It seems fitting that today, on the 35th anniversary of the release of “The Empire Strikes Back” my blog entry for why I Love Star Wars is the Jedi master, Yoda.
Within the films, Yoda is the wise 900-year-old Jedi master who trains Luke Skywalker to become a Jedi Knight. I enjoy Yoda immensely. When we first meet Yoda in “Empire”, he acts silly, testing Luke’s patience. Little do we know at this time that he will turn out to be the Jedi Master Luke is searching for. This surprise is one of the reasons I always tell people that one should always view the original trilogy BEFORE watching the prequels – if you view them 1-6, all of the surprises are spoiled.
As a character, Yoda is near the top of my list of favorites. Many of the lessons he teaches can be applied in everyday life. However, the reasons why Yoda made my list (and is actually the only specific character on this list) go beyond the character in the films. From a real-world, film-making perspective, Yoda is simply amazing to watch. Think about it the next time you watch “Empire”. That character – that diminutive Jedi master who trains Luke in the ways of the Force, and delivers some of the best lines in the trilogy – is a little rubber puppet. Watch him. Watch his eyes as they look around during his famous “Luminous beings are we” monologue. Watch him at the end of his monologue as Luke walks away, and Yoda stands and looks upwards. Watch his ears, his forehead, his mouth throughout “Empire” and “Jedi”. Watch him breath in “Return of the Jedi” just before he becomes one with the Force. Frank Oz brings that little rubber puppet to life, and it’s pure movie magic. In all honesty, I enjoy the puppet version of Yoda much, much more than the CG version of the prequels. Rumor has it that George Lucas tried to get the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to nominate Oz for an Oscar for best supporting actor – and the Academy claimed puppetry isn’t acting. It’s a shame, because what Frank Oz does with Yoda is some of the best acting in the entire Original Trilogy.
As I grown older, I enjoy Yoda more and more, especially in “Empire”. He’s calm and peaceful, and I watch in wonder at the incredible illusion that George Lucas, Frank Oz and Irvin Kershner gave to the world.