08 Dec

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back


The Set Up

The Star Wars marathon continues with the second chronological entry into the Star Wars films, but the fifth according to lore: The Empire Strikes Back.

The Food

When you run a blog that pairs movies with meals you try to keep the content and food fresh and interesting by selecting films that have very different themes, settings, and styles. Now, let’s say that there is a sequel to one of the biggest franchises in cinematic history, and this franchise also happens to have 6 installments already. You obviously want to watch most, if not all, of them. And in your mind, it would be great if you could write up posts for each of those films because “Hey, wouldn’t that be really cool, and wouldn’t those be posts readers would enjoy?” And you would be correct.

But when you actually sit down and plan out how you are going to do all of this you realize something: “How in the hell am I going to to create multiple meals, for a science fiction series, that takes place who-knows-where, that rarely, if ever, shows food?” Welcome to the Star Wars Dilemma that Munch faced. We know we briefly mentioned this in our first Star Wars post but we want to reiterate just how difficult this is!

You will see over the next couple of weeks how we answer this question in different ways, but for The Empire Strikes Back, we wanted to tell the story and scenery of Episode V through the food we made. The result is an eclectic but satisfying meal.

Hoth. A cold and god-forsaken land. Perhaps, years from now, when we discover that the galaxy that Star Wars takes place in exists, our earthly scholars will refer to it as “Dante’s Hell in planet form.” White, crunchy snow as far as the eye can see makes for a perfect hiding spot from the Empire. Now, we are going to give you the cliff notes version of the story, but basically Luke gets into some business with a Wampa, so Han heads out to see if he can find him because humans can’t survive a Hothian night. Luke, with some help from the Force, escapes the clutches of the Wampa only to faint in the snow due to the brutally cold air. Queue Han riding in on a beautiful, well-groomed, and very much alive Taun Taun to set the theme for our first dish: our version of Pigs in a Blanket, with Luke being the pig that finds warmth inside the Taun Taun. You will be remembered, beautiful Taun Taun.

We followed the Chinese Hot Dog Bun recipe from the blog The Woks of Life, and the result was a delicious blend of sweet and salty all wrapped in light fluffy bread. We added ketchup and caramelized onions to the recipe because they both taste great with hot dogs and they can also be made to look like Taun Taun guts. See below.

After the impressive battle on Hoth, Luke find his way to the Dagobah system to finish his training under the Jedi Master Yoda. The Dagobah system is what creatures of the deep like to call home. Covered with a dirty, viscous liquid, it’s a planet-sized swamp with loads of flora and fauna just beneath the surface and a wonderful place to find inspiration for our next dish: Ribollita or Tuscan bread soup. Delicious and hearty with an extra surprise of bread that you get to dig out, much in the same way Yoda dug out Luke’s X-Wing.

During Luke’s training, Han and company are busy getting trapped by the Empire on the planet of Bespin. Bespin sets the scene for the final encounter of the film, as well as our final food dish for Cloud City. On Bespin, large floating UFO like structures peak out amongst the copious amount of clouds. The beautiful landscape shots of this environment was enough inspiration for us to create a dish in its likeness. Presenting, the Meringue Clouds of Bespin.

The Drink

We couldn’t go out without paying homage to the lightsaber battle in which Luke finds out he is the son of the man he and the rebels have been trying to defeat all of this time. Spoilers! Now ignore the nerd oversight on the coloring of these two lightsaber shots (at this point in the series Luke has the blue light saber that used to be his father’s and has not built his own yet), but take solace in the fact that we own Star Wars shot glasses. On the red side we have a Red Snapper shot comprised of Amaretto, cranberry juice, and whiskey, and with the green we return to our one true love, Apple Schnapps, in a Sour Apple Drop.

The Rules

And a refresher of our rules for the Star Wars series.

  1. Drink whenever someone says The Force.
  2. Drink whenever someone fires up a lightsaber.
  3. Drink whenever a Stormtrooper/clone dies.

The Movie

The Empire Strikes Back is debatably the second best Star Wars movie, and we mean it is a very close second. There are multiple memorable scenes, clever plot points, and cool sets, but the story arc just isn’t quite as satisfying as A New Hope. Sure, The Empire Strikes Back has an excellent cliffhanger, with the whole “I am your father” thing and Han being shipped off in carbonite, but the problem with cliffhangers is they make you feel like you got ripped off of a satisfying ending. We liked A New Hope more because it presented a whole universe and wrapped up a story in one standalone movie. Almost as if it could have been its own movie (a little quote from Leanna, that the other members of Munch are going to keep reiterating).

All that being said, The Empire Strikes Back is still a great movie. While the first movie focused mostly on Luke, Han Solo and Vader had plenty of time to shine in this film. We got to see Han’s roguish character continue to unexpectedly make selfless decisions, like when he went out on Hoth after dark to track down Luke. He also responded to Leia’s declaration of love during the sixth episode in the most Han Solo way possible – not with an “I love you too,” but with an “I know.”

The Empire Strikes Back also had the best lightsaber battle in the series from an emotional standpoint. Sure, the prequels had more flashy battles, with a complexity and fine-tuned choreography that elevates them from a purely visual standpoint, but the prequels lose out on conveying any kind of emotion in their fights. The Vader-Luke lightsaber battle in The Empire Strikes Back was one of the most emotionally-charged light-sword-wielding fights in cinema.

The battle begins in a controlled manner – Luke had just come back from his training on Dagobah, and Vader had been commanded to bring Luke to the Emperor alive, preferably encased in carbonite. They test each other, and gradually up the intensity bit by bit. Over the next few minutes, you can see them grow angry and get sloppy, transitioning from quick, careful prods to full on swings. You can tell that Luke is giving into his anger and has let go of his training. He hacks away at Vader with all of his might and none of the formality a well-trained Jedi might have. We worry whether Yoda was right, that Luke abandoned his training too early, before he was able to control his anger. Might his uncontrolled anger lead him down the same path that his father walked down?

Meanwhile, Vader has the clear force and technical skill advantage and almost seems to be waiting for the right moment to provide Luke with some life-changing information. He has the the option of encasing Luke in carbonite and now wants to play the family card as a means of getting Luke to convert to the Dark Side. This is all wrapped up with the powerful and unforgettable exchange between Vader and Luke, where Vader finally reveals that he is Luke’s father. It is such a meaningful exchange to have this emotional connection after a tense and well-fought lightsaber battle. He changes the conversation that was once had by lightsaber clanging against lightsaber to one between father and son. We hope to see more emotionally-charged battles like this in The Force Awakens.

If JJ Abrams can fit in some snazzy choreography, then great, so long as he is still able to convey emotion through his fights as well as George Lucas did in The Empire Strikes Back.

The Reviews

Andre: A+. The Empire Strikes Back is so damn good. The sets are great, the plot is great, the action sequences are both exciting and nuanced – it’s everything I want out of a Star Wars movie. Make more movies like this, please.

Leanna: On a scale of zero to warpspeed, this movie definitely possesses a hyperdrive. This is quite possibly my favorite Star Wars movie. It’s not a standalone movie, and as a middle child it works perfectly, so I’ll review it as such. We see all of the characters progress hugely: Leia gives Han Solo a chance (when she’s good and ready), Han finds he has room in his heart for friends (besides Chewy), Luke finds his footing as a Jedi, and even Vader’s villainy becomes more compelling as we see his sentimental side when he plays the family card. The first movie is like a pilot episode: it’s good, but there’s a lot of time spent on introductions and background. This movie starts at warpspeed and leaves you oozing with anticipation for the final (at the time) chapter. So, yeah, The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite.

Ben: 93%. The Empire Strikes Back is such an impressive film in terms of the scenery and the set pieces it presents. Hoth, Dagobah, and the Cloud City are places that are burned into my mind, and the events that happen in each location makes them classics from cinema history. Taking down the AT-AT on Hoth, training on Dagobah with the eccentric Yoda, and pretty much everything that happens on the Cloud City are wonderful and quite honestly nostalgia-tinged. If I were to just watch this one film without the reference of the others I would probably find it a little lacking in character development and would be frustrated without any closure in the ending. Also, finally we have a character in this series that isn’t white, took long enough. The Empire Strikes Back is still great though, and it has been incredibly refreshing to go back and watch through the early Star Wars films.