It is a dark time for theRebellion.
Although the DeathStar
has been destroyed,Imperial
troops have driven theRebel
forces from their hiddenbase
and pursued them acrossthe
the dreaded ImperialStarfleet,
a group of freedomfighters
led by Luke Skywalkerhave
established a new secretbase
on the remote ice worldof
evil lord Darth Vader,obsessed
with finding youngSkywalker,
of remote probes intothe
far reaches of space....
STAR WARS EPISODE V
EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Empire Strikes Back (also known as Star Wars: Episode V The
Empire Strikes Back) is a 1980 American epic space opera film
directed by Irvin Kershner. Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan wrote
the screenplay, with George Lucas writing the film's story and
serving as executive producer. The second installment in the original
Star Wars trilogy, it was produced by Gary Kurtz for Lucasfilm and
stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams,
Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew and Frank Oz.
The film is set three years after Star
Wars. The Galactic Empire, under the leadership of the villainous
Darth Vader and the Emperor, is in pursuit of Luke Skywalker and the
rest of the Rebel Alliance. While Vader relentlessly pursues the
small band of Luke's friendsHan Solo, Princess Leia Organa, and
othersacross the galaxy, Luke studies the Force under Jedi
Master Yoda. When Vader captures Luke's friends, Luke must decide
whether to complete his training and become a full Jedi Knight or to
confront Vader and save them.
Following a difficult production, The
Empire Strikes Back was released on May 21, 1980. It received mixed
reviews from critics initially but has since grown in esteem,
becoming the most critically acclaimed chapter in the Star Wars saga;
it is now widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time.
It became the highest-grossing film of 1980 and, to date, has earned
more than $538 million worldwide from its original run and several
re-releases. When adjusted for inflation, it is the
second-highest-grossing sequel of all time and the
13th-highest-grossing film in North America. The film was followed by
Return of the Jedi, which was released in 1983.
In 2010, the film was selected for
preservation in the United States' National Film Registry by the
Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, and
aesthetically significant." Like its predecessor, The Empire
Strikes Back draws from several mythological stories and world
religions. It also includes elements of 1930s film serials such as
Flash Gordon, a childhood favorite of Lucas', that similarly featured
a city afloat in the sky.
Whether The Empire Strikes Back would even
be made depended on the success of the 1977 Star Wars, which did
exceed all expectations in terms of profit, had a revolutionary
effect on the film industry, and had an unexpected resonance as a
cultural phenomenon. After the success of Star Wars there was no
doubt Lucas would continue his space saga, but recalling the numerous
problems with 20th Century Fox's financing of the first film, he
decided to become independent from the Hollywood film industry by
financing The Empire Strikes Back himself with $33 million from loans
and the previous film's earnings. Of course, a successful sequel was
by no means a sure thing, and its success would dictate whether the
Star Wars trilogy would be completed.
Now fully in command of his Star Wars
enterprise, Lucas chose not to direct The Empire Strikes Back because
of his other production roles, including overseeing his special
effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and handling of
the financing. Lucas offered the role of director to Irvin Kershner
(below right), one of his former professors at the USC School of
Kershner was known for smaller-scale,
character-driven films, but had more recently directed the true-life
drama Raid on Entebbe (1977) and the thriller Eyes of Laura Mars
(1978). Kershner initially turned Lucas down, citing his belief that
a sequel would never meet the quality or originality of Star Wars. He
only took the job when his agent convinced him that he shouldn't pass
on the opportunity to make a sequel to one of the most popular movies
in history. In an interview with Cinescape magazine, director
Kershner said he had no interest in films with special effects and
was determined to make the film more about characterizations than
hardware. He spent several months working on the script, pushing the
writers into humanizing the characters more (something that Lucas has
often been criticized for failing to do).
hired science fiction author Leigh Brackett to write Star Wars II
with him. They held story conferences and, by late November 1977,
Lucas had produced a handwritten treatment called The Empire Strikes
Back. The treatment is similar to the final film, except that Darth
Vader does not reveal he is Luke's father. In the first draft that
Brackett would write from this, Luke's father appears as a ghost to
Leigh Brackett's first draft of the
screenplay contained the revelation of Luke's sister, her existence
disclosed by the ghost of Anakin Skywalker. Referred to as
"Nellith Skywalker", Anakin explains that it was he, not
Obi-Wan, who separated the twins at birth to protect them from Darth
Vader, and that Nellith also underwent Jedi training in another part
of the galaxy so she could join forces with Luke to defeat the Sith.
This concept was dropped in the second draft of the screenplay, along
with the appearance of Anakin Skywalker and replaced with a scene of
Obi-Wan and Yoda discussing how they must find another Jedi
apprentice in anticipation of Luke's failure. This too changed in
later drafts, resulting in the more ambiguous scene in the final
version where Yoda assures Obi-Wan that "another"
exists.Kershner was known for smaller-scale, character-driven films,
but had more recently directed the true-life drama Raid on Entebbe
(1977) and the thriller Eyes of Laura Mars (1978).
initially turned Lucas down, citing his belief that a sequel would
never meet the quality or originality of Star Wars. He only took the
job when his agent convinced him that he shouldn't pass on the
opportunity to make a sequel to one of the most popular movies in
history. In an interview with Cinescape magazine, director Kershner
said he had no interest in films with special effects and was
determined to make the film more about characterizations than
hardware. He spent several months working on the script, pushing the
writers into humanizing the characters more (something that Lucas has
often been criticized for failing to do).
Lucas hired science fiction author Leigh
Brackett to write Star Wars II with him. They held story conferences
and, by late November 1977, Lucas had produced a handwritten
treatment called The Empire Strikes Back. The treatment is similar to
the final film, except that Darth Vader does not reveal he is Luke's
father. In the first draft that Brackett would write from this,
Luke's father appears as a ghost to instruct Luke.
Brackett's first draft of the screenplay contained the revelation of
Luke's sister, her existence disclosed by the ghost of Anakin
Skywalker. Referred to as "Nellith Skywalker", Anakin
explains that it was he, not Obi-Wan, who separated the twins at
birth to protect them from Darth Vader, and that Nellith also
underwent Jedi training in another part of the galaxy so she could
join forces with Luke to defeat the Sith. This concept was dropped in
the second draft of the screenplay, along with the appearance of
Anakin Skywalker and replaced with a scene of Obi-Wan and Yoda
discussing how they must find another Jedi apprentice in anticipation
of Luke's failure. This too changed in later drafts, resulting in the
more ambiguous scene in the final version where Yoda assures Obi-Wan
that "another" exists.
Brackett had finished her first draft in
early 1978; Lucas has said he was disappointed with it, but before he
could discuss it with her, she died of cancer. With no writer
available, Lucas had to write his next draft himself. It was this
draft in which Lucas first made use of the "Episode"
numbering for the films; Empire Strikes Back was listed as Episode
II. As Michael Kaminski argues in The Secret History of Star Wars,
the disappointment with the first draft probably made Lucas consider
different directions in which to take the story. He made use of a new
plot twist: Darth Vader claims to be Luke's father. According to
Lucas, he found this draft enjoyable to write, as opposed to the
yearlong struggles writing the first film, and quickly wrote two more
drafts, both in April 1978. He also took the script to a darker
extreme by having Han Solo imprisoned in carbonite and left in limbo.
new story point of Darth Vader being Luke's father had drastic
effects on the series. Michael Kaminski argues in his book that it is
unlikely that the plot point had ever seriously been considered or
even conceived of before 1978, and that the first film was clearly
operating under an alternate storyline where Vader was separate from
Luke's father; there is not a single reference to this plot point
before 1978. After writing the second and third drafts of Empire
Strikes Back in which the point was introduced, Lucas reviewed the
new backstory he had created: Anakin Skywalker was Ben Kenobi's
brilliant student and had a child named Luke, but was swayed to the
dark side by The Emperor (who was really a Sith Lord and not simply
just a politician). Anakin battled Ben Kenobi on the site of a
volcano and was wounded, but then resurrected as Darth Vader.
Meanwhile, Kenobi hid Luke on Tatooine while the Republic became the
Empire and Vader systematically hunted down the Jedi.
With this new backstory in place, Lucas
decided that the series would be a trilogy, changing Empire Strikes
Back from Episode II to Episode V in the next draft. Lawrence Kasdan
had just completed writing Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the
screenplay impressed Lucas, who hired him to write the next drafts
with additional input from director Irvin Kershner. Kasdan, Kershner,
and producer Gary Kurtz saw the film as a more serious and adult
film, which was helped by the new, darker storyline, and developed
the series from the light adventure roots of the first film.
After the release of Star Wars, ILM grew
from being a struggling company and moved to Marin County,
California. The Empire Strikes Back provided the company with new
challenges. Whereas Star Wars mostly featured space sequences, The
Empire Strikes Back featured not only space dogfights but also an ice
planet battle opening sequence and elements of cities that floated
among the clouds. For the battle scenes on the ice planet Hoth, the
initial intent was to use bluescreen to composite the Imperial
walkers into still-shots from the original set. Instead, an artist
(Michael Pangrazio) was hired to paint landscapes, resulting in the
Imperial walkers being shot using stop motion animation in front of
the landscape paintings. The original designs for the AT-ATs were,
according to Phil Tippett, "big armored vehicles with
wheels". Many believe the finished design was inspired by the
Port of Oakland container cranes, but Lucas denied this.
The Imperial AT-AT walkers were inspired
by the walking machines in H.G. Wells's "War of the Worlds".
Walking patterns of elephants were studied to make the movements
seem as realistic as possible. The AT-AT walkers are animated through
traditional stop-motion techniques, except for the scenes where they
fall (e.g. the walker which is "tripped up" by cables and
falls on its head, or the one that Luke throws a thermal detonator
into, which falls on its side). These were filmed in real-time on
high-speed cameras with precision-timed mini-pyrotechnic charges.
The debate on how to say AT-AT (either
saying it like the word "at" or saying the letters
"a" and "t") was finally settled when spokesmen
of George Lucas stated (on Lucas' behalf) it is said like the word
"at". Although, many people still say the letters
"a" and "t".
In designing the Jedi Master Yoda, Stuart
Freeborn used his own face as a model and added the wrinkles of AlbIn
designing the Jedi Master Yoda, Stuart Freeborn used his own face as
a model and added the wrinkles of Albert Einstein for the appearance
of exceptional intelligence. Jim Henson, a friend of George Lucas,
was offered the role of Yoda. Henson turned it down, as he was busy
with The Great Muppet Caper (1981). He recommended Frank Oz for the
role. Sets for Dagobah were built five feet above the stage floor,
allowing the three puppeteers to crawl underneath and hold up the
Yoda puppet. The setup presented communication problems for Frank Oz,
who portrayed Yoda, as he was underneath the stage and unable to hear
the crew and Mark Hamill above.
later expressed his dismay at being the only human character on set
for months; he felt like a trivial element on a set of animals,
machines, and moving props but Kershner would commended Hamill for
his performance with the puppet. For proper interaction, Mark Hamill
was given an earpiece so he could hear Oz doing Yoda's voice. On
numerous occasions, Irvin Kershner would give a direction to Yoda by
mistake and Oz would have to remind him who to talk to. When Hamill
was having trouble with the Dagobah scenes with Yoda, Frank Oz
brought in Miss Piggy to make him laugh. The Yoda puppet was made of
a less than optimal material, resulting in it being quite a bit
heavier than what Oz was used to from his time with the Muppets. The
strain put on his arms meant the scenes had to be shot on a quite
erratic schedule. In the film's novelization, Yoda is depicted as
having blue skin.
Yoda's iconic manner of speech has the
parts of speech in Object Subject Verb order. Very few languages on
Earth use this and most are based in the Amazon river basin. George
Lucas was so impressed by Frank Oz's performance as Yoda that he
spent thousands of dollars on an advertising campaign to try and get
him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Lucas's campaign
ultimately failed because it was felt that a puppeteer wasn't an
actor. Lucas felt this wasn't fair to Oz, who honestly didn't care.
began in Norway, at the Hardangerjøkulen glacier near the
town of Finse, on March 5th, 1979. Like the filming of Star Wars,
where the production in Tunisia coincided with the area's first major
rainstorm in fifty years, the weather was against the film crew.
While filming in Norway, they encountered the worst winter storm in
fifty years. Temperatures dropped to -20 °F (-29 °C), and
18 feet (5.5 m) of snow fell. On one occasion, the crew were unable
to exit their hotel. They achieved a shot involving Luke's exit of
the Wampa cave by opening the hotel's doors and filming Mark Hamill
running out into the snow while the crew remained warm inside.
Hamill's face had been scarred in a motor serious car crash that
occurred between filming of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.
Despite reports to the contrary, the scene in which Luke gets knocked
out by the Wampa was not added specifically to explain this change to
Hamill's face. Lucas admitted that the scene "helped" the
situation, though he felt that Luke's time fighting in the rebellion
was sufficient explanation. In fact Hamill did not have any visible
scars by the time Empire began filming over two years after the accident.
Luke Skywalker's confrontation with the
Wampa results in cutting it's am off. Years later Mark Hamill
confessed he was not pleased with the moment. Hamill said that he was
under the impression during filming that the huge snow beast would be
frightened off by his character's lightsaber and told his Twitter
followers that the graphic arm removal was too much. He had gotten on
the topic when a Twitter user shared a severed wampa arm cake for #NationalCakeDay.
"When filming scene I was assured my
lightsaber swipe toward camera (creature not on set) would simply
singe fur 2 scare him off-Horrified to later see amputation &
unnecessary cruelty-Wampa was HUNGRY (not EVIL) - Luke would never do
this! #StillAngry2017," Hamill tweeted.
And that is not even mentioning the
special edition of Empire, which is far more graphic, showing the
bloody wampa screaming in agony. It seems that Hamill - an outspoken
animal lover - believed the scene would occur as it does in the
novel, a note pointed out by a Twitter user responding to Hamill's
post. "Heck, it was even in the book. Luke used the force to
sense the Wampa's mind," the Twitter user said, to which Hamill
replied, "My acting was much better in the book."
The production then moved to Elstree
Studios in London on March 13th, where over 60 sets were built, more
than double the number used in the previous film. A fire in January
on Stage 3 (during filming of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining) forced
the budget to be increased from $18.5 million to $22 million, and by
July the budget increased $3 million more. Filming finished by mid-September.
During production, great secrecy
surrounded the fact that Darth Vader was Luke's father. The film
includes a brief image of Vader with his mask off, facing away from
the camera. For the original viewers of the film, this scene made it
clear that Vader is not a droid.
the rest of the crew, Prowse, who spoke all of Vader's lines during
filming, was given a false page that contained dialogue with the
revelatory line being "Obi-Wan killed your father." Hamill
was informed just moments before cameras rolled on his close-up, and
did not tell anyone, including his wife; Ford did not learn the truth
until he watched the film. Prowse was also unaware until he saw the
film and was quite upset with George Lucas afterwards, saying his
physical acting would have been completely different if he'd known
the real line. James Earl Jones himself believed that Darth Vader was
lying about being Luke's father until he read the script for the next
film. But why was it such a surprise? Darth Vader's name
"Darth" is a variation of the word "Dark" and
"Vader" is the Dutch word for "Father".
George Lucas was so determined that the
ending be kept a secret that security surrounding this movie was very
intense and Lucas had regular reports about "leaks" from
actors. In the end, only five people eventually knew about the ending
before the film's release: George Lucas (came up with the idea in his
second draft, after the death of Leigh Brackett), director Irvin
Kershner (informed of such during story conferences), writer Lawrence
Kasdan (also informed during story and script conferences), Mark
Hamill and James Earl Jones. The movie's novelization was published a
month before the movie was released, and not even the first editions
attempted to cover up the revelation of Vader's claim to be Luke's father.
The film's most famous line is often
misquoted. While many believe that Darth Vader says, "Luke, I am
your father." He actually says, "No, I am your father."
Even James Earl Jones, who provided the voice for Darth Vader,
misquoted the line when referring to it on the Empire of Dreams: The
Story of the 'Star Wars' Trilogy (2004) documentary.
Having Han Solo frozen in carbonite was
(at least in part) due to the fact that they were not sure that
Harrison Ford would return for a third film. When the original Star
Wars (1977) was made, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill were signed for a
three picture deal, but Harrison Ford refused. Ford even requested
George Lucas to kill off Solo. When Han Solo is about to be frozen,
Princess Leia says, "I love you." In the original script,
Han Solo was supposed to say, "Just remember that, Leia, because
I'll be back," but at the time of filming, Ford wasn't entirely
certain he would be. There is a recurring legend that his line,
"I know", was ad-libbed; however Alan Arnold's book
"Once Upon A Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of The Empire
Strikes Back" includes a transcription of the discussion between
Ford and Irvin Kershner in which Ford suggested the line. According
to Carrie Fisher, the carbon freezing chamber set was extremely hot -
consequently, Peter Mayhew's Chewbacca costume began to stink.
During principal photography it remained
unclear if Sir Alec Guinness would return as Obi Wan Kenobi as he had
just had an eye operation at the time. He finally did agree and
worked just one day on the film (Wednesday, September 5th, 1979). He
arrived at 8.30am and completed his scenes by 1pm, for which he was
paid a quarter of a percentage point of the film's gross which was
worth millions of dollars.
preserve the dramatic opening sequences of his films, Lucas wanted
the screen credits to come at the end of the films. While this
practice has become more common over the years, this was a highly
unusual choice at the time. The Writers and Directors Guilds of
America had no problem allowing it on Star Wars, back in 1977,
because the writer-director credit (George Lucas) matched the company
name, but when Lucas did the same thing for the sequel it became an
issue because Lucas had his last name on the start of the film
(Lucasfilm), while the director and the writers had theirs on the
end. They fined him over $250,000 and attempted to pull Empire out of
theaters. The DGA also attacked Kershner; to protect his director,
Lucas paid all the fines to the guilds. Due to the controversy, he
left the Directors and Writers Guilds, and the Motion Picture Association.
The initial production budget of $18
million was 50 percent more than that of the original. After the
various increases in budget, The Empire Strikes Back became one of
the most expensive films of its day and after the bank threatened to
pull his loan, Lucas was forced to approach 20th Century Fox. Lucas
made a deal with the studio to secure the loan in exchange for paying
the studio more money, but without the loss of his sequel and
merchandising rights. After the film's box office success,
unhappiness at the studio over the deal's generosity to Lucas caused
studio president Alan Ladd, Jr. to quit. The departure of his
longtime ally caused Lucas to take Raiders of the Lost Ark to
The world premiere of The Empire Strikes
Back was held on May 17th, 1980, at the Kennedy Center in Washington,
D.C. (as a special Children's World Premiere event). The film had a
Royal Charity Premiere in London at the Odeon Cinema in Leicester
Square on May 20th. The special event was dubbed "Empire
Day", a playful take the British Commonwealth Day holiday (known
as Empire Day prior to 1958), where legions of stormtroopers were
unleashed across the city. A series of other charity benefit
premieres were held before the film went on to official general
release in North America and the U.K. on May 21st, 1980. The first
wave of release included 126 70 mm prints, before a wider release in
June 1980 (which were mostly 35 mm prints). During the initial
theatrical run in Europe and Australia, the short film Black Angel by
Star Wars art director Roger Christian was shown before the feature.
Though the film was simply titled The
Empire Strikes Back in its original promotional materials, the film
still started with the title Star Wars on-screen which was followed
by the opening crawl that gave the film's subtitle as Episode V: The
Empire Strikes Back, causing some surprise among cinema goers at the
time as the original Star Wars film had not been given an episode
number or subtitle for its first release in 1977. However, Episode
IV: A New Hope was added to its opening crawl from its 1981
re-release onwards. Like A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back was
rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America, and
certificate U in the United Kingdom. This original version was
released on VHS and Laserdisc several times during the 1980s and 1990s.
As part of Star Wars's 20th anniversary
celebration in 1997, The Empire Strikes Back was digitally remastered
and re-released along with A New Hope and Return of the Jedi under
the title Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition. Lucas took this
opportunity to make several minor changes to the film. These included
explicitly showing the Wampa creature on Hoth in full form, creating
a more complex flight path for the Falcon as it approaches Cloud
City, digitally replacing some of the interior walls of Cloud City
with vistas of Bespin, and replacing certain lines of dialogue. A
short sequence was also added depicting Vader's return to his Super
Star Destroyer after dueling with Luke, created from alternate angles
of a scene from Return of the Jedi. Most of the changes were small
and aesthetic; however, some fans believe that they detract from the film.
film was also resubmitted to the MPAA for rating; it was again rated
PG, but under the Association's new description nomenclature, the
reason given was for "sci-fi action/violence". This version
of the film runs 127 minutes.
In the DVD commentary, Carrie Fisher
relates that during some of the London filming, she stayed a house
rented from Eric Idle. Idle and the Pythons were filming Life of
Brian (1979) at the time. One evening, Idle had a small party,
including Harrison Ford and The Rolling Stones, and served a potent
liquor (which the Pythons had been distributing to extras on their
film, to help boost morale) that he referred to as "Tunisian
Table Cleaner". They stayed up most of the night drinking and
having fun. The first scenes shot the next day were the arrival at
Cloud City, which she says helps explain why she and Ford were so
happy in those scenes. Idle is said to be pleased that he had a small
hand in how the finished film turned out.
The Empire Strikes Back was released on
DVD in September 2004, bundled in a box set with A New Hope, Return
of the Jedi, and a bonus disc of extra features. The films were
digitally restored and remastered, with additional changes made by
George Lucas. The bonus features include a commentary by George
Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren, and Carrie Fisher, as
well as an extensive documentary called Empire of Dreams: The Story
of the Star Wars Trilogy. Also included are featurettes, teasers,
trailers, TV spots, still galleries, video game demos, and a preview
of Revenge of the Sith.
For the DVD release, Lucas and his team
made changes that were mostly implemented to ensure continuity
between The Empire Strikes Back and the recently released prequel
trilogy films. The most noticeable of these changes was replacing the
stand-in used in the holographic image of the Emperor (with Clive
Revill providing the voice) with actor Ian McDiarmid providing some
slightly altered dialogue. With this release, Lucas also supervised
the creation of a high-definition digital print of The Empire Strikes
Back and the original trilogy's other films. It was reissued in
December 2005 as part of a three-disc "limited edition"
boxed set that did not feature the bonus disc.
The film was reissued again on a separate
two-disc Limited Edition DVD for a brief time from September 12th,
2006, to December 31st, 2006, this time with the film's original,
unaltered version as bonus material. It was also re-released in a
trilogy box set on November 4th, 2008. There was controversy
surrounding the initial release, because the DVDs featured
non-anamorphic versions of the original films based on LaserDisc
releases from 1993 (as opposed to newly remastered, film-based high
definition transfers). Since non-anamorphic transfers fail to make
full use of the resolution available on widescreen televisions, many
fans were disappointed with this choice.
On August 14th, 2010, George Lucas
announced that all six Star Wars films in their Special Edition form
would be released on Blu-ray Disc in Fall 2011. On January 6th, 2011,
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment announced the Blu-ray release for
September 2011 in three different editions.
On April 7th, 2015, Walt Disney Studios,
20th Century Fox, and Lucasfilm jointly announced the digital
releases of the six released Star Wars films. Walt Disney Studios
Home Entertainment released The Empire Strikes Back through the
iTunes Store, Amazon Video, Vudu, Google Play, and Disney Movies
Anywhere on April 10th, 2015.
three months of the release of The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas had
recovered his $33 million investment and distributed $5 million in
bonuses to employees. The film grossed $10,840,307 on its opening
weekend in limited release. It earned $209,398,025 during its first
1980 run in the United States and about 450 million worldwide. Box
Office Mojo estimates that the film sold more than 70 million tickets
in the US in its initial theatrical run. When The Empire Strikes Back
returned to cinemas in 1997, it grossed $21,975,993 on its first
weekend of re-release. As of 2007, the film has grossed $290,475,750
domestically and $538,375,067 worldwide. 35 years after the film's
initial release, it re-entered the UK box office at number 9 grossing
$470,000 from June 47, 2015.
The Empire Strikes Back received mixed
reviews from critics upon its initial release. For example, Vincent
Canby of The New York Times wrote a largely negative review. David
Denby of New York magazine called the film "a Wagnerian pop
movie, grandiose, thrilling, imperiously generous in scale, and also
a bit ponderous". Judith Martin of The Washington Post
criticized the film's "middle-of-the-story" plot, which she
claimed had no particular beginning or end. However, this was a
concept that Lucas had intended.
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes,
The Empire Strikes Back holds a 94% approval rating, with an average
rating of 8.9/10. Rotten Tomatoes summarizes: "Dark, sinister,
but ultimately even more involving than A New Hope, The Empire
Strikes Back defies viewer expectations and takes the series to
heightened emotional levels." Bob Stephens of The San Francisco
Examiner described The Empire Strikes Back as "the greatest
episode of the Star Wars Trilogy" in 1997. Roger Ebert described
the film as the strongest and "most thought-provoking" film
of the original trilogy.
Chuck Klosterman suggested that while
"movies like Easy Rider and Saturday Night Fever painted living
portraits for generations they represented in the present tense, The
Empire Strikes Back might be the only example of a movie that set the
social aesthetic for a generation coming in the future."
At the Academy Awards in 1981, The Empire
Strikes Back won the Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing, which was
awarded to Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Greg Landaker, and Peter
Sutton. In addition, this film received the Special Achievement
Academy Award for Best Visual Effects that was awarded to Brian
Johnson, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, and Bruce Nicholson. Composer
John Williams was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best
Original Score, and Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley, Harry Lange, Alan
Tomkins, and Michael Ford were nominated for the Academy Award for
Best Production Design.
The Empire Strikes Back received four
Saturn Awards, for Mark Hamill as Best Actor, Irvin Kershner for Best
Director, Brian Johnson and Richard Edlund for Best Special Effects,
and the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film.
The Empire Strikes Back won the Hugo Award
for Best Dramatic Presentation, was nominated for the Writers Guild
of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and won the Golden
Screen Award in Germany.
In addition, John Williams was awarded the
British Academy Film Award for his compositions: the Anthony Asquith
Award for Film Music. The Empire Strikes Back also received British
Academy Film Award nominations for Best Sound and Best Production Design.
Williams was also nominated for a Grammy
Award and a Golden Globe Award for his musical score of the film.
The musical score of The Empire Strikes
Back was composed and conducted by John Williams, and it was
performed by the London Symphony Orchestra at a cost of about
$250,000. In 1980, the company RSO Records published this film's
original musical score as both a double LP album and as an 8-track
cartridge in the United States. Its front cover artwork features the
mask of Darth Vader against a backdrop of outer space, as seen on the
advance theatrical poster for the film.
In 1985, the first Compact disc (CD) issue
of the film score was made by the company Polydor Records, which had
absorbed both RSO Records and its music catalog. Polydor Records used
a shorter, one compact-disc edition of the music as their master. In
1993, 20th Century Fox Film Scores released a special boxed set of
four compact discs: the Star Wars Trilogy: The Original Soundtrack
Anthology. This anthology included the film scores of all three
members of the original Star Wars Trilogy in separate CDs, even
though there was significant overlap between the three (such as the
Star Wars theme music).
In 1997, the record company RCA Victor
released a definitive two-CD set to accompany the publications of all
three of the Special Editions of the films of the Star Wars Trilogy.
This original limited-edition set of CDs featured a 32-page black
booklet that was enclosed within a protective outer slip-case. The
covers of the booklet and of the slip-case have selections from the
poster art of the Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition. All of the
tracks have been digitally re-mastered supposedly for superior
clarity of sound.
RCA Victor next re-packaged the Special
Edition set later on in 1997, offering it in slim-line jewel case
packaging as an unlimited edition, but without the packaging that the
original "black booklet" version offered.
In 2004, the Sony Classical Records
company purchased the sales rights of the original trilogy's musical
scores, primarily because it already had the sales rights of the
music from the trilogy of prequels: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the
Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. Hence in 2004, the Sony Classical
company began manufacturing copies of the film-score CDs that RCA
Victor had been making since 1997, including the one for The Empire
Strikes Back. This set was made with new cover artwork similar to
that of the film's first publication on DVD. Despite the digital
re-mastering by Sony Classical, their CD version made and sold since
2004 is essentially the same as the version by RCA Victor.
novelization of the film was released on April 12th, 1980, and
published by the company Del Rey Books. The novelization was written
by Donald F. Glut, and it was based on the screenplay by Lawrence
Kasdan, Leigh Brackett, and George Lucas.
This novelization was originally published
as Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. However, the later editions
have been renamed Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back to
conform with the change in the titles of the Star Wars saga. Like the
other novelizations of the Star Wars Trilogy, background information
is added to explain the happenings of the story beyond that which is
Marvel Comics published a comic book
adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back which was written by Archie
Goodwin and illustrated by Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon. It was
published simultaneously in four formats: as a magazine (Marvel Super
Special #16), an oversized tabloid edition (Marvel Special Edition
Featuring Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back), as part of a
serialized comic book series, and as a paperback pocket book. In the
paperback and tabloid versions, which were published first and for
which early concept designs were the only available art reference,
Yoda was given a quite different appearance than in the films: Yoda
is thinner, he has long white hair, and he has purple skin, rather
than green skin. For the magazine and serialized comic book editions,
there was enough time for the artwork featuring Yoda to be revised
extensively, and his appearance was changed to match that in the film.
Comic book historians and industry
professionals have remarked that Marvel's Star Wars comics published
in the years before The Empire Strikes Back include plot points
similar to those later used in the film. However, the film's makers
have not acknowledged receiving any inspiration from the comic books.
Lucasfilm adapted the story for a
children's book-and-record set. Released in 1980, the 24-page Star
Wars: The Empire Strikes Back read-along book was accompanied by a
record. Each page of the book contained a cropped frame from the film
with an abridged and condensed version of the story. The record was
produced by Buena Vista Records.
Video games based on the film have been
released on several consoles. Additionally, several Star Wars video
games feature or mention key events seen in the film, but are not
entirely based upon the film. In 1982 Parker Brothers released Star
Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for the Atari 2600 games console, which
featured the speeder attack on the AT-ATs on Hoth. The arcade game
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back followed in 1985. The game
features familiar battle sequences and characters played from a
first-person perspective. Specific battles include the Battle of Hoth
and the subsequent escape of the Millennium Falcon through an
asteroid field. A conversion was released in 1988 for the ZX
Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, BBC Micro, Atari ST and
1992, JVC released the LucasArts-developed video game also titled
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for the Nintendo Entertainment
System (NES) console. The player assumes the role of Luke Skywalker
and maneuvers through Skywalker's story as seen in the film. In 1992,
Ubisoft released a version for the Game Boy. Like its previous
incarnation, it follows the story of Luke Skywalker. Super Star Wars:
The Empire Strikes Back was developed for the console Super Nintendo
Entertainment System (SNES) by LucasArts and was released by JVC in
1993. The SNES game is similar in spots to the 1991 NES release, and
is on a 12-megabit cartridge.
A radio play adaptation of The Empire
Strikes Back was written by Brian Daley, and was produced for and
broadcast on the National Public Radio network in the U.S. during
1983. It was based on characters and situations created by George
Lucas, and on the screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan.
Its director was John Madden, with sound mixing and post-production
work done by Tom Voegeli.
Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, and
Anthony Daniels reprised their roles as Luke Skywalker, Lando
Calrissian, and C-3PO respectively, with John Lithgow voicing Yoda.
This radio play was designed to last for five hours of radio time,
usually presented in more than one part. Radio agencies estimate that
about 750,000 people tuned in to listen to this radio play series
beginning on February 14th, 1983. In terms of the canonical Star Wars
story, this radio drama has been given the highest designation, G-canon.
Six degrees of Kevin Bacon?
It would seem the TV classic Cheers has connections to two of our
major sci-fi pop culture franchises. Cheer's know-it-all postman,
John Ratzenberger played Major Bren Derlin in The Empire Strikes
Back. Kelsey Grammer appeared in the role of Captain Morgan Bateson
in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Cause and
Effect". Kirstie Alley appeared in Star Trek II: The Wrath of
Khan, playing Vulcan officer Lieutenant Saavik. The Star Trek: Deep
Space Nine character of Morn was inspired by and anagrammatically
named after the Norm Peterson character portrayed by George Wendt.
Kate Mulgrew (Voyager's Captian Janeway) guest starred on Cheers as
Sam Malone's temporary romantic interest Councillor Janet Eldridge.
Ratzenberger also did voice work on the animated Toy Story films
which starred Tom Hanks who appeared in Apollo 13 with Kevin Bacon.
Ah, the circle of life. I only mention this to have an excuse to show
the photo of Ratzenberger from The Empire Strikes Back (above).
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