Ultraist Studios Blog Journal thoughts, musings and other rambling…

December 20, 2006

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK – Archeology Project pt.2

Filed under: Essays,Inspiration,Nostalgia — M Kitchen @ 4:38 pm

The second part of the Star Wars double header was it’s sequel: The Empire Strikes Back. The film premiered on May 21, 1980. Lucas financed the film himself through loans and the earnings he had made from the box-office success of Star Wars.

Lucas offered the role of director to Irvin Kershner, who had been one of his professors at the USC School of Cinema-Television. As well as handing off the director’s chair, Lucas also hired Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett to write the film’s screenplay based on his own original story treatment.

The success of Empire builds on the previous installment of Star Wars.
It is the first we see of the force ability to levitate objects. The first we see the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi. The first we see of the two masters of the force, both Yoda and the Emperor. The Star Destroyer is one up’ed by the Super Star Destroyer.

It takes the foundation, and builds on it. Takes the drama to new, more extreme levels.

And the AT-AT Walkers…
The AT-AT, more than anything else, is the thing that got my interest in animation. I remember telling my parents that I wanted an AT-AT Walker from Kenner. They told me to save my money. So that’s exactly what I did. Together with my brother, we pooled our resources into a little tupperware container that was to become our AT-AT fund. In what seemed like years later (in 7 year old time) we eventually had enough for the big purchase. And it was worth every penny.

Robert McKee accurately writes in his script writing book STORY: When Darth Vader reveals that he’s Luke’s father, we rush back to the scenes in which Ben Kenobi and Yoda are greatly troubled over Luke’s command of the Force, fearing, we presume, for the young man’s safety. We now realize that Luke’s mentors were actually concerned for his soul, dreading that his father would seduce him to the “dark side”…
When Darth Vader reveals himself to Luke, this pays off multiple setups strung back through two films. In an instant, however, this also becomes the setup for Luke’s next action. What will the young hero do?

Which brings us to another childhood memory. Riding along in our family’s blue station wagen, we got into a heavy philosophical debate with my father on why Darth Vader couldn’t be Luke’s father. My arguement was “Obi-Wan wouldn’t lie to Luke”.

It was the ending of Empire Strikes Back that completely blew my mind. Where the good guys predictably win in the first film, it is the bad guys unpredictably deliver a serious ass kicking here. This was revolutionary. The good guys lose. Something about this clicked with my cynical young mind.

And yet, Empire also had the potential in becoming a train-wreck.
Originally, Lucas had written an exchange between Han Solo and Princess Leia to read as Leia saying to Han “I love you.” with Han replying “I love you too.” Harrison Ford felt that the character was not being taken advantage of, Kershner agreed. After many different takes with several different versions, Kershner shouted to have the cameras begin filming and telling Ford to improvise. Solo’s line was, in this moment, changed to “I know.”

During production, great secrecy surrounded the fact that Darth Vader was Luke’s father. Like the rest of the crew, David Prowse, who spoke all of Vader’s lines during filming, was given a false page that contained dialogue which differed from what is heard in the film. The famous line had been changed to “Obi-Wan killed your father”. Until the film premiered, only George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Mark Hamill and James Earl Jones knew what would really be said.

[I DO have film clips of these segments. I will post them here as soon as I am able. Check back soon]

While Return Of The Jedi was a romp of a wild ride, it never did impact me the way Star Wars, and Empire Strikes Back did. The epic scope of the space battles, and Jabba’s Palace and Speeder chase captivated me. The Luke and Leia thing seemed to come out of nowhere. Harrison Ford suggested to Lucas that Solo should die in this film, which would have given it the emotional threat the movie was otherwise lacking. In hindsight there are elements there that show the beginning of the decline of the Star Wars legacy. Don’t even get me started on the prequels.

This post is another work in progress, and I’ll continue to muck with is as inspiration hits.


  1. Man. This poster is probably my favorite poster of all time. I need to get one to frame…… I bet everyone has already bought me my Christmas presents…… oh well, I’ll have to treat myself one day. (The Star Wars one is pretty darn good too).

    Comment by Blair kitchen — December 20, 2006 @ 11:01 pm

  2. Merry Christmas!

    I bought myself a scanner; I’m ready for the instructional video!

    Comment by Matt Campbell — December 25, 2006 @ 10:07 am

  3. Star Wars Floats in The Rose Parade 2006


    Comment by TIE — January 2, 2007 @ 2:51 pm

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