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CT What's so "dark" about ESB?

Discussion in 'Classic Trilogy' started by darklordoftech, May 27, 2013.

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  1. MOC Vober Dand

    MOC Vober Dand Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jan 6, 2004
    Love the point about 3PO in the desert. Brilliant visual storytelling.
  2. RogueZero

    RogueZero Jedi Master star 1

    Mar 17, 2009
    Maybe ESB isn't as dark as ROTS, but ESB's darkness was probably more surprising for people in 1980, 3 years after seeing the first film. The story took a darker turn.

    With the prequels on the other hand, we all knew the last one, Episode III, would have to be pretty dark. Some heavy stuff goes down. It was kinda expected.
    For me, that makes ESB more powerful. That, and it's a much better written, directed and acted film. But anyway...
    DarthDuckie likes this.
  3. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Sep 2, 2012
    ESB was the only movie that I could not watch for a good couple years when I was younger. One time that almost happened was when I was at a friends house and they popped in a VHS cassette that had ROTJ on the label but turned out to be ESB.... Turned on to the part of when Luke enters the 2nd room of the duel and the grate or whatever it is slides shut.
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  4. MOC Vober Dand

    MOC Vober Dand Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jan 6, 2004
    I agree. Watching that end sequence where Luke's whole world has collapsed on him and he's hanging there, sans hand, trying to communicate with Leia, is genuinely harrowing.
    DarthRelaxus likes this.
  5. Hutch23

    Hutch23 Jedi Knight star 1

    May 15, 2006
    The heroes are retreating from the villains for the entire length of the film. Not to mention the fact that this circle of friends were pulled apart from each other by the end. There were no victories, only survival.
  6. Revenge of the Dak

    Revenge of the Dak Jedi Knight star 1

    Nov 27, 2012
    So, coming off the high that was ANH. This movie does a complete 180 on it's viewers.

    Other dark things:

    Dead Dak gets stepped on
    "This is no cave"
    "You will be, you will be"
    Lando betrays everyone
    3PO is blasted to pieces
    Choke Choke Choke Choke
    Torturing Han and asking no questions
    Hanging from a weather vane
    "Why didn't you tell me"

    And this is just some of the background dark stuff. This movie is pretty freakin' dark.
  7. tulwinn

    tulwinn Jedi Knight

    Apr 28, 2011
    I forgot about 3PO being dismembered, I remember finding that scene really sad, Chewie repairing him and then Han being returned to the cell, no longer the cocky Han we knew but defeated; "they didnt even ask me any questions". His lack of understanding of why they were doing it to him and the defeat in his voice.

    Just typing about it I can feel what I felt when I watched it the first time, and it felt dark and incredibly sad.

    After a new hope it brings us to our heroes darkest hour.
  8. Revenge of the Dak

    Revenge of the Dak Jedi Knight star 1

    Nov 27, 2012
    Even the name of the film is ominoius. EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

    It tells you right there that stuff is about to hit the fan! It's never a good thing when you have an entire Empire hunting you down with every resourse they have at their disposal. It means you're in a lot of trouble!

    The Falcons hyperdrive not working is another dark part which they lightened up a bit. Still, up to that point the Falcon was a reliable friend to get you outa trouble...until.
  9. HevyDevy

    HevyDevy Jedi Master star 4

    Apr 13, 2011
    Well, firstly (to go off on a slight tangent) we don't really see how bad the Empire is for the common people until we see Alderaan destroyed in ANH. While Revenge of the Sith is very dark symbolically, it is only when you see stuff like the Jawas that have been slaughtered, Owen and Beru killed, and the Empire's calous destruction of Alderaan that it really sets in. Revenge of the Sith is more about the personal tragedy of the Skywalkers than a display of what happens to the galaxy when the Sith take over. Having said that, we also see the tragic element of what happens to the Jedi, and the irony that it is Anakin that allows it to happen.
    Anyway, back to your question. When Luke finds out that Vader is his father, the impact on him I think is enhanced by Revenge of the Sith. You feel Luke's personal loss, sure, but with ROTS beforehand the real tragedy of the moment is re-enforced. For Luke, it is the horror that the man who supposedly represented the death of his father is his father, but for the audience, there is some sadness that Vader is still using his loved ones as a means to ruling the galaxy. Vader's motivations here in ESB are an inversion of the ROTS character arc, where while Anakin at first wanted Padme alive for more noble reasons, it devolves into wanting to rule the galaxy with her. In ESB, Luke at first represents the power to overthrow Sidious, but eventually he wants to keep Luke alive just because he loves him.
    Also, the Rebels defeat on Hoth, and their general struggle throughout the whole film, is far more a match to ROTS than A New Hope. Don't get me wrong, A New Hope introduces the saga (and the bad guys) perfectly, but Vader in ESB is far more in line with how we see him in episode 3. In ANH he is more one-dimensional (Anakin is dead afterall) , in ESB there is more of a hint of something more complex going on.
    The Skywalker tragedy really continues in ESB and ROTJ. ANH is a great "up" movie after the prequels, and while somewhat simpler, it really sets the stage for the other movies, but the last two chapters of the six story arc capture what I think is meant to link the overall saga.
    A random example... Anakin using a Sith's own red saber and Anakin's own blue saber to kill the Sith is only shown the repercussions of when we get to ROTJ and Luke throws his (green) saber away in definace of the Emperor, refusing to kill in cold blood. Maybe it is obvious when you have already watched ROTJ first, but I can imagine for a new fan it would be quite a surreal experience, you would think it is going to happen again. Anakin's possible dual path is clearly symblised by these colours.
  10. dark_jedi32

    dark_jedi32 Jedi Master star 4

    May 24, 2005
    • Good guys get annihilated on Hoth.
    • Main character hallucinates, spends the night inside a cut open dead animal.
    • One of the primary characters is frozen alive.
    • The comic relief character gets dismembered.
    • The main character learns his dad is the villain of the trilogy.
    • Dad cuts his son's hand off.
    • Handicapped protagonist stares blankly into space then the credits roll.
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  11. MOC Vober Dand

    MOC Vober Dand Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jan 6, 2004
    Don't forget... the most wise and trusted character in the story is revealed as a liar ... about the very essence of the story.
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  12. Sarge

    Sarge Chosen One star 6

    Oct 4, 1998
    IMO, what makes a movie "dark" is not what happens, but how those happenings are shown. For example, the destruction of Alderaan is not very dark because all we are shown is a pretty blue ball and a flash of light. But if we had seen babies and cripples being blasted into smoking corpses like Owen and Beru, that would be much darker.
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  13. Aegon Starcaster

    Aegon Starcaster Jedi Knight star 3

    Jun 27, 2013
    Introducing the second black man in space! Totally dashing.


    Imagine how dark it could have been if he never decided to do the right thing.
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  14. Darth Nerdling

    Darth Nerdling Force Ghost star 4

    Mar 20, 2013
    If you compare what happens in, say, ANH to TESB, then TESB doesn't seem particularly dark. Here's a rundown of what goes down in TESB.
    --Vader crushes the throat of good guy in the first 5 minutes
    --Vader subjects Leia to some type of torture
    --Leia's homeworld is destroyed right in front of her eyes
    --Jawas are slaughtered
    --Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen are burned to death
    --Obi-Wan is sliced in half
    --Han Solo kills somebody in cold blood in the OOT

    The difference is really that ANH doesn't linger on any of these things (and I actually think this works at times to the films' detriment). For instance, Luke sees his aunt and uncle burned up, then the next scene, he's back to normal. Leia is tortured and sees her homeworld destroyed, but when Luke opens her detention block cell, she's cracking jokes, "Aren't you a little short for a storm trooper?" I especially think Leia's response to the destruction of her home world should've been addressed more. Luke seems more glum about Ben's death, and he's only known Ben for a few days.

    TESB dwells on the bad more, so I think that gives it the impression of being a darker film. Still, it's not what I would call a really dark film. The Dark Knight is more what I call a dark film. I really think the only film from SW truly deserving of being called a dark film is ROTS. The main protagonist is turned evil. Palpatine encourages Anakin to de-capitate a defenseless man and tricks him into disarming a Jedi Grand Master, which puts in his position where he pretty much has to become Palpatine's apprentice. Anakin's wife dies, partially because of his own conduct. Obi-Wan has to "kill" his closest friend, a guy who's like a brother to him. The Jedi Order, which we know represents good, is annihilated on screen. Yoda goes into exile after the Emperor beats him while cackling at his defeat. Children are slaughtered by the hero. The Republic falls to tyranny. The villain achieves every goal he was hoping to achieve. It can't get much worse than that.

    GL was actually really concerned how audiences would respond to ROTS, and I think he had good reason to. It was such a departure in tone from the other films. I remember that there was a lot of applause at the end of the film, but when I looked at people leaving with us, everybody looked pretty somber. Personally, I do think Lucas pulled it off, and I'm glad that here it's clearly thought of as one of best installments of the saga and it's imdb score shows it well-received despite all the anti-PT snark. Still, I totally understand why GL had concerns before it came out.
  15. DRush76

    DRush76 Jedi Master star 4

    Jan 25, 2008

    Better Lando betray Han, instead of the people of Bespin.
  16. MOC Vober Dand

    MOC Vober Dand Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jan 6, 2004
    I think the thing that sets TESB apart is that so many things that are established as absolute bedrock truths in the course of two movies are obliterated. Yes, some nasty stuff happens in ANH, but most of it happens early on, when there hasn't been a chance to build up such a perceived understanding of how things are and bond with the characters.
    Aegon Starcaster likes this.
  17. Mr. K

    Mr. K Moderator Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Oct 23, 1999
    That's right, exactly. The first act sets up the characters and situations. The second puts them in the worst possible scenario. In the third one they get out, either in victory (OT) or tragedy (PT).
  18. StoneRiver

    StoneRiver Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Oct 6, 2004
    Sorry if this has been said already but isn't ESB considered a "dark" movie because everything goes to **** for our heroes?
  19. MOC Vober Dand

    MOC Vober Dand Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jan 6, 2004
    Partly, but I think it's more fundamental than everything going to ****.

    It reminds me of something I saw on a screen at the Zoo TV tour: EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG
  20. CT-867-5309

    CT-867-5309 Force Ghost star 6

    Jan 5, 2011
    Hearing the Imperial March play every five minutes gets pretty dark after a while.
    anakinfansince1983 likes this.
  21. Carbon1985

    Carbon1985 Jedi Knight star 3

    Apr 23, 2013
    If you watch the 1977 Version of Star Wars (Now A New Hope), it is actually a pretty dark and gritty movie. (The new CGI effects have kinda cheesed it up especially Mos Eisley). The reason it isn't perceived as being as dark as ESB is simply it was made as a standalone movie at the time, so it has a happy ending and a full arc for most characters. ESB is made with the full knowledge that there will be another sequel to the trilogy, so Lucas was able to make the heroes get their butts kicked and worry about resolving all these plot points in ROTJ. I always thought that Star Wars and ESB are pretty much the same gritty, dark movies, but ESB has the benefit of 'being filmed as a middle movie' and not have to worry about introducing the characters or having an ending that wraps everything up.
  22. Samuel Vimes

    Samuel Vimes Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 4, 2012
    My thoughts,

    Aside from all the reasons given here, I would say that a big reason is the big difference between ANh and ESB is a major reason form this.

    Yes, bad things happen in ANH. I could even argue that ANH has the highest body count of all SW films as we have a whole planet get blown up and billions killed. But the film doesn't dwell on that or really show the full horror of this event. To me, it really couldn't given the overall tone of the film.
    The overall tone is one of a feel good movie with a happy ending. You have a clear good vs evil fight and good wins a clear victory at the end.
    No ifs and buts about it, the good guys win a major victory at the end.
    ESB by contrast is a running defeat through the whole film. The only real "victory" is that some of the good guys make it to end alive.
    ESB is tonally very different from ANH and this was a big surprise to many, myself included. I saw it, at age 11, and I did not like it as much as ANH, the darker tone and the cliff hanger ending was my main gripes with the film. Much later I was able to appreciate the more subtle acting and character moments that my impatient 11 year old self did not much care for.

    By contrast, none of the PT films really have a truly "happy ending". Even in TPM, yes Maul dies and the TF is defeated, but Palpatine, the main villain, has gotten what he wanted. So if you pay attention, even though it looks like a celebration, you know that the main villain has won.
    AotC is more of the same, war has begun, the main villain has gotten even more power and now has a totally obedient army.
    RotS has a very bad ending that is apparent to all.
    So the PT films go from bad to worse to horrible ending.
    So they are more consistent in that regard,, things just get worse and worse and the good guys never really win and the bad guy never really suffers a major defeat. In the OT the good guys win then loose and finally win at the end.

    RotS has the most on-screen bad things happening, probably why it got a PG-13 rating. Though that did not exist for some of the OT films.
    Of course ESB got the equivalent of an R-rating when it was first shown in Sweden, then it was censored and about 4-5 minutes was cut from the film in order to get a PG rating. That cut was bizarre in many ways and very bad at that.

    Bye for now.
    The Guarding Dark
  23. Ord-Mantell70

    Ord-Mantell70 Jedi Master star 3

    Mar 9, 2009

    Dont forget the Wampa !

    Poor creature. All he wanted was something to eat....:_|
  24. CT-867-5309

    CT-867-5309 Force Ghost star 6

    Jan 5, 2011
  25. Michael McKean

    Michael McKean Jedi Youngling star 1

    Jun 5, 2013
    True, the Empire inflicted a defeat on the rebels at the beginning of ANH, but that loss would be undermined by the rescue of Leia and the destruction of the Death Star. Whereas in TESB, the Empire wins a string of victories, and the Rebellion is dealt heavy blows, most notably at Hoth.
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