This past weekend I watched The Empire Strikes Back for the seventy-eighth time. I watch it every now and then, hoping I might catch it ending differently this time around (so far it hasn't).
One very surprising thing I noticed during this viewing: throughout the movie Yoda very rarely speaks in his signature kooky backwards phrasing.
He does it now and then of course, saying things like, "Away put your weapon, I mean you no harm," or "Told you I did. Reckless is he." Most of these backward lines though occur during his initial meeting with Luke, when he's in "pretending to be a crazy homeless alien who's definitely not Yoda" mode.
Once he abandons that pretense and admits his true identity, he drops the tortured syntax as well, his speech patterns returning to near normal. Human, even. He says things like, "For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it,
makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us." and, "Only a fully trained Jedi Knight with the Force as his ally will conquer Vader and his Emperor."
He for damn sure never says anything as insane as, "Around the survivors a perimeter create," like he does in Attack Of The Clones!
I have to say I much prefer the Empire version of Yoda, who speaks like a wise man and philosopher. Not so much a fan of the Yoda who speaks like someone who's been kicked in the head by a donkey.
So why the change? Why does Yoda speak normally in his debut but speak in progressively more twisted sentences in each subsequent appearance?*
This is no doubt yet another example of George Lucas' philosophy of cumulative excess. You know, his belief that the audience is like an alcoholic that needs an ever-escalating amount of booze just to feel a slight buzz. It's the reason we got a space battle with ten ships in the first movie, but one with a thousand ships in the sixth.
In George's mind, if the audience liked it when Yoda inverted a couple of sentences, they'll really lap it up if he spins every line around several hundred degrees. Never mind how annoying it may be or how difficult it is to comprehend. The kids'll love it!
Less is more, George.
*And of course even though Empire is Yoda's first appearance to the audience, it's his fourth in the movie timeline. Thanks, George Lucas!