This blog is dedicated to Jar Jar Hater, because it was during one of our conversations that it came up.
See, we were discussing films and if I remember correctly, I (rightfully) cited Godfather Part II as a superior film that was not just satisfyingly executed, it was emotionally impacting. Hater ran with that thought and then said it was a tendency among men to view movies with “downer endings” as better.
While I don’t agree with that (sexist?) generalization, I conceded that the Godfather films close out on a down note, but contended that The Empire Strikes Back actually ends on a very hopeful note.
“Are you kidding?” she asked.
Indeed, I was not.
Of Course Empire Has a Difficult Story Arc
The point of the film is that there’s a striking back of the Imperial variety. Naturally, some people are going to take a pounding as a gosh-darn Lord of the Sith brings his full fury down on them.
For goodness’ sake, while Vader’s restraining himself, he nearly manages to destroy the entire rebellion leadership in one shot. Without a Death Star.
So I grant that life isn’t exactly Super Awesome Fantastic for our heroes.
We do, however, get to witness one of the greatest inventions ever (AT-AT Walkers) rain fiery death on the icy wastes of Hoth. Lives were lost, but honestly, I’d accept “Death By Giant Robot Death Machine” as a pretty righteous way to go. With the rate of technological growth, it could still happen!
To Be Perfectly Clear
I acknowledge the “darkness” of the film. It’s not a happy, upbeat film throughout. Again, the “striking back” thing.
But just because a work is dark doesn’t mean that its ending isn’t, or can’t be, hopeful. Look to The Two Towers if you like: the heroes take some serious shots there. But the film still ends hopeful.
Or you can look to one of my favorite films of all time, The Dark Knight. The ending is reasonably “dark,” but hopeful. Really and truly hopeful.
Surviving and Thriving
Yes, there’s a low point. But one of the iconic shots that closes the film: Luke and Leia looking out to the future, to the sunset essentially, as their journey begins to redress the wrongs visited on them.
Jar Jar Hater insists they are looking out with uncertainty and sorrow.
The overall point is that despite the dark times, the heroes survived.
But not only did they survive, they were better people for surviving their trials. They had changed and become better versions of themselves, learned something about who they were and who they were trying to be.
Luke had faced pure evil and learned a terrible truth that challenged his entire view of life and his beliefs. But he didn’t give up. Already, he was enacting a plan to rescue his friend.
Lando had been lost, and found himself in choosing to act before he lost his soul.
Leia, the “ice princess” on Hoth, had found she could truly love and care for someone else instead of only her causes and ideals.
And so they look out to the future, the horizon, unsure of what challenges are next, but confident they can face them.
For supporting evidence of my interpretation, I turn to the Radio Drama for The Empire Strikes Back (written by the late, great Brian Daley). It’s at least evidence that Lucasfilm released something with a similar interpretation and that I’m not alone. Recorded before Jedi was even completed, it contains these beautiful lines from Luke at the end, performed by Mark Hamill:
Look, the Empire threw everything it had at us, and we’re still here.
The Empire can’t stop us now…now it’s our turn.
So if the official radio drama approved and released from Lucasfilm agrees with my interpretation, I’d like to read an effective argument against it.