May the 4th Be With You

or: Lessons learned from 30 years of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) By Jess “The Hoss” Tutton,
with special retorts by “Nite”Pete Tutton and MasterFilmMakerMarkMackner

The Hoss:
You may see some articles and shows highlighting the fact that this week will be thirty years of the Empire Strikes Back. What have I learned from 30 years of Empire? (Well, probably most of everything I know, since I am 31, but I digress…)

Can you imagine a pre-Empire world- not knowing that Darth Vader was Luke’s father? I can’t imagine what it felt like to find this out in 1980, having seen Star Wars… not knowing the outcome. (Not knowing the ewoks were coming.)

What have we learned though?
– A movie doesn’t need a happy ending to be great
– Characters with barely any lines can stimulate our imagination the most.
(Boba Fett; and 20-something years later be made groan-worthy by prequels.)
– Star Wars is tight when George Lucas is not in the director’s chair
– Carbon Freezing is pretty bad ass
– Lando Calrissian rocks the hizz-ouse, bitches. “It’s not my fault! Wah!”
– Puppet Yoda kicks the ass of green screen yoda. Sorry I am not.
– Vader can throw shit with the force and it’s fucking scary
– Lucas has thought way too much about what Luke sounds like falling from great heights.
– Dak is useless.
– AT-AT walkers- oh my goodness- how cool were those the first time you saw them as a child?
– An early lesson in incest- EW. We are not cool with it.
– Nerf Herders? And ugnauts? And snow monsters? Oh my!

Here’s to you Empire, for making me a geek.

What would you add to the list?

“Nite”Pete Tutton had this to add:

-contrary to popular belief there is NO TRY
-it will take more than a motorcycle accident to kill mark hamill
-motorcycle accidents tend to rob young actors of their boyish good looks
-learned the odds of sucessfuly navigating an asteroid field
-vader throws a mean ass dinner party
-add a 2nd pod to a tie fighter and boom, instant bomber
-tauntauns smell bad, inside and out
-chicks dig scoundrels
-new solution to male pattern baldness: lobot style computerized head prosthesis
-turns out we’re all luminous beings, not this crude matter
-the force is not actually generated by midichlorians
-if you’re going to fly to dagobah, bring some rope or a boat or something

And MasterFilmMakerMarkMackner had this to say:

“OK, I read this a few days ago, and I just HAD to chime in on it, as I too credit THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK for my life-long love affair with sci-fi, fantasy, and all things geeky.

Those of you who know me have heard this story many times, but, for the sake of the article, I’m going to assume that maybe there’s a reader out there who hasn’t.  Picture the scene if you will.  Mark Mackner is 3 years old.  His parents (BOTH alive) pack up the station wagon (Yes, we had a station wagon) with snacks and blankets, and drive Mark and his sister to a drive-in theater in Pennsauken, NJ for a night of movie magic.

The double-feature is DRAGONSLAYER and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.  HOW FUCKING AWESOME IS THAT?????  I mean, I was three, and even THEN, I knew just how fucking LUCKY I was to be alive at that specific moment in time.  It’s easily one of my most cherished memories, and it really went a long way in shaping me into the person that I am today.

Now, 30 years later, station wagons are gone, drive-ins are gone, and my Dad, tragically, is gone too.  But a torch was passed that day.  From one geek to another.  Sure, my Dad wasn’t a traditional geek.  He didn’t go to conventions, and meet up with other geeks to riff on pop culture.  But, this much was clear: the dude LOVED sci-fi and monster movies.  We spent every Saturday afternoon in the 80’s watching movies together.  GODZILLA, GAMERA, KING KONG, 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD, ALLIGATOR, WILLARD, THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT.  STAR WARS.

Now I have my own kids, and I watched the original Trilogy with them maybe 2 years ago.  SO MUCH FUN!!!!!  When was the last time you watched STAR WARS with someone who’s NEVER seen them before?  It’s AMAZING!  The kids fell in love instantly!  Like The Hoss stated, the AT-AT Walkers… my son Logan, then 5 years old, was BLOWN AWAY.  He became OBSESSED with AT-ATs.  He drew pictures, he watched endless Youtube clips of them.  We went on ebay and got him 2 of the original AT-AT toys.

Now he has the whole Hoth playset, complete with at least three tauntauns and the motherfucking WAMPA.  And I was just excited when they arrived in the mail as he was.  It just feels right to have these things in the home.  Now the torch has been passed again.  The Mackners have now spanned 3 generations of Star Wars Geekery.  Thanks, Dad!

So, what else has ESB taught me?  Well…

The Hoss is RIGHT!!!!  Muppets fucking ROCK, and Muppet Yoda has WAY more personality than CG Yoda.

I don’t care WHAT has been done subsequently with Boba Fett.  He’s still one of the greatest peripheral characters EVER, and he was hands-down the most beloved action figure of my childhood.  But yes, he is definitely a case of “less-is-more”.  The less we explored his background, the more compelling he was.   But that can be said of most any character, really.  Mystery is just infinitely cooler than being pummeled with exposition.

So many great lines that I can still work into everyday conversation… “I thought they smelled bad… on the outside!”, “Who’s scruffy-looking?”, “Laugh it up, fuzzball!”, “NO disintegrations!”, etc.

We get our first glimpse of what Vader looks like under the helmet.  SO COOL seeing that for the first time.  You see just enough to disturb you, and leave you wondering for hours just what the hell happened to this guy.

We also meet The Emperor for the first time!  The fucking EMPEROR, man!  One of the Greatest Villains of All-Time!  The inspiration for the SILAS KILLINGTON/GASH GHASTLY character that I play in all my films.

Puppets, men in monster suits (The Wampa), stop motion animation.  THESE are the GREATEST special effects of all, and will remain to be FOREVER!!!!!  Even if I were given a million dollars to make my next film, all the creatures and machines would be puppets, men in monster suits (Or women.  Wedge rocked hard as the Monster in my HALF-LIFE HORROR FROM HELL feature), and stop motion.  ALL HAIL PRACTICAL EFFECTS!!!!!!

To summarize, EMPIRE is a LANDMARK in popular entertainment, and is one of the movies that defined who I came to be, as a person.  Thanks, EMPIRE!!!!!!!!!!!”

Master Filmmaker Mark Mackner

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2 Comments to “May the 4th Be With You”

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  1. The Hoss says:

    MasterFilmMakerMarkMackner- We showed the movies to my nieces and they were head over heels for it. My niece drew a family portrait of us all frozen in carbonite. That’s fucking love right there! Ps- My dad and I watched these movies together and I have lost him since too, but it was fucking good times in my house as a kid. He LOVED him some star wars.

    Live on STOP MOTION!

    NitePete: contrary to popular belief there is NO TRY HAHHAHAHA

  2. It took me some time to get around to reading this and I have to say I am touched. As corny as that sounds I only wish I was born several years earlier to experience the magic that is Star Wars. I can not even remember the first time I watched these great films, it makes me sad. I love these films, but find myself remembering Indiana Jones. I remember how engulfed I was in Harrison Ford’s pearly white smile and the music just elevated one’s blood pressure to an alarming rate.

    I’d have to say, if it wasn’t for these great films where would we be now? If there was no honey bun ear muffs for hair or Nazi conspiracy thwarting; would we have National Treasure or Serenity? Thanks guys for reminding me how much I have to thank my grandparents for letting me stay up late to watch the end of Adams Family Values or some other random film from my childhood. I’m going to grab my binky and go watch Goonies!

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