"Luke, I am your
father. No, I'm just kidding.
I've never even met the kid."
- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium
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....
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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