Classic Cuts: Three Simple Editing Techniques Employed By The Empire Strikes Back (Video)
The trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the sequel to 2015’s The Force Awakens, dropped this past weekend, a reminder the Star Wars franchise has anchored itself deep in our lexicon for the foreseeable future (or at least every holiday season).
While its memorable characters, zippy lines and classic Joseph Campbell “hero’s journey” narrative beats help maintain the fandom for a new generation, the editing of George Lucas’ original trilogy is oft overlooked and warrants a closer examination. In the video “3 Proven Film Editing Techniques from Star Wars,” StudioBinder briefly examines a few simple techniques in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) that go a long way in establishing characters’ moods and intentions.
For example: An important factor for sharp editing is eye contact. Having characters lock eyes conveys emotions and meaning without the need for dialogue. As Han Solo is lowered into the carbonite in a memorable scene from The Empire Strikes Back, the discomfort of all of the characters is telegraphed through the glances they exchange with one another. We pick up on Princess Leia and Han Solo’s intimate relationship, and we see other characters not only looking at Han, but toward Leia, offering her their support as well. On the other hand, the villains in this scene—Darth Vader and the conflicted turncoat Lando—look around as well, but without the shared warmth of the others.
Another point: Action scenes are generally constructed with quick edits, but to highlight the emotional importance of a singular moment in the midst of chaos, it can be useful to slow things down. During the epic duel between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, we learn, along with Luke, that Vader is his father. As Luke becomes emotional as a result of this shocking revelation, the shot lingers, magnifying the importance of this moment and how it will alter their relationship going forward.
In an earlier scene, Luke trains with Yoda and, as he grows in the Force, decides to attempt to raise his sunken X-wing Starfighter out from the water. Each successive attempt to raise the Starfighter is a longer shot than the previous, heightening the suspense subtly. When Luke finally fails, the viewers are almost as exhausted and defeated as Luke is.
Watch the video for more. MM