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Five Life Lessons from Empire Strikes Back

Today is the 30th Anniversary of the release of Empire Strikes Back. Yep, big three, big zero. People in their 20s were not alive when Empire Strikes Back first came out. Oh Lord, I’m olllllld.

Like most Star Wars lovers, Empire Strikes Back is my favorite Star Wars movie. Not only does it look great, but the scenes actually make sense and line up coherently. Okay, that’s an unnecessary jab at the prequels. Sorry, prequels, but don’t look for a 30th anniversary celebration from me for Attack of the Clones.

I remember when I first saw Empire Strikes Back in the movie theater. Darth Vader scared the crap out of me. There was a shot of Vader on the Star Destroyer in which Vader walked away from the camera, and his black cape flowed back and took up most of the screen. This was back when regular movie screens were huge, and I thought his cape was going to devour young little me.

Then there was the scene in the cave. I was too young to grasp all the psychological nuances of it, but oh did it make me feel uneasy. Maybe it was all the reptiles. Maybe it was how the musical score got totally ominous when Vader walked up to Luke. Maybe it was the image of Luke’s face in Vader’s helmet. I just wanted to get back to comic adventure on the Millennium Falcon.

Now, the cave scene is one of my favorite scenes in the movie, and if Yoda ever tells you not to bring your weapons, don’t bring your weapons. But then, Luke and Vader would’ve ended up playing gin rummy, and the scene would’ve lacked dramatic punch.

Thinking back on the movie, I realize that I learned a few things that I have carried through life. Call them life lessons or little mantras. I came up with five of them:

1. When Han decides to take the Falcon into the asteroid field, C3PO rattles off the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field are 3,720 to 1. To which Han responds: Never tell me the odds.

2. Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.

3. Right before the Leia and Han kiss, there some dialogue about scoundrels and nice men. Then, she just smooches away. Smooch away!

4. As Luke is getting ready to go to Cloud City to rescue his friends, Obi Wan (with a really nice glow to him) warns, Don’t give into hate. That way leads to the dark side.

5. Right after the big I am your father moment, Vader reaches out to Luke and tells him the only way is to go with him. Luke looks at Vader, then steps off into the air shaft. There’s never only one way.

I’ve probably learned other things from Empire Strikes Back. For example, a Tauntaun smells bad both on the outside and on the inside. If you’re encased in carbonite, you will be quite well protected if you survive the freezing process. Finally, you will not bleed to death if your hand is cut off by a light saber. It’s an elegant weapon.

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