Episode 7: The Empire Strikes Back

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Life on Earth is too depressing right now, so Sean and Cody blast over to the ice planet of Hoth (which looks suspiciously like Finse, Norway) to figure out how the Star Wars gang handles a cryonic environment. In The Empire Strikes Back, resistance heartthrob Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) gets his face effed up by the Bumble creature from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer while testy Han Solo (Harrison Ford) sells Wookie kisses and the rebellion prepares for an epic space battle with military tactics straight out of 1916. Analysis of The Empire Strikes Back touches not just on icy environments and how to live there, but how science fiction often depicts the environment, the cultural memory of Vietnam, Art Deco design and its socioeconomic assumptions, and how this film in particular evokes the classic “Golden Age” science fiction of yesteryear’s pulp magazines.

The idea for this episode started with a single inexplicable question: what do tauntauns eat? In addition to that burning inquiry, numerous others come up. Is the “wampa” monster the astral equivalent of a baby alligator flushed into the New York City sewers? Wouldn’t Cloud City be way too cold to just walk around outside? Why do people who work in Antarctica dread touching doorknobs? What can a train ride across Norway teach you about Star Wars? What’s the ideology of the Empire? Why are sci-fi planets so often depicted as having only one climate? Is the lining of Lando’s cape made of Corinthian leather? Is the “I am your father” thing just a cop-out? We’re ready to target all these questions and more on this episode of Green Screen. The shield will be down in moments!

Original 1980 trailer for The Empire Strikes Back.

Additional materials:

Here is a transcription of Leigh Brackett’s original script draft for The Empire Strikes Back: https://www.starwarz.com/starkiller/the-empire-strikes-back-first-draft-by-leigh-brackett-transcript/

Big Dead Place by Nicholas Johnson, the best book to understanding what Antarctica is like:

This video is all 7+ hours of the train ride from Oslo to Bergen, Norway. Finse, where The Empire Strikes Back was filmed, comes up at 2 hours, 29 minutes in.

This video includes the audio from a 1964 science fiction convention in which Leigh Brackett gives an acceptance speech. You can hear her beginning at 12:20.

All significant changes between the 1980 original version of the film and the “f*cked-with” CGI-revised version.

Deleted scenes from The Empire Strikes Back. The more in-depth Luke-Leia scene that Cody describes in the podcast begins at 9:04.

The “Bumble” from the 1964 Christmas special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

The Empire Strikes Back at IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080684/
The Empire Strikes Back at Letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/film/the-empire-strikes-back/

Next Movie Up: The French Connection (1971)

The poster from The Empire Strikes Back is presumably copyright (C) 1980 by Lucasfilm Ltd. or 20th Century Fox. Its inclusion here is believed to be permissible under fair use. We are not the uploader of any YouTube clips embedded here.

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