The evil Darth Vader searches the galaxy for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford), who are hiding on the ice planet of Hoth, to destroy the Rebellion once and for all in the film executive produced by George Lucas and directed by Irvin Kershner.
Making Star Wars exhausted George Lucas so much that he decided to retire from filmmaking to focus on his new company: Lucasfilm Ltd. Lots had to be done, especially to Industrial Lights & Magic. But to become totally independent from Hollywood, he also needed to put the sequel to Star Wars into the works, and quick. He knocked at the door of Irvin Kershner, former teacher of his, and asked that he directs The Empire Strikes Back. He promised total creative freedom and that “Empire would very much be an Irvin Kershner film.” Kershner agreed. Lucas also hired Lawrence Kasdan to write the script based on his story. The Empire Strikes Back would become to most loved Star Wars film as well as one of the better sequel ever made.
Might it be so because George Lucas had so little input? Maybe and maybe not. He did wrote the full story before cutting it in three and making the first third with Star Wars. So the arc was there. He also came up with the ultimate plot twist that was kept secret until the very end of the post-production. I think Empire turned out so great because George Lucas wasn’t alone. He was surrounded by a competent director and a competent writer who confronted his ideas. Films come from a collective work process. This makes them, in my opinion, much more interesting that any other form of Art. Yes, it has an author. It can be the director, the writer or the producer. But every soul working on a film adds his touch to the picture. The director is the guardian of a vision. That doesn’t necessarily mean all of the ideas that end up in the film were his. According to Irvin Kershner, Lucas did give him total creative freedom and came to the sets only to make sure everything ran smoothly. From what I heard, he was the perfect producer.
I do very much wish that my parents were filming me as I watched the end of Empire, just because I do not remember what was my initial reaction.
What also made Empire that great is that is was all part of a plan. The story was written. Lucas knew where it began and were it was supposed to end. Furthermore, most of the characters were introduced in the first film, so Empire could do more within the same runtime. It also went significantly darker than A New Hope. If Star Wars was meant for kids, Empire meant to give them nightmares. I never felt scared for the characters, I do now. Hand chopped off, character frozen in carbonite, I wouldn’t ever forget what I saw. They went also a lot further with the special effects. Empire turned out to be the least altered film of the three for the Special Edition re-release in 1997, and the edits were mostly enhancements made to the special effects. This was due tot the fact that Empire was significantly better realised than the first. More variety in the shots, a faster pace, huge combat pieces. The whole battle of Hoth is still a marvel to look at. The performances were also a lot better. In short, Empire touched all the notes it had to become one of the greatest sequels.
But it wouldn’t be for the now infamous plot twist at the end. Luke Skywalker finally faces Darth Vader. The hero we love versus the lad we’ve come to hate because he killed Ben Kenobi, froze fan-favorite Han Solo when his relationship with Princess Leia began to blossom. God, we hated that guy at this point. I do very much wish that my parents were filming me as I watched the end of Empire, just because I do not remember what was my initial reaction. Keep in mind, the internet wasn’t around in 1997 and I just saw Star Wars a couple of hours before. Well, this certainly marked mind as we are still talking about that scene today, and the cliffhanger was so greatly done that I needed to see Return of the Jedi. I needed to see how it ended.