A few weeks ago, my sister and I were discussing movies that we had watched so many times that 1) we had lost track of how many times it actually was, and 2) we could basically recite them in our heads without needing the visuals or sounds in front of us. Well, The Empire Strikes Back is definitely one of those for me. You could plop me in the middle of the soundtrack, and I could tell you what was being said and/or done at that very moment, down to the very precise detail. Regardless, though, I still feel many of the same emotions I had when I watched it the first time as a kid: glee, terror, sadness, desire. However, despite my fondness for the movie as a whole, I had no problem narrowing down my favorite scene.
Now, it’s more of a sequence of scenes that I adore the most, but seeing as it takes place basically at the same time, I don’t think it’s cheating. Technically. Anyway, when the Falcon lands on an asteroid in an attempt to evade the Imperials, hijinks ensue: the ship *surprise* needs repairs, Han and Leia kinda make out (only to be interrupted by an oblivious Threepio), mynocks are chewing on cables outside, etc. What I love so much about these scenes are the bits of character development that are so subtle and yet so revealing simultaneously. Leia is struggling with her feelings for Han, something she really hasn’t had the time to consider, what with leading a rebellion and all. As evidenced by his teasing and flirting with her during these scenes – and his later “I know” quip – he is obviously aware of their mutual attraction but he’s struggling with it in his own way: he has a bounty on his head and can’t really allow himself to be tied down in one place, no matter how pretty the scenery is, and to be honest, I don’t think he believes himself to be entirely worthy of her. A lot of that comes from the expanded universe books that are no longer canon – specifically the godawful book, The Courtship of Princess Leia, where he kidnaps her after he wins the ownership of Dathomir – but I do think it tracks. Now, Chewie is the exact opposite of bumbling Threepio; he knows exactly what is going on and finds the whole charade amusing, seemingly saying, “dear god, just bone already.”
All of these characters are so clearly defined and have such strong personalities that their interactions are just magic, and this sequence is a near-flawless example of that. If any one of them weren’t so expertly crafted and acted, none of the scenes would have worked as well, and I think we have Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Irvin Kershner, Leigh Brackett, and Lawrence Kasdan (the last two are the screenwriters) to thank for that.