The Empire Strikes Back
|The Empire Strikes Back|
Theatrical release poster
(art by Roger Kastel)
|Directed by||Irvin Kershner|
|Produced by||Gary Kurtz|
|Story by||George Lucas|
|Music by||John Williams|
|Edited by||Paul Hirsch|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox1|
|Box office||$534.2–538.4 million|
The 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 release in the Star Wars franchise, it was produced by Gary Kurtz for Lucasfilm Ltd 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 Palpatine, is in pursuit of Luke Skywalker and the rest of the Rebel Alliance. While Vader chases a small band of Luke's friends—Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, and others across 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 his comrades.
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 considered one of the greatest films ever made. 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 12th-highest-grossing film in North America.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast and characters
- 3 Production
- 4 Themes
- 5 Releases
- 6 Reception
- 7 Soundtrack
- 8 Other media
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Three years after the destruction of the Death Star, the Rebel Alliance has been driven from their former base on Yavin IV by the Galactic Empire. Princess Leia leads a contingent, which includes Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, in a new base on the icy planet Hoth. Luke goes to investigate a possible meteor impact which turns out to be a probe droid sent by Darth Vader in search of him, but is ambushed by a monstrous, furry wampa. While Han Solo searches for him, Luke frees himself from the wampa's cave with his lightsaber, but soon suffers from the sheer-cold temperatures of the snowy wasteland. The spirit of his late mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, appears before him and instructs him to go to the system Dagobah to train under Jedi Master Yoda. He is then found by Han, who uses the warmth of his dead tauntaun for shelter, and brought back to base to recover.
Meanwhile, the Imperial fleet is alerted to the location of the Rebel base by the probe droid and launches an attack using gigantic AT-AT Walkers, capturing the base. Han and Leia escape on the Millennium Falcon with C-3PO and Chewbacca, but their hyperspace drive malfunctions. They hide in an asteroid field, where Han and Leia grow closer. Vader summons several bounty hunters including the notorious Boba Fett to assist in finding the Falcon. Luke escapes with R2-D2 in his X-wing fighter and crash lands on Dagobah. He meets the diminutive Yoda, who accepts Luke as his pupil after conferring with Obi-Wan's spirit. During Luke's training, Yoda sends him into a cave in which the dark side of the Force has a strong presence. Luke experiences a vision in the cave where he fights Darth Vader and decapitates him. When the false Vader's mask is removed, Luke sees his own face beneath it. While undergoing intensive training, Luke has a premonition of Han and Leia in pain and, against Yoda's wishes, leaves to save his friends.
Unknowingly tracked and followed by Fett, Han sets a course for Cloud City, a floating gas mining colony in the skies of the planet Bespin run by Han's old friend, Lando Calrissian. Shortly after they arrive, Lando leads them to a banquet table where they are handed over to Vader and Fett. Over Lando's objections, Vader uses them as bait and tortures Han so he can lure Luke into a trap. Vader also reneges on his agreement with Lando by agreeing to hand Solo over to Fett once Luke arrives. Fett plans to collect a hefty bounty on Solo by delivering him to Jabba the Hutt, the gangster to whom Han is heavily indebted. Vader intends to hold Luke in suspended animation via carbon freezing, and against Fett's protests, who fears the freezing will kill his prize, selects Han as a test subject for the process. Leia professes her love for Han, after which Han is frozen in a block of carbonite. Solo survives the freezing and Vader hands over his hibernating form to Fett, who intends to leave for Tatooine. Vader then further betrays Lando by demanding that Leia and Chewie are to be taken into his custody instead of remaining on Cloud City. Lando, who is unable to deal with the guilt of what is happening, initiates an escape, freeing Leia and the others. They desperately try to save Han from Fett; however, the group are too late and the bounty hunter is able to load Solo onto his ship and escape. They flee in the Millennium Falcon without Solo.
Meanwhile, Luke arrives at Cloud City and falls into Vader's trap. Luke and Vader engage in a lightsaber duel that leads them over the city's central air shaft. Vader severs Luke's right hand, disarming him, and reveals himself to be Luke's father, contrary to Obi-Wan's statement that Vader killed his father. Horrified by this, Luke refuses Vader's offer to rule the galaxy at his side and throws himself down the air shaft. He slides through a tube system and is ejected beneath the floating city, where he grabs onto an antenna. He makes a desperate telepathic plea to Leia, who senses it and persuades Lando to return for him. R2-D2 repairs the Falcon 's hyperdrive, allowing them to escape. Aboard a medical frigate, Luke is fitted with a robotic artificial hand. Lando and Chewbacca set off in the Falcon to find Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett in an attempt to save Solo. Luke, Leia, R2-D2, and C-3PO look on and await their contact.
Cast and characters
- Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, a young commander of the Rebel Alliance's Rogue Squadron and Jedi-in-training who, after having a vision of his old mentor Ben Kenobi, sets out to find Jedi Master Yoda on Dagobah.
- Harrison Ford as Han Solo, a mercenary smuggler who initially aids the Rebellion in exchange for money, but has since accepted a ranking position within the Rebel Alliance. Although he intends to leave the rebels on his ship, the Millennium Falcon, to go and pay off a debt to a gangster, Jabba the Hutt, he is trapped on Hoth by the Imperial blockade.
- Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa, a young high-ranking official in the Rebel Alliances's chain of command.
- Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, the Baron Administrator of Bespin's Cloud City and a long-time friend of Han who used to own the Millennium Falcon.
- Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Leia's golden protocol droid.
- David Prowse as Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones), a cyborg Sith and loyal agent of Emperor Palpatine who is obsessed with finding Luke, who destroyed the Death Star. His search brings him to Hoth, where he orders the blockade of the ice planet. It is also revealed in the film that he is actually Luke's father, Anakin Skywalker.
- Kenny Baker as R2-D2, Luke's blue-and-white astromech droid.
- Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, Han's wookiee co-pilot and close friend.
- Frank Oz performing Yoda, the self-exiled Jedi Grand Master who lives on Dagobah.
- Oz was assisted by several other performers, including Kathryn Mullen, David Barclay, Wendy Froud, and Deep Roy.
- Jeremy Bulloch as Boba Fett, a Mandalorian bounty hunter who has gained infamy throughout the galaxy and worked in the past with Darth Vader, who now assigns him to hunt down the Millennium Falcon and transport Han to Jabba the Hutt. Jason Wingreen provided Fett's voice in the film's original theatrical cut and the 1997 Special Edition. Bulloch also makes a cameo appearance as the Imperial officer who grabs Leia when she tells Luke to avoid Vader's trap. In the 2004 special edition, Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones and Commander Cody in Revenge of the Sith, replaced Wingreen as Fett's voice to create better continuity between the original and prequel trilogies.
- Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi, a deceased Jedi who was killed by Darth Vader on the Death Star in A New Hope, but his "death" allows him to become one with the Force, giving him the ability to appear as a spirit and give guidance to his former student, Luke Skywalker.
- Denis Lawson as Wedge Antilles, a pilot in the Rebel Alliance who flew with Luke Skywalker at the Battle of Yavin. In the Battle of Hoth, he pilots one of the speeders in the Rogue Squadron and is the first to bring down an AT-AT. In the closing credits, as with A New Hope, Denis Lawson's name is misspelled "Dennis".
- Clive Revill as the voice of Emperor Palpatine, the Galactic Empire's tyrannical ruler and the aging Sith Grand Master, who is displeased with the loss of the Death Star and consequently lists the Rebel Alliance as a top priority for his military forces. He is particularly interested in "the offspring of Anakin Skywalker", and is convinced by Darth Vader to let him turn Luke Skywalker to the dark side of the Force. While Clive Revill voiced the Emperor, Elaine Baker, the wife of Rick Baker, appeared as Palpatine's physical form in the film's original theatrical cut and the 1997 Special Edition with superimposed chimpanzee eyes. Ian McDiarmid, who portrayed Palpatine in Return of the Jedi as well as in the prequel trilogy, replaced both Baker and Revill as Palpatine in the 2004 DVD version, with filming taking place during the principal photography of Revenge of the Sith.
- Julian Glover as General Veers, a general who led the Empire in the battle of Hoth.
- Kenneth Colley as Admiral Piett, the Empire's top admiral after Ozzel is executed.
- Michael Sheard as Admiral Ozzel, Vader's old admiral, who makes a major mistake in the battle of Hoth.
- Michael Culver as Captain Needa, one of the Empires captains who failed to catch the Millennium Falcon.
- John Ratzenberger as Major Derlin, one of the generals who led the rebels in the battle of Hoth.
- Bruce Boa as General Rieekan, Princess Leia's military advisor on Hoth.
- John Morton as Dak, Luke's gunner in the battle of Hoth who was killed by an AT-AT.
- Morton also doubled for Boba Fett in one scene.
George Lucas' 1977 film Star Wars exceeded all expectations in terms of profit, its revolutionary effect on the film industry, and its unexpected resonance as a cultural phenomenon. Lucas hoped 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, going against the principles of many Hollywood producers never to invest one's own money. 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, one of his former professors at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Kershner was known for smaller-scale, character-driven films, but had more recently directed the intense true-life drama Raid on Entebbe (1977) and the 1978 thriller Eyes of Laura Mars. Kershner initially turned Lucas down, citing his belief that a sequel would never meet the quality or originality of Star Wars. He called his agent, who immediately demanded that he take the job. Lucas also hired Leigh Brackett and later Lawrence Kasdan to write the screenplay based on his original story. Brackett completed her draft in February 1978 before dying of cancer; Lucas wrote the second before hiring Kasdan, who had impressed him with his draft for Raiders of the Lost Ark.
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 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.
This 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 Emperor Palpatine (who became a Sith and not simply 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 and killed 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, who had just completed writing Raiders of the Lost Ark, was then hired to write the next drafts, and was given 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 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.
In 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. Sets for Dagobah were built five feet above the stage floor, allowing puppeteers to crawl underneath and hold up the Yoda puppet. The setup presented Frank Oz, who portrayed Yoda, with communication problems as he was underneath the stage and unable to hear the crew and Mark Hamill above. Hamill 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. Kershner commended Hamill for his performance with the puppet.
Filming began in Norway, at the Hardangerjøkulen glacier near the town of Finse, on March 5, 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. Despite reports to the contrary, the scene in which Luke gets knocked out by the Wampa was not added specifically to explain the change to Hamill's face after a motor accident that occurred between filming of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Lucas admitted that the scene "helped" the situation, though he felt that Luke's time fighting in the rebellion was sufficient explanation.
The production then moved to Elstree Studios in London on March 13, 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.
One memorable exchange of dialogue was partially ad-libbed. Originally a scene in which Princess Leia professed her love to Han Solo, with Han replying "I love you too." Harrison Ford felt the characterization was not being used effectively, and Kershner agreed. After several takes, the director told the actor to improvise on the spot, and Ford changed Solo's line to "I know."
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. Like 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 did not learn of the plot point until just before the scene was filmed, astounding the actor; Kershner advised him to ignore Prowse's dialogue and "use your own rhythm". Until the film premiered, only Lucas, Kershner, Hamill, and James Earl Jones knew what would really be said; Jones' initial reaction to the line was, "He's lying!" Coincidentally, according to The San Francisco Examiner in the late 1970s, David Prowse mentioned during a fan gathering in Berkeley, California a possible plot for the third film in which Vader would be revealed as Luke's father, and that both Luke and Vader would survive for "Star Wars IV".
To 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% 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 Paramount Pictures.
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.
The world premiere of The Empire Strikes Back was held on May 17, 1980 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (as a special Children's World Premiere event). The film had a Royal Premiere in London three days later, and a series of other charity benefit premieres were held in numerous locations on May 19 and 20. The film went on to official general release in North America and the U.K. on May 21, 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 Capacitance Electronic Disc in 1984 and 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 and Return of the Jedi were digitally remastered and re-released along with the original Star Wars under the campaign 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. The 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."
- DVD release
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 12, 2006, to December 31, 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 4, 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.
- Blu-ray release
On August 14, 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 6, 2011, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment announced the Blu-ray release for September 2011 in three different editions.
Although unconfirmed, it was reported on August 16, 2014 that Disney/Lucasfilm plan to release the unaltered original trilogy on Blu-ray in 2015 prior to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which will be released to theaters on December 18, 2015.
- Digital release
On April 7, 2015, the Walt Disney Studios, 20th Century Fox, and Lucasfilm jointly announced the digital releases of the six released Star Wars films. As Lucasfilm had retained digital distribution rights to Episodes I through III and V through VI, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released The Empire Strikes Back for digital download on April 10, 2015.
The Empire Strikes Back premiered at a limited number of theaters, and those all in large metropolitan areas because it was first released only on 70 mm film, for which only the largest and most prosperous film theaters had projectors. It was many weeks later that the film was released on standard 35 mm film for other film theaters in North America and around the world.
Within 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. 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 4–7, 2015.
The Empire Strikes Back received mixed to positive reviews from critics upon its initial release. However, fans and critics alike have widely come to consider The Empire Strikes Back to be the franchise's best film.
Some critics had problems with the story of The Empire Strikes Back, but they admitted that the film was a great technological achievement in filmmaking. For example, Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote a largely negative review. Judith Martin of The Washington Post complained of the film's "middle-of-the-story" plot, which featured no particular beginning or end, in her opinion. However, this was a concept that Lucas had intended.
On the other hand, in later years, Bob Stephens of The San Francisco Examiner described The Empire Strikes Back as "the greatest episode of the Star Wars Trilogy" in 1997. The Empire Strikes Back is now considered to be the most morally and emotionally ambiguous and the darkest episode of the Star Wars Trilogy. In his review of the Special Edition in 1997, the critic Roger Ebert called the film the original trilogy's strongest and "the most thought-provoking". On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, The Empire Strikes Back currently holds a 96% "Certified Fresh" rating, from a total of 75 reviews, making it the Star Wars saga's highest-rated episode. 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."
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.
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.
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 was awarded the Golden Screen Award in Germany.
Darth Vader was ranked as the third-greatest film villain of all time in the American Film Institute's 2003 list of the 100 greatest heroes and villains, and Wizard magazine selected the ending of The Empire Strikes Back as the greatest cliffhanger of all time.
The most well-known line of The Empire Strikes Back – "No, I am your father" – is often misquoted as "Luke, I am your father." The line was selected as one of the 400 nominees for the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes, a list of the greatest American film quotes. Yoda's pointed statement to Luke Skywalker, "Try not! Do, or do not. There is no try," was also a nominee for the same list by the AFI.
The film was selected in 2010 to be preserved by the Library of Congress as part of its National Film Registry. It is unclear whether a copy of the 1980 theatrical sequence or the 1997 Special Edition has been archived by the NFR, or indeed if any copy has been provided by Lucasfilm and accepted by the Registry.
In the 2014 Empire Magazine list, "The 300 Greatest Movies of All Time" voted by fans, The Empire Strikes Back was named as the greatest film ever made.
American Film Institute lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains:
- Darth Vader – No. 3 Villain
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "I am your father." – Nominated
- "Do, or do not. There is no try." – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – Nominated
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.
A novelization of the film was released on April 12, 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 depicted on-screen.
Comic book adaptation
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 a serialized comic book, and as a pocket book (paper-backed 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 33⅓ rpm 7-inch gramophone 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 Commodore Amiga.
In 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 carried forward their roles as the voices of Luke Skywalker, Lando Calrissian, and C-3PO. respectively. The actor John Lithgow presented Yoda's voice. 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 series radio play beginning on February 14, 1983. In terms of the canonical Star Wars story, this radio drama has been given the highest designation, G-canon.
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