Scene Review: The Empire Strikes Back - "I am your father."
If there was one scene everyone knows, my money would be on this one. Believe it or not, there are people that haven’t seen any Star Wars, and yet, still quote/reference this scene. I was born in ‘88, 8 years after this film was made, and because of its popularity I was unfortunate to have grown up with Star Wars being established already, and therefore saw this film already well aware Vader was Luke’s father. However, I’ve now seen ESB many times, and the impact is undoubtedly gargantuan.
The scene commences with Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker engaged in what is undoubtedly the most iconic aspect of the Star Wars image - a lightsaber battle. Vader has his red blade wielded, a signature of a Sith lightsaber, and Luke utilises his father’s old blue lightsaber - given to him by Obi-Wan. Initially, Luke is floored by Vader, with Vader telling Luke ‘you are beaten, it is useless to resist’. Luke fights back with a strike and gets back to his feet. The two exchange a couple more swipes, and Luke then lands a blow to Vader’s upper right arm. It’s here we get a good example of how the Sith use their anger for strength - Vader lets out a rare cry of pain, then a roar of fury and takes a couple of erratic swings, chopping three uprights clean in half. Luke’s in trouble now, and he takes one more slash, which Vader counters with ease and brutally slices Luke’s saber hand clean off.
This is where it heats up. Vader gives a typically epic monologue, filled with lines we all recognise in an instant. “There is no escape. Don't make me destroy you”, “If you only knew the power of the Dark Side” - Vader is renowned for having classic one liners and commanding a scene. This is best displayed here, the most referred-to, memorable scene of Star Wars, and one of the most iconic in cinema as a whole. Luke explains what he thinks he knows, and Vader drops the bomb:
“No, I am your father.’
Whaaaaaat?! There's plenty of excellent videos (see below) of youngsters being shown this for the first time, blissfully unaware, and the reactions are priceless - something I really wish I could've experienced myself. It was also, unfortunately, something my daughter missed out on - we were due to watch ESB one evening and someone at school told her that day!!! Fuming!
The use of John Williams’ handywork in this scene is extremely clever - it's scarcely used all the way through; little ripples here and there, with the most audible sounds being the clacking and crackling of lightsabers. The dark tones of the Imperial March kick in with excellent effect the moment Vader drops the bomb, and just as Luke’s face drops almost as quickly!
A wonderful scene, it brings little things from A New Hope into sense (Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen’s exchange about Luke having too much of his father in him), as well as setting the scene for Vader’s redemption in Return of the Jedi. If I could watch one movie again for the first time, without knowing a thing, Empire Strikes back would be right up there for this scene alone.