As we move into this new era of Star Wars, I want to take a look back at the saga films, how my perceptions have changed over time and the ever-changing canon of Star Wars.
In May of 1980, the first sequel to the smash hit Star Wars (now retitled as Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope) was released. Of course, now we look at it as the fifth movie in the series and not the second. Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back showed that the Star Wars saga was going to be something different than your typical sequel and what we would later call a franchise.
Most people list The Empire Strikes Back as their favorite of the Star Wars films. For me as a kid, Empire was not my favorite, it was probably the film I watched the least. Growing up, our initial, VHS copy was so poor that the scenes on Hoth were washed out and nearly unwatchable. It wasn’t until I was older that I obtained a decent copy of the film and was finally able to appreciate it for what it was.
Empire may be the Star Wars film most affected by the changes in the new canon. Of course, my opinion could change after the release of Rogue One. Only time will tell, after all, I’m writing this before the film’s release. In the Legends canon, the stories between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back were mostly told with the Marvel comics. It’s much the same in the current canon, Marvel comics are once again telling the story between the two films. Now, when you watch Empire, you realize that Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker have fought before, and Boba Fett is no longer a mysterious bounty hunter, but a character we have followed since he was literally a child, and we know exactly how dangerous he can be.
Empire takes the fun action adventure story of A New Hope and makes a much more personal story. It’s a tighter focus on the characters while also expanding the galaxy and the Saga. There are a lot of pieces moving in Empire, and while the story gets darker and deeper, the film never loses its sense of fun and adventure. I’ll admit that it took me until I was an adult to fully understand what exactly what Darth Vader’s plans were in the film. George Lucas and Irvin Kershner don’t spoonfeed it to us. We have to connect many of the dots ourselves.
There aren’t many films like The Empire Strikes Back. A lot of franchises try to say that they have created their own, but what Lucas and company did here is something truly unique in movie making. It’s bigger and more expansive but also smaller and more personal. The movie is front-loaded with action but gives us one of the greatest finales ever. Often imitated but never duplicated.
The Cantina Cast
The wretched hive your Jedi Master warned you about!