*Spoilers though if you don’t know it I would like to know how you have avoided popular culture so far and why you’re now suddenly reading a blog about an iconic part of film history*
The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the Star Wars films. It is a film where the good guys are losing. Admittedly this is what makes The Revenge of the Sith good as well, but in the Empire Strikes Back, the revenge of the empire is personal. It isn’t a generalised attack on the Jedi as a group, or the end of the Republic. It is a personal attack on Luke, Leia, Han and Chewbacca. It is character driven at the deepest level. Everything that happens, takes place because of the development of the characters, even Darth Vader’s.
The film is as well credited with having the best twist in cinema history, which is why it is crucial to introduce people in the order the films were made. Darth Vader’s revelation to Luke, is a key moment for his character, because somewhere in there is a man reaching out to another. Admittedly it is because he wants someone powerful at his side to rule the galaxy with after they overthrow the Emperor. That is the Sith way after all: apprentices seek to overthrow their masters. It is what the Emperor himself expects because that is what he did.
It is Darth Vader at the centre of this story from the very beginning that makes Empire Strikes Back a personal story. Fine he will be acting on orders because the rebellion managed to destroy the Death Star which was intended to be used to keep the empire in Line after the dissolution of the Senate, which had been the last remain piece of the Republic to go. But he is on a mission of his own: he wants to find his son, because somewhere deep down inside Anakin Skywalker, the good Jedi who was driven to the dark side because of love and the fear of grief, has re-emerged. Luke feels the good that is still in his father.
It is what makes Yoda’s and Obi-Wan’s actions towards Luke seem all the more tragic. He is their only hope, and they deceived him about his father, because they felt the only way Luke could ever confront Vader, is without the knowledge of who he really is; they dehumanise the entire relationship. Once Luke learns the truth though, he begins questioning the Jedi Way. Admittedly he was doing that already, when being trained with Yoda. He asked why things are the way they are, and Yoda dismisses his questions, and teaches him that he needs to let go of his attachments.
It mirrors everything that went wrong with his father and his training. Anakin had the burden of being the chosen one on his shoulders, coupled with frustrations at being held back by a structured institution and the grief of how his mother died. For me though, the Chosen One is Luke, who brings balance to the force, because he accepts that being a Jedi comes with some sacrifice, but to be devoid of feelings entirely, means you forget what it is to be human.
He embraces his feelings and tries to save his friends, because he knows in his heart he would never forgive himself if he didn’t try. Choosing to be detached would have been what might have turned him to the dark side in the end. He has known grief: he lost his Aunt and Uncle, and not knowing what might have happened had he been there as well, must have dwelt on his mind a lot. He begins to fight the empire because his family was killed. To stop doing that in Empire Strikes Back would nott have fitted his character.