Greatest Five Seconds

Picked up from Club Jade.

It was electrifying, seismic, a bombshell. Looking back it was as though two hundred million movie-goers all audibly gasped at the same time. Certainly, everyone in the theater I was in did. And the next time I saw it and the next time after that. It was an ultimate story-telling moment in our ultimate story-telling medium; absolute, perfect, completing a perfect circle that made pure emotional sense.

If you don't want to read the full article (which you should, it's very well written) it basically says that in The Empire Strikes Back, the scene where Darth Vader tells Luke, "I am your father." is the best five seconds in movie history.

I was going to respond in the comments, but like all internet arguments, I could either be the little girl or the donkey. Rather I'll subject you fine readers to my inane blather.

Bobby B. hit the astro-droid on the head with this one. For a while now I've been trying to think of movies that I've seen that had the same impact as that five seconds. It was such a bombshell that the actor playing inside the Vader costume, David Prowse, didn't speak that line during filming. Mark Hamill was told was the last second change was so he could react, but Prowse didn't know about until he saw the film at its release. (Prowse hasn't had the best of times with Lucasfilm; his voice dubbed, lines changed, actors brought in for unmaskings and finally no offer to reprise the role for Episode III. For one of the greatest villains of all time, he was treated like a stage hand.)

So what did this do? What kind of impact did it have? Let's consider a couple things. First, until Star Wars, there was a gap of several decades where movies didn't do sequels, not with much success. (I'm sure a film buff will prove me wrong.) The days of serials had past and Hollywood made a switch to single big budget movies, but it wasn't quite the blockbusters we know today. These were still very good movies, but marketing movies hadn't come to prominence yet and I'd hazard a guess that in the late 60's and early 70's was about making a critically acclaimed film and not a money grossing flick.

Second, by the time Empire was finally released, the world was Star Wars crazy. You can call it bad movie all you want, but it was a cultural juggernaut. Even if you'd never seen the movie, by sheer force of the collective, you knew about it. It was in the news, papers and magazines. There were toys and lunch boxes and bed sheets and albums. You couldn't get away from it. I'm sure other things happened in 1977, but in the entertainment world, Star Wars was it.

It was a perfect storm. A media darling that came out with a second installment at a time when America (and probably the world) needed a bit of pure escapism; entertainment distilled to its base elemental and mythical forms. We needed to cheer for good and throw fruit at evil. But what we got was a twist no movie had done with such skill up till that point. And I don't mean film making skill, I mean media skill. When you've captivated the world then hit them with something they either didn't think possible or only toyed with as a guilty fear, you've effectively blown the world's mind.

No one saw it coming. I don't care how studied you are in mythology or film making. This was big. Take any other classic movie and put in a twist like this and tell me it wouldn't have made a giant impact.

At the time, movies were still the king of entertainment. There was no world wide web or consumer internet. Cable TV was just starting and wasn't in a majority of homes and even then it wasn't the glut of senselessness we have now. This was it for entertainment. Honestly, the biggest moment around that time that I remember was the TV buzz around who shot J.R.

So I'm open to comments about this. It wasn't my article, but it's obvious I'm defending this position. I completely agree that this moment is the greatest five seconds in movie history. Give me some others, tell me sequels were big in the 60's and 70's, even say why you thought the movie was junk.

Carry on.

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