‘The Empire Strikes Back’ at 40: How the sequel launched ‘Star Wars’ into the future

“Empire” premiered three years after “Star Wars,” which was later subtitled “A brand-new desire.” With one line, “I am your father,” the second movie brought a mythic grandeur to George Lucas’ far-away galaxy, while elevating the lightsaber battle to a high art along with turning the villain, Darth Vader, into the pivotal figure inside the story.

The movie also introduced Yoda, the tiny Jedi master; the Emperor, establishing the master-apprentice relationship that will would likely define the villainous Sith along with their descent to the dark side; the bounty hunter Boba Fett; along with Lando Calrissian, played by Billy Dee Williams, addressing the conspicuous lack of diversity inside the original film. (After “Star Wars” opened, actor Raymond St. Jacques notably published a letter inside the Los Angeles Times lamenting the “invisibility” of people of coloration in that will film in particular, along with the futuristic science fiction in general.)

Lucas didn’t direct “Empire” (that will task fell to Irvin Kershner), along with enlisted Lawrence Kasdan to work on the screenplay, beginning a long association with the writer-director of “The Big Chill” along with “Body Heat.”

Although Lucas had plotted the story, Kasdan’s involvement helped shape along with add depth to “Empire,” as This specific went in more mythological directions.

As Kasdan told Wired before “The Force Awakens” launched the most recent trilogy, “Nothing could be more fun than ‘A brand-new desire,’ however in ‘Empire’ the characters could be more interesting, more complex.” While Lucas had famously envisioned a multi-part story, as Kasdan noted, there was “no reality” to that will idea until “Star Wars” became a sensation, creating the possibility of transforming the concept into a sweeping narrative.
Those heightened ambitions weren’t lost on the cast at the time. In a 2018 interview with Starwars.com, Mark Hamill recalled that will “Empire” was “so much more challenging to the audience along with, of course, so dark along with so shocking that will This specific ended with us defeated. … I thought, ‘This specific is actually sort of the make or break.’ If This specific one doesn’t resonate with the public, the future of the franchise — along with at that will time I was only thinking the trilogy — This specific’s pivotal that will This specific movie connects.”

“Empire” connected on virtually every level, through the continued evolution of the special effects to the romance between Han Solo along with Princess Leia (“I Love You.” “I know”) to composer John Williams’ “The Imperial March” (a.k.a. Darth Vader’s Theme), a piece of music every bit as iconic as the opening theme.

The movie also included what can be seen, in retrospect, as the granddaddy of spoilers — shrouding all future iterations in secrecy — before that will term was commonly used.

The intervening decades have yielded a mixed bag creatively speaking for Lucas’ universe, today under the stewardship of Disney. The overarching “Star Wars” name has not only generated billions in revenue, however birthed a fan base which has a proprietary feeling about the source material that will they can share, for better along with ill, through social media channels that will were as much the stuff of science fiction in 1977 as holographic chess.

Yet most of what’s best about “Star Wars” has roots in “The Empire Strikes Back” — including key characters inside the latest offshoot of This specific, “The Mandalorian” — inside the same way “The Godfather Part II” turned its predecessor through a great movie into a “saga.”

At the moment, the future of “Star Wars” is actually, as Yoda would likely say, in motion. The linchpin of its past, however, runs straight through “Empire” along with the summer of 1980.

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