Still one of the coolest inventions in all of science fiction-dom, and the core of a chase sequence that’s still absolutely thrilling even three decades later. Some people want flying cars or starships or hoverboards. Me, I’d be content if I could just get a speeder bike. First thing I’d do? Weld some friggin’ rearview mirrors onto the damn thing.
Ewoks. You heard me.
I used to hate on the Ewoks, like every fanboy did before being exposed to Gungans and realizing how good we’d had it. Even if they did foreshadow the madness that would overcome Lucas and give birth to the worst aspects of the prequels, I still have to appreciate the fact that they were cuddly, adorable teddy bears…who attempted to cook and eat Luke, Han, and Chewie. If they weren’t easily distracted by shiny objects, the Rebellion could have met a very, very embarrassing end.
“It is…too late for me, son.”
The first time Luke and Vader face each other after the events on Bespin is a quiet and tragic struggle between Luke’s faith that there is still good in Vader, and Vader’s resignation that he is too far down the Dark path to be saved. It’s the first moment we see doubt or vulnerability in Vader, and it perfectly sets up the climactic events to come.
He chews the scenery with gusto as Emperor Palpatine, alternately sadistic, mocking, and condescending, but always having a great time of it. Sure, there’s that old maxim that nobody ever believes they’re the villain, but McDiarmid’s Emperor is the exception. You get the impression that this guy has no illusions whatsoever about the nobility of his cause. He’s capital-E Evil…and he’s loving every minute of it. Plus: one of the best evil laughs in the business.
The “You rebel scum” Guy
It’s amazing how a performance can lodge in your brain with the tiniest of actions. I couldn’t tell you the name of the actor who sneers the above line at Han after the Imperials recapture the shield generator. But if you quoted the line, I’m pretty sure I could draw his face from memory.
The Three-Pronged Third Act
While the scenes on the Death Star between Luke, Vader, and the Emperor are the emotional heart of the movie, they’re interspersed masterfully with the rousing ground battle on Endor and a multi-stage, all-out space battle up above. The pacing as the three settings interweave is perfectly handled, never staying in one spot for too long, and keeping you invested in every element.
That Thing’s Operational!
“I am your father” gets all the attention when it comes to Star Wars twists, but the Emperor’s reveal of his Death Star Surprise was pretty great the first time around too. And again, it comes back to McDiarmid: he spits that line out with such delicious evil glee, you almost want him to win.