now, isn't it?-- And she is best known to the world as Miss Manners.

This column of hers was just an example of some one from the world of "high art" bemoaning the "low art" that the masses adore.
Of course, she doesn't understand anything about the object of her analysis. The second installment of a trilogy is not supposed to resolve major plot developments, and she isn't familiar enough with the material to recognize the character development.
The fact that she refers to the movie genre known as The Western as a part of junk culture, demonstrates that she doesn't even have a decent understanding of film aesthetics.

To Miss Manners, EMPIRE is like hot dogs and smores. A terrififc treat when you're sitting around the campfire. But of course anyone with any real taste wants to dine on filet mignon at a fancy restaurant. She may as well have called EMPIRE slop being dumped in a trough for the pigs, because that's clearly what she really thinks.

This would be a good time to address the food thing.
According to Freud, the first stage of psychosexual development is the Oral Stage. Persons who grow into adulthood with an oral fixation like to rely on food and eating imagery. They are often narcissistic and sarcastic. And they believe in a stric adherence to rules.


Actually the film critic for The Washington Post in 1980 was a man named Gary Arnold.
I won't reprint the entire review here --it's very long, but it would be an understatement to say it is positively glowing.
Here are some exerpts:
"Empire" turns out to be a stunning successor, a tense and pictorially dazzling science-fiction chase melodrama that sustains two hours of elaborate adventure while sneaking up on you emotionally.
"Empire" is a thrilling, witty, inventive continuation of "Star Wars" but it also introduces a more serious approach and springs an astonishing plot twist, which promises to keep audiences buzzing and open up the story for deeper dramatic exploitation. Surprises are in store, perhaps unwelcome if you hoped for a strictly ingratiating reprise of the original movie -- but potentially electrifying if you care for a new departure.

For all the talk about enhanced character development in connection with "Empire," the movie seems to finesse characterization rather more systematically and astutely than it explores it. Although "Empire" teems with exciting sequences, one doesn't find prolonged moments of intimacy in rich profusion. The romantic interludes between Han and Leia, for example, are stolen moments, too fleeting to propel the relationship much beyond their initial prickly attraction in "Star Wars."

The effective change is indirect, a matter of mood rather than formal character delineation. While it's a fast-moving, high-spirited, incidentally funny show, "Empire" imposes a more serious tone than "Star Wars." The actors embody this subtle shift in emphasis by simply looking older and acting more mature. The change in Hamill is perhaps more pronounced, but then it should be, since Luke has to leave his gee-whiz personality far behind by the time this adventure draws to a close.
Read it all:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/review97/empirestrikesbackarnold.htm

Mr. Arnold also wrote a glowing review of STARWARS in 1977
George Lucas' delightful science-fiction adventure fantasy "Star Wars," opening today at the Uptown, is a new classic in a rousing movie tradition: a space swashbuckler.
Go here http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/starwars.htm and click on the link on the left to get to Arnold's review.

If you want to know what the general critical consensus on the STAR WARS movies was at the time of their release, you're gonna have to spend some time in a library basement reading microfilm.

Vincent Canby, film critic for The New York Times reviewed STAR WARS positively in 1977. But in 1980, he considered EMPIRE mediocre and bland. Interestingly in his review of EMPIRE, Canby questions the praise that his fellow critics have heaped upon the film.

And let me finish by offering an opinion. THE PHANTOM MENACE and ATTACK OF THE CLONES have been unjustly tagged as total suckfests in the face of the expectations and hype, but they'll never be regarded as more than good.
Old 08-14-04, 09:53 AM
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When I first saw the OT back in the old days, I thought they were the best movies ever.....even today I do. I guess everyone has their opinion.
Old 08-14-04, 11:44 AM
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Originally posted by El-Kabong
Oh, that's not suprising. When the movie first came out everyone - and I mean all the critics - hated it. Like Phantom Menace level of hate directed at the film.
This is such a load of horseshit that I won't bother retaliating with a proper response.

Last edited by Rivero; 08-14-04 at 12:12 PM.
Old 08-14-04, 11:45 AM
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Originally posted by shaggy
I think you will see the same turnaround for PM and AOTC.
When you wish upon a star....
Old 08-14-04, 11:59 AM
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Originally posted by Rivero
This is such a load of hoseshit that I won't bother retaliating with a proper response.
hoseshit?
Old 08-14-04, 12:03 PM
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The "critics hated the original SW films" revisionism that seems to be thrown around so frequently is utterly laughable. These films received critical raves, with only a few dissenting opinions, at the times of their releases. (ROTJ being the only exception, which got good but not great reviews.)

Why would you make up such an obvious untruth?
Old 08-14-04, 12:06 PM
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^yeah honestly,
and if you think Phantom Menace will be looked upon as a masterpiece in a few years you are dillusional. It's just not gonna happen
Old 08-14-04, 12:06 PM
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Well, when you get right down to it, the Star Wars movies are basically junk. Visually stunning junk, but junk nonetheless.

It's not particularly captivating drama, nor is it very good science fiction, or even science fantasy for that matter. The philosophies in them are shallow at best, and not nearly as clever as they think they are.

Which isn't to say they're bad movies, but they're certainly DIFFERENT movies when viewed through the eyes of an adult, rather than they eyes of a child -- as was my experience.

I'm not saying that I dislike the movies, by any stretch, but I can't fool myself into thinking they're more than they aren't. These movies were most likely my first serious exposure to the science ficton genre, and they hold a lot of nostalgia for me. Also, the effects work for the time was absolutely stunning... nothing and I do mean NOTHING had ever been made like that before. Everything in that universe seemed to so... USED... the fighters had scorch marks on them, grime, oil leaking from valves -- and like all of the aliens in the Cantina scene -- each one seemed to have its own story.

One of the real appeals of the Star Wars movies, I believe, is that they were fuel for the imagination. You see these movies, and all of a sudden you're immersed in this world with no explanation of anything... so you're sort of forced to use your imagination. Where did Darth Vader come from? What was he doing before? What was Obi-Wan like when he was younger? Was Yoda always on Dagobagh? Is that where he trained Jedis? What were Han and Lando like when they were younger? Who was Hammerhead? Those were all little dramas we had to write for ourselves, and battles to be fought with our Kenner toys.

When you're thirty years old, you just don't have that same perspective you do when you're eight.
Old 08-14-04, 12:41 PM
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You know what, I really didn't like ESB when I first saw it and I have time watching it today. For me, its quite slow, dull and boring. I can't explain it. I can watch the other two movies of the OT over and over again, but not ESB.

Call me kookie.
Old 08-14-04, 12:46 PM
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excellent work, Count Dooku!
Old 08-14-04, 01:16 PM
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Originally posted by El-Kabong
[B]Oh, that's not suprising. When the movie first came out everyone - and I mean all the critics - hated it. Like Phantom Menace level of hate directed at the film.
If you are talking about 'Star Wars" nothing could be farther from the truth! Some critics hated it in 1977 but I found that most did not.
Old 08-14-04, 01:47 PM
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Originally posted by Josh-da-man
Well, when you get right down to it, the Star Wars movies are basically junk.
Totally agree with that statement!
Old 08-14-04, 01:49 PM
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As are Q. Tarantino's films.
Old 08-14-04, 02:04 PM
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Originally posted by Rivero
As are Q. Tarantino's films.
If that isn't an obvious troll, I don't know what is.
Old 08-14-04, 02:11 PM
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Originally posted by Josh-da-man
Well, when you get right down to it, the Star Wars movies are basically junk. Visually stunning junk, but junk nonetheless.

It's not particularly captivating drama, nor is it very good science fiction, or even science fantasy for that matter. The philosophies in them are shallow at best, and not nearly as clever as they think they are.
Absolutely.

I think the "high art" critic pretty much nailed it: they're entertaining genre diversions, so enjoy them for what they are and don't take it too seriously. There's nothing wrong with light entertainment.
Old 08-14-04, 02:12 PM
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Originally posted by FinkPish
If that isn't an obvious troll, I don't know what is.
You forgot the mandatory use of a smilie...

-notrolls-

But I have to agree, with the exception of Pulp Fiction, QT's films are a mess. Each of them have made 5 and there's really been only one good one.

Even GL had the sense to turn the helm over to other directors to see how they would interpret his stuff, even though he was looking over their shoulders the entire time.

... and that's all I have to say about that.

Last edited by Goldberg74; 08-14-04 at 02:17 PM.
Old 08-14-04, 02:22 PM
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Originally posted by shaggy
I think you will see the same turnaround for PM and AOTC. These are very underrated films and fit very nicely with the originals. They just had too much to live up to and too many crazy fans who worshipped the originals for 20 years.
5/5
Old 08-14-04, 03:42 PM
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Originally posted by Matt Millheiser
The "critics hated the original SW films" revisionism that seems to be thrown around so frequently is utterly laughable. These films received critical raves, with only a few dissenting opinions, at the times of their releases. (ROTJ being the only exception, which got good but not great reviews.)

Why would you make up such an obvious untruth?
Ah - right. I have nothing better to do but come on here and start making up stories. Uh-huh.

Whatever.

Perhaps it was just the local papers, but all the reviews I read from '80 said that the movie was a big pile of poo.
Old 08-14-04, 05:00 PM
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Why did a thread on Star Wars turn into a thread bashing Quentin Tarantino films? Talk about an apple and oranges debate...

And let's all agree that The Empire Strikes Back was the last "great" Star Wars film and leave it at that. Who cares if some people believe it's junk? Don't we have enough Star Wars threads as it is?
Old 08-14-04, 06:20 PM
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Originally posted by Rivero
As are Q. Tarantino's films.
Awww...did I touch a soft spot with my Star Wars jab?


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