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John Byrne
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Posted: 14 December 2016 at 2:58pm | IP Logged | 1  

And I never will, I guess.

I just watched the HONEST TRAILERS take on THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and mixed in with their snarky humor they keep going on and on about how this is the BEST of the original trilogy. And this is by no means a thought unique to them. Almost everywhere I look, this seems the general consensus.

So, once again, let me get this straight. The "best" movie is the one that overturns the happy ending of the first film (contradicting that film's opening crawl), dwells at length on the ultimately incestuous relationship between Luke and Leia, horribly tortures Han, reveals Ben to be a manipulative liar, and has what is easily the laziest title of the whole series to date?

Really?

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Anthony J Lombardi
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Posted: 14 December 2016 at 4:03pm | IP Logged | 2  

You aren't alone JB. I don't think this is the best of the films. I think the film has it's good points. If it didn't stomp all over A New Hope. I'd like it much more. 

The first film is my favorite. I happen to think that it is the best of all the Star Wars films.
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Brian Miller
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Posted: 14 December 2016 at 4:47pm | IP Logged | 3  

It's my favorite. Has been since I first saw it in the theater.

And really, all the damage it does is ultimately caused by stupid revelations in ROTJ. No one (including Lucas) knew Luke and Leia were going to be siblings. That was revealed in the third. Yeas Vader told Luke he was his father, but the third movie confirms it. What SHOULD have happened is he was lying and Ben tells Luke this in the third.

Now, I'm not one that believes Lucas had everything planned out and a drinker from that big fountain, but I do like EMPIRE best of all. That's not to say I don't like the original movie (which I refuse to call A New Hope), I love it. Just not as much as EMPIRE.

I'm not saying it is a better movie. Just that I like it more.



Edited by Brian Miller on 14 December 2016 at 10:07pm
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Michael Penn
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Posted: 14 December 2016 at 5:18pm | IP Logged | 4  

I'm not a fan of EMPIRE. Not for what it did to the original, nor for what it is as a film.

The most I can say is that, in my opinion, it's the best of the sequels and prequels.
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Joel Tesch
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Posted: 14 December 2016 at 5:21pm | IP Logged | 5  

I agree Brian. (And if one is going to extend the ick factor of Jedi's reveal of the twin relationship of Luke and Leia to previous films, then assign it to Star Wars. There was much more of Luke pining after Leia in the first film. Empire hardly "dwells at length" on it...in fact, all Leia does is give Luke a kiss specifically to make Han jealous in one scene. Literally nothing else between Luke and Leia to cringe at.)

Star Wars is GREAT...but Empire had better dialogue, made Vader into an epic villain, Han Solo's best moments, heavier drama...and assigned a very cool spirituality to the Force. And by far my favorite lightsaber battle scene. That's what makes it my favorite. (Of course, admittedly it wouldn't exist at all without Star Wars.)

Edited by Joel Tesch on 14 December 2016 at 5:22pm
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Shaun Barry
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Posted: 14 December 2016 at 5:28pm | IP Logged | 6  


It's not the best, but it's my favorite... two different things.

My memories are too fond of waiting for it and seeing it in the theaters, when I was 7. Original STAR WARS memories are just a bit too hazy (when I was only 4), and by JEDI, I was already starting to get a little too cynical (at the ripe old age of 10!) and could easily pick out the parts that I didn't like in the film.

Just from the perspective of being a kid in 1980, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK was as close to a perfect movie-going experience as I can recall... next to the original STAR WARS, of course!


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John Byrne
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Posted: 14 December 2016 at 5:58pm | IP Logged | 7  

...made Vader an epic villain...

Entirely at the expense of his portrayal in the original film. There, he was hired muscle,Tarkin's flunky. In the second film, despite his colossal failure in the first, he is elevated to a role that essentially replaces Tarkin. How the heck did that happen??

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Warren Scott
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Posted: 14 December 2016 at 7:45pm | IP Logged | 8  

I can relate to what you're saying, JB. For many years I didn't really like "Empire" for two reasons: I couldn't accept Vader as Luke's father and nothing was really resolved at the end. Based on the latter, I don't think it is better than "Star Wars" or ROTJ. But I can see why people like it the best or at least better than one of the other two. It has a strong emotional impact and is very atmospheric.
While Lucas always has maintained he envisioned "Star Wars" in several parts, the original trilogy very much follows the pattern of the "Back to the Future" trilogy. The first film can stand alone. The second is a bridge from it to the third. And the third resolves issues that were in the second but not really the first.
Now another question: did making Vader Luke's father improve that character and did that change the outcome of the conflict between the two?
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Anthony J Lombardi
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Posted: 14 December 2016 at 7:47pm | IP Logged | 9  


...made Vader an epic villain...

Entirely at the expense of his portrayal in the original film. There, he was hired muscle,Tarkin's flunky. In the second film, despite his colossal failure in the first, he is elevated to a role that essentially replaces Tarkin. How the heck did that happen??

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don't mind that Vader got elevated. But I think it would have been better if we got to see some of what led to that rise in ESB. 

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Joel Tesch
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Posted: 14 December 2016 at 7:55pm | IP Logged | 10  

Now another question: did making Vader Luke's father improve that character and did that change the outcome of the conflict between the two?
===
I think it definitely did. Made for a real personal connection, gave Vader more depth, and set up the Vader trying to seduce Luke angle (and the ultimate payoff where Luke ends up being the one seducing" Vader back to the light). And what a great cliffhanger to end Empire on.  That said, it would have been SO much better if they gave Obi Wan a better explanation for his lie! "Certain point of view" my ass!


Edited by Joel Tesch on 14 December 2016 at 7:57pm
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Scott Morrissey
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Posted: 14 December 2016 at 8:40pm | IP Logged | 11  

Warren I believe that Vader being Lukes father was pretty much a given at some point during the production of ANH.

Leia being Lukes sister was probably not part of this plan. Was just added on to resolve the issue of who Leia would end up with.
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Matt Hawes
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Posted: 14 December 2016 at 9:07pm | IP Logged | 12  

 Brian Miller wrote:
...No one (including Lucas) knew Luke and Leia were going to be cousins...


Closer than "kissing cousins," they are siblings.
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Joel Tesch
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Posted: 14 December 2016 at 8:40pm | IP Logged | 11post reply

Warren I believe that Vader being Lukes father was pretty much a given at some point during the production of ANH. 

Leia being Lukes sister was probably not part of this plan. Was just added on to resolve the issue of who Leia would end up with. 

===

No, The idea for Vader to be Luke's father didn't come up until it came time to write the story for Empire. 

Leia being related to Luke came about when it was time to write Jedi. They were never meant to be related in Star Wars or Empire. Lucas was burnt out after the process of making Empire and decided to scrap his initial plan of 3 more movies centered around Yoda's "there is another" character.  That being decided, he had to figure out an explanation for that line and so decided to make Leia Luke's sister as an explanation.


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Brian Miller
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Posted: 14 December 2016 at 10:08pm | IP Logged | 14  

Yeah Matt H. I knew that. No idea why I typed "cousins,"
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 14 December 2016 at 10:46pm | IP Logged | 15  

 dwells at length on the ultimately incestuous relationship between Luke and Leia
---------------------------------
Does it?

Star Wars has Luke and Han in a kind of asymettric rivalry for Leia's affections. Luke's kind of interested in a callow way. Han's interested in a kind of superficial way, more about winding up Luke than anything else. Leia's just not kind of interested.

Empire picks up with some of that rivalry in place and then goes full throttle into the Han/Leia romance for the overwhelming majority of its running time.

Which part of the movie dwells on Luke and Leia's relatiionship? They must share only a few minutes on-screen together.  
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Jozef Brandt
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Posted: 14 December 2016 at 10:47pm | IP Logged | 16  


I think Empire is better acted, better directed, and better shot than Star Wars.  That said, I never liked the "I am your father" reveal.  As a kid, I was positive it was a lie. I almost think it's a better twist for him to be lying!  (and wouldn't have significantly contradicted the first movie).

It only occurred to me much later in life that the Empire seemed more powerful despite the defeat of their "eggs in one basket" Death Star.  It could have been just as effective to have an increasingly desperate Empire doing an all out offensive with what they had left (Battle of the Bulge style) and you could still have had the cliffhanger ending, consistency with the first movie, and some story to tell to complete the trilogy. 


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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 12:03am | IP Logged | 17  

I have a somewhat unique perspective on all of this, I think.

I can't be entirely sure, but EMPIRE may very well have been my entry point for the films, when I was just a small child. Certainly, it was my favorite of the three from day one. Vader as Luke's father was part of my STAR WARS wheelhouse from the start, and I grew up with the STAR WARS TRILOGY, not STAR WARS...and then sequels.

As time has gone on, I've learned a great deal about the production and story history of the films. Enough to say that I think I'm a bit of an expert. During that time,  I've had a few myths shattered, and some difficult truths come to light. All part of growing up, I suppose. 

It was really in this very forum where I realized that "STAR WARS Fundamentalists" exist--those who only love the original film, and do not have use for anything which came after. That got the ball rolling for me, really. That's when I started researching just when exactly Vader was envisioned as Luke's father, etc.


Here are the conclusions I have come to:

STAR WARS is a perfect movie. A perfect popcorn movie, a perfect adventure movie, and an all-'round well-told, well-executed story with a beginning, middle, and end (with room for sequels--but not requiring any). 

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK marks a significant turning point in the series. Lucas had elaborate plans for sequels and prequels, although they didn't quite work out as intended. Yes, there was a financial motive involved--he wanted to use the STAR WARS series to fund Skywalker Ranch and build a state-of-the-art facility for independent filmmakers to do their thing. He also had ideas and themes he wanted to explore. And he wanted to broaden what was possible with visual effects, sound design, creature effects, etc. He reimagined STAR WARS into an ongoing space-opera, rather than a one-shot homage to old serials.

This fundamental gear-shift is either something you buy into, or something you don't.

I still believe that EMPIRE is the best-made of all the films. ALL of them. Best cinematography, best music, best sound design, best dialogue, best directing, best acting. Does it begin a length process of retconning the STAR WARS story into something radically different? Yes. Does that automatically invalidate it as its own entity? Not for me. It's not quite that black-and-white. Especially since most of the key players working on EMPIRE came straight from STAR WARS. This isn't the same as the post-James Cameron TERMINATOR sequels--made by entirely different people--coming along and completely fubaring a previously great set of films made by a single creator/director with a very specific and close-ended vision. This is more akin to the Ridley Scott ALIEN/PROMETHEUS situation, except I'd argue that EMPIRE is a genuinely great film, while PROMETHEUS is not.

EMPIRE is a film that should seem like a cash-grab and a toy commercial. But it doesn't. It should seem like Han Solo being captured and frozen was just a way of dealing with Harrison Ford possibly not returning for a third film. But it doesn't. Yoda should seem like a cutesy Muppet shoehorned into the movie. But he doesn't, and Frank Oz's performance and puppeteering are still amazing, 36 years later. Some will argue these points, but I just don't get it. I mean, something like Leia changing her hairstyle for EMPIRE should not count against the film, nor automatically seem like a To Sell Toys-based creative choice. 

By all accounts, EMPIRE was the hardest to make of all of the films. There's a lot of passion up there, on the screen. I think the film is, in many ways, a masterpiece of mood and atmosphere. It's a much more expensive, more refined, more immersive version of the amazing universe introduced in STAR WARS. Stylistically, I think it's the best and slickest of all the films. A jaw-dropping breakthrough in visual effects, which still holds up. It's also telling that, of the original three films, EMPIRE was the one Lucas tinkered with the least, in later years.

In some ways, comparing STAR WARS and EMPIRE feels almost like comparing apples and oranges. STAR WARS is a low-budget, breezy, gee-whiz homage to serials. EMPIRE is a tonally-different outgrowth of that film, almost a soft reboot. It's a more mature, more violent, more introspective version of that universe, with deeper characterization and deeper emotion. A popcorn movie vs. a soap opera. EMPIRE manages the difficult trick of having no real beginning and no real ending in the grand scheme of the series, and yet still successfully tells a smaller, more specific story with a beginning and end. The film ends with a quietly hopeful sense that the good guys are down, but not out. The fact that EMPIRE wasn't just MORE STAR WARS is something I respect. A brave and dangerous choice to make. Perhaps MORE STAR WARS might have been a better and creatively safer choice, but I greatly admire EMPIRE for its boldness in tipping the applecart and taking considerable storytelling risks.


And, interestingly, EMPIRE is still the lowest-grossing of ALL the films. I'll grant that a part of EMPIRE's reputation as the best of the films comes down to young fans getting older and not wanting to give up their STAR WARS toys. So, they gravitated to the "darker" and more "adult" film in the series, an effect not unlike the darkening of Marvel and DC comics, as fans technically aged out, but refused to let go.

If you want to see the "real" sequel to STAR WARS, go read SPLINTER OF THE MIND'S EYE, which was the originally-intended sequel novel (and planned as the basis for a low-budget film). The massive success of STAR WARS scuttled plans for SPLINTER to be a sequel film, and we got EMPIRE, instead. Would a SPLINTER movie have been a better sequel film than EMPIRE? Who knows. But, it would have suffered from one of the same "problems" people charge EMPIRE with--the Empire is still out there, with Vader as the chief antagonist. While I understand the criticism, I don't see the Empire still existing or Vader as a much-feared leader as dealbreakers, as some do.

In retrospect, EMPIRE is weakened by JEDI, which tied up the loose ends in some less-than-satisfactory ways. But, taken as its own entity, it's still one of my favorite films of all time, and is constantly swapping spots with the original in my mind as the best film of the series. Maybe it's a nostalgia thing. Maybe it's a generational thing. Maybe you old-timers got too used to STAR WARS upon its release, and fell so in love with it that you refused to accept anything new or different, no matter how well-made. Maybe I was deprived by not being exposed to STAR WARS as the first and only film in the series, and am therefore unable to see--on a visceral, "watching on opening night in 1980" level how EMPIRE "betrayed" it. 

However, I'm now experiencing that same sort of effect, with my being in the minority regarding my major dislike of where Disney and THE FORCE AWAKENS have taken the series. So, I can better understand the viewpoint of those who take issue with the sequels and prequels. That said, I grew up with the original trilogy, but I didn't hate the prequels. Whether or not that invalidates my opinion is not for me to say!


So, just polling the group...who here saw STAR WARS in the theater? At what age? On the flipside, who here grew up with the films after the fact, or came to know them only after they were all released? I kinda think that how and when one was exposed to the films is a big factor in how well one accepts the prequels and sequels.


Bottom line? THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is a beautiful looking, sounding, and directed film. I still believe that it's a great film, although time and knowledge have diminished it a bit, in favor of STAR WARS. I loved it as a child, I love it now, and nothing will take that away from me. STAR WARS is the moldbreaker and the best overall film, but EMPIRE is the best-made of the films, and the one I connect with most on an emotional level. I can separate STAR WARS from all of what came after, and love it as a singular entity. I can also enjoy the TRILOGY as its own entity. And, I can even enjoy the six-film SAGA as its own entity. Sort of like having three parallel universes with elements in common, all of which provide a different experience, and each with its own set of pros and cons.



Edited by Greg Kirkman on 15 December 2016 at 12:13am
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John Byrne
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 7:02am | IP Logged | 18  

EMPIRE is a film that should seem like a cash-grab and a toy commercial. But it doesn't. It should seem like Han Solo being captured and frozen was just a way of dealing with Harrison Ford possibly not returning for a third film. But it doesn't. Yoda should seem like a cutesy Muppet shoehorned into the movie. But he doesn't, and Frank Oz's performance and puppeteering are still amazing, 36 years later. Some will argue these points, but Ijust don't get it. I mean, something like Leia changing her hairstyle for EMPIRE should not count against the film, nor automatically seem like a To Sell Toys-based creative choice.

Well, now I am picturing you wearing a plaque that says "Bizarro Byrne #1"!!

These are all thoughts I have expressed before, but from the opposite direction. EMPIRE was such a letdown, and from virtually the opening frame. A weak title, followed by a crawl that gutted the original movie. And then, as I sat there in the theater, all I saw was a parade of new toys and dolls. Not just because of Leia's hair, either. Here was the "defeated" Empire trotting out a whole array of weapons we had not seen before -- and with no suggestion that they'd been pulled out of mothballs in a desperate effort to recover from the destruction of the Death Star.*

And, you know, one of the things that put me off the most was that hyper-inflated BUDGET. STAR WARS was The Little Movie That Could. In many ways, it felt like those gutsy, under equipped rebels, taking on forces much greater than themselves. EMPIRE was a giant Hollywood blockbuster, with every penny up on the screen shouting "Look at me! Look at me!!"

__________________

* Full disclosure: I thought the Walkers were cool, and in fact bought the large toy version.

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 7:16am | IP Logged | 19  


 QUOTE:
Empire had better dialogue

Perhaps I'm naught but a stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf-herder, but I disagree.
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Michael Penn
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 7:32am | IP Logged | 20  


 QUOTE:
[EMPIRE is] a more mature, more violent, more introspective version of that universe, with deeper characterization and deeper emotion.

I can't but disagree with you, Greg, much to my chagrin. 

I think what's being taken as the "more" of EMPIRE -- meaning, what's superior to STAR WARS -- is really a matter of avoiding what EMPIRE lacks, because, unlike the original movie, it is so imbalanced. EMPIRE is being taken as possessing all those superior "mores" for no other reason than because it failed to achieve the wit, the whimsy, the charm, and the grace of the original movie. STAR WARS is not cinematic Tolstoy. But neither is EMPIRE, not by a long shot -- yet, that's also what seems to be the impression it's made on many, many people (the majority of fans and critics, maybe?!).

Like JB, I do not see it.
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Michael Hogan
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 7:38am | IP Logged | 21  

One of these days I'm going to have to watch one of these Stars Wars movies. I understand they're pretty popular.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 7:51am | IP Logged | 22  

One of these days I'm going to have to watch one of these Stars Wars movies. I understand they're pretty popular.

Be sure to follow the release order, not the "episode" numbers. That way you will better understand what's being discussed here, and also avoid numberous WTF??? moments.

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Anthony J Lombardi
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I think Empire is better acted, better directed, and better shot than Star Wars.  That said, I never liked the "I am your father" reveal.  As a kid, I was positive it was a lie. I almost think it's a better twist for him to be lying!  (and wouldn't have significantly contradicted the first movie). 
~~~~~~~~~~~
I liked the  " I am your father" reveal. The way it played out was terrible. I would have liked it if it would have been a ploy Vader was using to turn Luke against Obi Wan. As a means of manipulating him into joining the Dark Side. Obi Wan should have denied that accusations. Causing conflict with in Luke leading to his temptation. It would have fit with the darker tone.  It could have been revealed in Return of the Jedi that Vader was lying. When the ghost of Anakin returned to save his son.  Together they defeat Vader and the Emperor.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 8:09am | IP Logged | 24  

It's sort of interesting to ponder how the STAR WARS "Saga" might have played out had the films been made more recently. Home video was just aborning when STAR WARS was released. My second bootleg betamax tape was a camera-in-the-theater copy.* But video was still new enough that most people did not have it, and in the years between STAR WARS and EMPIRE the filmmakers could safely assume most of their audience would have forgotten the fine points of the plot. The days of fans memorizing whole movies was still in the future.

But what if Lucas had made STAR WARS knowing that within a year almost every home in America would have a copy that could be watched over and over. Would he have made the same choices?

-------------

* I felt no guilt at this, since I knew I would buy the official release the moment it came out. Which I did. (Time it was, and what a time it was! The first commercial videotape I bought was THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING. It was a betamax tape, and it cost $120!)

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Jason Larouse
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 9:11am | IP Logged | 25  

To me, Darth Vader got worse as the series went on. He's completely horrifying in the first scene of STAR WARS but the more you learn about him the less scary he gets. By the end of JEDI he's just another "misunderstood" villain. I won't even get into what the prequels did to him.
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