Tag Archives: The Empire Strikes Back

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Before and After: Instructions Regarding Skywalker’s Son

Star Wars: Before and After the Special Editions
Instructions Regarding the Son of Skywalker

When we first saw The Empire Strikes Back in theaters, none of us was expecting Darth Vader to reveal that he was Luke’s father.  To be honest, even after the reveal, some of us were clinging to the hope that Vader was lying — biding our time between the second and third movies in discussions and debates about whether the Dark Lord of the Sith could actually be the father of Luke Skywalker.

Before telling Luke what really happened to his father, Darth Vader spoke to his Master about this “son of Skywalker”, revealing the plot to turn the young Jedi to the Dark Side.  In this brief holographic communication between Vader and the Emperor, we were treated to our first glimpse of this mysterious ruler of the galaxy.

When George Lucas revisited his classic trilogy, fans expected the voice and image of the Emperor to be altered to match the character as he was portrayed by Ian McDiarmid in Return of the Jedi.  What we didn’t expect was that the text of the transmission would be altered, as well.

In what was one of the best changes in all the Special Editions, the dialog between master and apprentice both conceals and reveals the reasons behind the plot to turn young Skywalker to the Dark Side or destroy him.  Consider the original version of this scene:

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Darth Vader
What is thy bidding, my Master?

Emperor
There is a great disturbance in the Force.

Darth Vader
I have felt it.

Emperor
We have a new enemy, Luke Skywalker.

Darth Vader
Yes, my Master.

Emperor
He could destroy us.

Darth Vader
He is just a boy.  Obi-Wan can no longer help him.

Emperor
The Force is strong with him.
The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.

Darth Vader
If he could be turned he would become a powerful ally.

Emperor
Yes.  Yes.  He would be a great asset.  Can it be done?

Darth Vader
He will join us or die, Master.

From the beginning of the movie, we know that Darth Vader is obsessed with finding Luke Skywalker, dispatching probes throughout the galaxy.  What we didn’t know was that he was doing so without the knowledge or consent of the Emperor.  When he tells Vader that they have a new enemy, he calls him by name — Luke Skywalker.

After repeated viewings, made possible by the technological innovations of movie channels and videotapes, once we had accepted that Darth Vader had once been Anakin Skywalker, we began to question the reasons behind the Emperor’s transmission.  Had he truly only discovered the name of the pilot who had struck the fatal blow to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, or was he testing Vader to see if his search was spawned by less-than-Sithy motives?  Was he simply letting his apprentice know that he knew about the boy as well, warning him not to betray him?  What had first been simply a matter of plot exposition and foreshadowing began to reveal shadows of the Emperor’s devious scheming and manipulations as we watched the movie over and over.

When the Special Editions were released, the insidious nature of the Emperor became more pronounced as his references to Luke were less focused on the boy himself and emphasized the man behind the mask who now wore the name Darth Vader.  Notice the differences in the transmission in the 1997 version:

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Darth Vader
What is thy bidding, my Master?

Emperor
There is a great disturbance in the Force.

Darth Vader
I have felt it.

Emperor
We have a new enemy.
The young rebel who destroyed the Death Star.
I have no doubt this boy is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker.

Darth Vader
How is that possible?

Emperor
Search your feelings, Lord Vader; you will know it to be true.  He could destroy us.

Darth Vader
He is just a boy.  Obi-Wan can no longer help him.

Emperor
The Force is strong with him.
The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.

Darth Vader
If he could be turned he would become a powerful ally.

Emperor
Yes, he would be a great asset.  Can it be done?

Darth Vader
He will join us or die, Master.

In the newer rendering, Luke’s name is never used.  He is called a “young rebel”, a “boy”, the “offspring of Anakin Skywalker”, and the “son of Skywalker”.  Although the Emperor considers young Skywalker a threat, perhaps it is not so much because of the boy himself, but due to the relationship between his own powerful apprentice and this newly discovered Force user.  Perhaps he had foreseen, either through a Force vision or simple deduction, that Vader would try to forge an alliance between father and son in an effort to overthrow the Emperor and rule in his place — which was exactly what Vader told Luke in their conflict at Cloud City.

When Return of the Jedi is viewed in light of this less personal interest the Emperor had in Luke, we can understand why he sought to have Luke kill Vader, taking his father’s place at his side.  If Luke won the battle, striking down his father in anger, he would have completed his journey to the Dark Side, and the Emperor would continue his new apprentice’s training.  Had Vader prevailed, the last link to his past would have been removed, making Darth Vader fully devoted to his master.  Either way, the Emperor’s apprentice would be more powerful from the conflict: a Vader no longer weakened by emotional ties to the past would be more capable of carrying out the Emperor’s orders, or an untrained Jedi would be more malleable than his father, able to be manipulated by his new master.  In either case, the victor would be the Emperor.  (Unless, of course, father and son work together against the Emperor — a proposition unimaginable to the arrogant dictator.)

In my opinion, the alteration in the Emperor’s dialog gives deeper insight into the machinations of the Emperor’s plan: to be the most powerful being in the galaxy.

What do you think?  Is the earlier version sufficient or does the Special Edition better show the motives behind Palpatine’s character?  Comment below or take the conversation to social media @shazbazzar on Twitter.

 

Greedo Shooting First Makes Sense

By Bruce Gibson

A big controversy within Star Wars fandom is how the Special Edition changed the anti-hero portrayal of Han Solo.  Before George Lucas made his 1997 alterations, Han shot Greedo before the Rodian even pulled the trigger.  In the Special Edition, Greedo shoots Han first, which actually improves Greedo’s characterization as a more ruthless bounty hunter who isn’t hesitant to shoot in public.  But I contend that this scene alteration may also improve both Han and Greedo’s portrayal in “A New Hope” and fits in better with “The Empire Strikes Back.”  You heard me; this scene works for Han.

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Before we can examine Han, we must first ponder a big change made to Greedo.  He shoots and misses Han.  Now how can anyone possibly miss shooting someone sitting a few feet in front of him?  Was Greedo a former stormtrooper since only they can be “so precise”?  If Greedo is that bad of a shot, he should be thrown out of the “Bounty Hunters Members Only Club,” and Jabba should reevaluate his associates.  Jabba the Hutt would never associate with a bounty hunter who wasn’t worth his salt.

Arguably, I doubt that George Lucas’ intentions were to weaken these two characters in the Special Edition.  So let’s look at this scene with the best of intentions that both Han and Greedo are indeed ruthless scoundrels who are at the top of their game.

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In the cantina scene, Greedo points his weapon at Han and mentions there is a bounty on his head from Jabba.  He makes idle threats to Han that he will kill him, but Greedo must know that financially Han’s only real value is to be brought to Jabba alive.  The crime lord must want to taunt and torture Han if he can’t collect the monies owed to him.  So, we must conclude that Greedo has no plans to kill Han since his corpse is of no value to Jabba.

HAN
You sent Greedo to blast me.

JABBA
(mock surprise)
Han, why you’re the best smuggler in
the business. You’re too valuable to
fry. He was only relaying my concern
at your delays. He wasn’t going to
blast you.

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Although Han tells Jabba otherwise, I think he does believe that Greedo would not kill him. Han is a smart cookie and a shrewd scoundrel, so he must know that Jabba would want him alive. He knows that Greedo would never kill him if he wants to be paid handsomely.

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This theory is also supported in “The Empire Strikes Back” when Boba Fett, working in sync with Darth Vader, is on a quest for that same bounty to capture Han Solo.  Fett tells Vader in Cloud City, “He’s no good to me dead.”  That’s a key phrase in the saga’s continuity because it means Jabba’s price on Han’s head is based on being captured alive.  Yes, Han must be delivered to Jabba as live goods.

In “A New Hope,” Han is cunning and would rather kill Greedo before being captured.  So instead of shooting first, Han slowly pulls out his blaster and waits for the right opportunity to make his move.  Try to understand that Han could be perceived as being more calculating in this film version.  He’s using his keen eyesight to notice that the barrel of Greedo’s gun is not pointed directly at his head.  Look at this scene again, and you’ll see that Greedo’s aim looks a little off within those long fingers.  Han would notice this too.

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Han Solo slowly reaches for his gun under the table.

GREEDO
You can tell that to Jabba. He may
only take your ship.

HAN
Over my dead body.

GREEDO
That’s the idea. I’ve been looking
forward to killing you for a long
time.

HAN
Yes, I’ll bet you have.

Han knows Greedo is toying with him and will not kill him.  He’s prepared to see Greedo make his dummy shot as a bold threat to get Han to comply.  It’s like in the old westerns when a cowboy shoots at someone’s feet to get them to comply or foolishly dance.  Han will have a justified reason to retaliate in broad daylight thus giving the public perception that his shot was a defensive maneuver.  No questions asked from the peanut gallery.

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Greedo shoots the wall beside Han’s head.  And, in a blink of an eye, Greedo falls forward dead on the table.  Because of Greedo’s foolish threatening action, Han sentenced him to death and shot him down.  Greedo gave him reason and didn’t see the shot coming from Han’s hidden blaster.

So Han is still a cold-blooded killer in the Special Edition because when he shoots, he knows that if and when Greedo shoots, he is not going to kill Han.  This is in opposition to the 1977 version where we originally perceived Greedo’s mission was to kill Han.  But both film versions, no matter how this scene plays out, Han is determined to shoot and kill Greedo.  It wasn’t in self-defense or to avoid a missed shot.  It was to take him down once and for all.

Personally, I don’t think this scene in the Special Edition is any better than the original version.  I also don’t think it strips Han of his cunning ruthlessness.  The Special Edition is here to stay, and I’m presenting “a certain point of view” that may help people to view this scene less negatively and make it more palatable.  Han’s character portrayal in the beginning of this story still remains rebellious, and he still has a journey to become a moral hero.