Five Major Flaws in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (And How to Fix Them)

Illustration for article titled Five Major Flaws in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (And How to Fix Them)

Few sacred cows of classic science fiction remain, largely because science-fiction fans love sacred hamburgers, but also because we are surly lot, possessed of a discerning critical eye and the highest of standards.

One such metaphorical bovine, however, has gone unsavaged by the community for nearly 30 years. That ends today.

We're all familiar with the traditional complaints about The Empire Strikes Back — it lacks Gungans; there's too much incest yet somehow not quite enough; "Luke, I am your father" is such a cliché — but unless, like me, you took three Ambien an hour ago and are still awake, you haven't considered the following.

I. Chewbacca should have fought a wampa. For three Star Wars movies, we take it on faith that you don't want to get a Wookiee angry, after he successfully threatens, uh, C-3PO. What evidence do we actually see? Chewie knocks down a couple of stormtroopers, once, by surprise, and manages to hijack an AT-ST with some Ewoks' help.

The fix: Han is gearing up to hunt for Luke. "Sir," the deck officer says, "the temperature's dropping too rapidly."

"And," Leia adds, "you'll miss Chewie's cage match."

"I know," Han answers, leaning down from his tauntaun to hug his friend. "Good luck, buddy." He turns to the deck officer. "And I'll see you in hell!" He bounces off. Scenes of him searching for Luke, battling the cold, and slicing open the tauntaun while the wind howls are interspersed with scenes of Chewie searching for a way to defeat the snow monster, battling it, and slicing it open while the crowd howls. Symmetry.

Illustration for article titled Five Major Flaws in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (And How to Fix Them)

II. The bounty hunters should have fought each other in a Bloodsport-style tournament. All those awesome characters, and all George Lucas can give us is the non-canon Tales of the Bounty Hunters, which is in book form, making it very hard to tell how everything that happens looks. In ESB, we see Bossk sneer at Boba Fett — and that's it. That breaks one of the cardinal rules in Robert McKee's Story: If one character sneers at another and they don't throw down later, the movie is ruined.

The fix: "You are free to use any methods necessary," Vader says, "but I want them alive. No disintegrations."

"As you wish," Fett answers. He looks at the other bounty hunters. "Not that you crumbheads will have to worry about finding them anyway."

Dengar bristles. "Who are you calling a crumbhead?" [Note: "Crumbhead" is a total Corellian insult.] He steps to Fett.

Watch it," Fett says. "My dad killed most of the Jedi."

There is silence. Finally, IG-88 says, "That's quite a stretch."

"Enough!" Vader yells. "We will settle this in the cage."

III. There is only one strong woman character. OK, this is a genuinely serious concern. Name one female besides Leia in the original trilogy whose name doesn't start with an M or a B. By my count, you should be left with Jabba's dancers and Sy Snootles. And none of them appears in ESB or is anything close to dynamic or well rounded. Sure, Leia is a formidable presence by herself, but this still smacks of sexism. Even that pig James Bond usually encountered at least a couple of tough women in every story.

The fix: Instead of hiding from the Imperials in the asteroid belt, Han pilots the Falcon to an out-of-the-way planet called, like, I don't know, Sororia, maybe, ruled by a faction of fierce-and very beautiful-Amazon types. Leia, sensing a bond with these proud warriors, tries to convert them to the Rebel cause. But their leader, whose name is, like, Kylissa or something, thinks the Alderaanian princess is trying to usurp her power.

"Enough!" Kylissa yells. "Get the warm baby oil. We will settle this in the cage."

Illustration for article titled Five Major Flaws in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (And How to Fix Them)

IV. We don't learn enough about Lobot. I dunno, he just seems like a cool guy. When he stops abruptly and gestures, and the Bespin guards disarm the stormtroopers, that's solid.

The fix: Just give him a little more screen time. Or a DVD extra. Maybe a talk show.

V. There are no references to Grand Moff Tarkin. Probably some of you nitpicky nancies can find flaws in the flaws I've mentioned above — WHOA META — but I hardly think you can argue this one. When a major character, especially a very handsome major character, dies in a movie, the sequel usually acknowledges it. It's poor form not to.

The fix: "The Force is strong with him," the Emperor says. "The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi."

"If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally," Vader replies.

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

Vader nods. "He will join us or die, my master." He kneels, and there is a pause. "I miss Wilhuff."

Commenter Moff's real name is Josh Wimmer, and he can usually be found at



So, we're all fine with all the Dagobah scenes. Really? We all loved the lame-ass New Age blather from a jumped up sock puppet? Nobody wanted to see Luke wrestle a three-headed giant frogbatduck?

Luke: "Gee Master Yoda, you're 800 years old and served in the capital of the Republic with this groovy wise knowledge stuff—and thanks for all that but I picked up all that junk from The Learning Annex and some show with Bill Moyers. Anyhoo, why do you still talk like an ESL dropout? Is it all those 'shrooms you keep munching?"

Yoda: "From you such insolence! I frogbatduck summon will the. In the cage we will settle this!!"