There are plenty of angry dorks out there who could fill a 16-page zine with an insanely detailed critique of a sci-fi classic like Star Wars. Jakob Rehlinger, to my knowledge, is the only dork whose zine would leave you craving that seventeenth page.
Did Rehlinger know what he was getting into when he penned his infamous essay? The co-host of the Nerd Hurdles podcast admits that The Empire Sucks Back challenges the “popular attitude” that a certain 1980 film was the best of its trilogy. But did he know that his epic argument, prepared for a scrapped podcast and later published as a blog post, would become so popular that it had to be published in zine form?
Whatever the case, The Empire Sucks Back rises to the occasion like a “crappy Jedi” under the tutelage of a “Yoda puppet.” Citing an unfocused story, vague character motivations, and an ability to stand-alone that’s as dubious as the AT-ATs he deftly critiques, Rehlinger makes a witty, compelling case for Empire as “the 4th worst Star Wars film ever made.”
Admittedly, the essay format frequently feels like it hurts as much as it helps. Rehlinger seems intent on debunking the notion of Empire as “the best sci-fi movie ever made,” a claim so clearly false that it comes off as a straw man. Meanwhile, the academic angle practically begs for a consensus on the meaning of words like “best” and “worst,” which neither Rehlinger nor any other critic can hope to define to everyone’s satisfaction. Besides, it’s in the “detailed nit-picking” section that Rehlinger really hits his unrepentantly anal stride.
You could read The Empire Sucks Back in blog form, and save yourself a few bucks. But the charming, blue-tinted print version is worth the price of admission (unlike a certain “special” edition…) (Matt Blair)
Zine, Jakob Rehlinger, Nerd Hurdles, nerdhurdles.com, $3.00