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"Luke, I am your father. No, I'm just kidding.
I've never even met the kid."

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator


It is a dark time for the Rebellion. Although the Death Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy. Evading the dreaded Imperial Starfleet, a group of freedom fighters led by Luke Skywalker have established a new secret base on the remote ice world of Hoth. The evil lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding young Skywalker, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of space....

The second entry in George Lucas's original Star Wars trilogy finds Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the green-as-grass hero from the first film, now a seasoned space warrior. Luke's Star Wars cohorts Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) are likewise more experienced in the ways and means of battling the insidious Empire, as represented by the brooding Darth Vader (body of David Prowse, voice of James Earl Jones). And, of course, "The Force," personified by the ghost of Luke's mentor Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness), is with them all. Retreating from Vader's minions, Luke ends up, at first, on the Ice Planet Hoth and then the tropical Dagobah. Here he makes the acquaintance of the gnomish Yoda (voice of Frank Oz), whose all-encompassing wisdom comes in handy during the serial-like perils of the rest of the film. Before the film's open-ended climax, we are introduced to the apparently duplicitous Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) and are let in on a secret that profoundly affects both Luke and his arch-enemy Vader. The Empire Strikes Back was the second Star Wars film made and the fifth chapter in the film series. Originally released on May 21, 1980, the film initially received mixed reviews, but over time, has proved to be one of the most popular films of the series among many fans and critics. However, it made only 290 million dollars in the United States and is the lowest grossing of the original Star Wars films behind Return of the Jedi ($309M).

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 sheer profit, its revolutionary impact on the movie industry, and its unexpected resonance as a cultural phenomenon. This profound triumph was practically an imperative for George Lucas to continue his space saga. But recalling the numerous problems with 20th Century Fox's financing of the first film, Lucas decided that he would finance the sequel himself, securing a bank loan which was reportedly twice the budget of the original Star Wars. A great deal was on the line: a successful sequel was by no means a sure thing, and its success would dictate whether the Star Wars trilogy would be completed.

Now wholly in charge of his Star Wars enterprise, Lucas chose not to direct Empire, since he felt he had too many other production roles to fulfill, including overseeing his special-effects company Industrial Light and Magic as they worked on the film. Lucas gave the role of director to Irvin Kershner, who had been one of his professors at the USC School of Cinema-Television. The script was co-written by Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett based on an original story by Lucas.

Filming lasted from March 5 until Sept. 24, 1979. Some of the Hoth sequence was filmed in Norway, in the area from the railway station Finse to the Hardangerjøkulen glacier. The scenes on Dagobah, Cloud City and inside the Hoth base were shot at Elstree Studios in London. There were over sixty sets involved in this film, more than double the number used in the first. Empire originally had a budget of $25 million, which was considered big-budget at the time. However, certain production problems (especially while filming the Hoth scenes) caused the budget to rise to $33 million, making it one of the most expensive movies of its day. George Lucas intended to finance the film entirely from his profits from the first picture, but the budget overruns forced him to approach 20th Century Fox with hat in hand, resulting in a favorable distribution deal for the studio.

The scene in which Luke gets knocked out by the Wampa on Hoth was added to explain the scarring that occurred on Mark Hamill's face after a motor accident between the filming of Star Wars and Empire. Empire also 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 for the first time in the series (aside from Vader's ability to use the Force) that Vader is not a robot, but instead organic - and possibly human. This fact becomes significant later, when Vader makes a surprise revelation that might be confusing without the earlier scene. Great secrecy surrounded the fact that Darth Vader was Luke's father. David Prowse, who spoke all of Vader's lines during filming, was told to say, "Obi-Wan killed your father", and, until the film premiered, only George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Mark Hamill and James Earl Jones knew what would really be said. Of course if Lucas had made the first three episodes first these surprises in The Empire Stikes Back would not have been as effective or shocking.

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.

Though many today consider it the best of the Star Wars films, The Empire Strikes Back initially only received mixed reviews. This may be because the 1977 film's utter originality and its impact on popular culture had made "Star Wars 2" (as Empire was labeled in the press before its 1980 release) unable to fulfill its audience's excessive expectations. Some critics had problems with the story but admitted the film was a technical achievement.


As years passed and Lucas' ambitions for his series grew, many critics cited Empires tight script, strong acting, and varied visual motifs as proof of its superiority over the other Star Wars sequels and prequels. Some have criticized Empire for departing from what was established in the previous film, particularly the revelation of Darth Vader as the father of Luke Skywalker (whereas in the original Star Wars, Vader and Luke's then-unnamed father were said to be separate characters). Lucas has been accused from time to time of subjecting the Star Wars films to heavy doses of retroactive continuity beginning with Empire and continuing with similar revelations in the later films, such as Princess Leia being Luke's sister and C-3PO having been built by Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. In retrospect Empire proved to be the most morally ambiguous and darkest of the original trilogy. With the release of Revenge of the Sith, however, some have compared Sith's dark themes to those of Empire.

The Empire Strikes Back was released on DVD in September 2004. It was bundled with A New Hope and Return of the Jedi along with a bonus disc in a boxed set. It was digitally restored and remastered, with more changes made by George Lucas, detailed in List of changes in Star Wars re-releases. The bonus disc included, according to the official site, "all-new bonus features, including the most comprehensive feature-length documentary ever produced on the Star Wars saga, and never-before-seen footage from the making of all three films."

There is a commentary by George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren, and Carrie Fisher. An extensive documentary is included called Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy Also included are some featurettes, teasers, trailers, TV spots, still galleries, video game demos, and a preview of Star Wars: Episode III.

For the DVD release, Lucas and his team made even more changes, mostly in order to ensure continuity between Empire and the other Star Wars films. On July 29, 2003, during the production of Revenge of the Sith, Lucas shot new footage of Ian McDiarmid as The Emperor, since a different actor played The Emperor in Empire, and McDiarmid played The Emperor in the other films. Changes also included slight improvements to lightsaber digital effects and a few removals of dialogue. Boba Fett's voice was changed (to match Jango Fett in Episode II). Though his lines remain the same, many fans preferred his original seedy voice to the new New Zealand accent of Temuera Morrison. Also with this release, Lucas supervised the creation of a high-definition digital print of Empire as well as the other films of the original trilogy.

The set was reissued in December 2005 as part of a three-disc "limited edition" boxed set that did not feature the bonus disc. The entire trilogy was re-released on a separate 2-disc Limited Edition DVD set in September 2006, this time with the original, unaltered versions of the films as bonus material.

Who is the only non Jedi in the original Star Wars trilogy to use a lightsaber?

Princess Leia
Lando Calrissian
Han Solo


General-Star Wars


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