Out of all nine episodes of the Skywalker Saga, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is still the darkest film of them all. But it doesn’t seem like it.
Luke Skywalker almost gets eaten by a snow monster then nearly freezes to death. The rebellion suffers a terrible defeat on Hoth. Luke abandons his friends to go train with Yoda where he fails one test after another. The Millennium Falcon‘s hyperdrive is broken, so Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO can’t shake the Empire. 3PO gets all but destroyed. Han is literally tortured and then gets frozen in carbonite. Luke loses a hand and we all find out that the now-second-most evil being in the galaxy is the hero’s long-lost father.
Basically it’s one L after another, and I’m just scratching the surface of the plot.
But why can the argument be made that Revenge of the Sith or The Last Jedi are darker? Simply put, neither of those other films have the fluid deflective comedy of Empire.
The Deflective Comedy in Empire Strikes Back
Empire Strikes Back does the best job out of any Star Wars film of using semi-comedic dialogue to distract the audience from the ongoing problems. That comedy was executed best with Han Solo.
From going out to search for Luke in the Hoth night to his last words before being frozen in carbonite, Solo pairs his heroic actions with snarky and rather-smarta** remarks. His hilarious jabs at C-3PO relieve the tension of our heroes’ last-minute escape from Hoth and as they try to snake away from the Empire’s ships. Instead of having us fret about the Falcon‘s hyperdrive, we focus on Han and Chewy’s banter as they try to fix it.
There is also the rather-comedic back-and-forth Han has with Leia. The scriptwriters did a great job in establishing their romantic tension early as Han says things like “worried I was going to leave without a goodbye kiss?” when he tries to leave before the battle of Hoth begins. (To which Leia replies, “I’d just as soon kiss the Wookie.”). When Han is forced to take Leia with him on the Millennium Falcon, the focus now is more on the two of them having more time together than it is on the desperation of their situation. And Leia takes plenty of hilarious jabs at Han along the way as well.
But Han doesn’t hog the comedic relief. Chewy and C-3PO make a decent amount of comedy together, especially when Chewy finds 3PO and puts him back together. Yoda and R2-D2 also make some goofy slapstick comedy together when they first meet. In fact, Yoda is nothing but goofy when audiences first meet him.
Most importantly, this comedy comes with confidence. In Empire, the doubters are made the fools. Most notably Luke with Yoda and C-3PO with Han. And what makes it okay for the audience able to laugh at Han yelling at C-3PO for freaking out is that Han always comes through. Yoda is able to appear as a silly old swamp man because he is literally the most powerful and wisest Jedi left alive. He will come through. The Millennium Falcon is going to get her hyperdrive back. Chewy is going to put C-3PO back together. It’s also that same confidence that makes this line happen:
Empire Strikes Back is incredibly dark, but it reminds its audience countless times “Shut up! Relax! Everything is going to be okay! There is more to see than the Empire and Rebellion.”
The other Star Wars films don’t give their audience that confidence, forcing them to dramatically wallow in the basic good vs. evil plotline.
Do you think Empire is the best Star Wars film made? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this opinion article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Inside the Magic overall.