Obi-Wan Kenobi describes the Force as “an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” We are pretty sure we could put that analogy forward for not just to the Force, but everything about Star Wars.
40 years on from its cinematic release, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back still means so much to many of us. For some, it is seen as the greatest of all the movies. When talking together recently about our own first viewing experiences and our favourite moments, we realised that we had experienced Empire in so many different ways. This got us all thinking and we wanted to share those experiences and thoughts with you all.
James Burns, Editor in Chief
I was almost 9 years old when The Empire Strikes Back arrived at cinemas in the UK, but I cannot remember seeing it at the cinema. It was a difficult time in our household, my brother, aged just 6, died in the summer of 1979 and my life changed over night. Within days of his death I returned home to find our bunk beds gone and my room freshly decorated. The next year, which encompasses the release of Empire, was lost to me. I know when and where I saw Star Wars and Return of the Jedi, but my memories of seeing Episode V are somewhat cloudy (no pun intended).
One thing that did not change in my bedroom were my toys; a mix of Action Man, LEGO and Star Wars figures. I do distinctly remember being taken to Woolworths to buy some new Star Wars figures after The Empire Strikes Back came out, getting some of the new figures to add to my modest collection. I remember fondly introducing Yoda and Lando to my other characters and integrating them within my play pattern, and building larger environments out of LEGO. I loved the swooshability of the Snowspeeder and the fun that could be had by putting various figures inside a Tauntaun!
Looking back at the film, it amazes me how ILM were able to pull off some of the amazing effects using stop motion techniques and puppets. It worked so well and those techniques are still in use in films and TV today. The story took us on a further journey where our core characters grew in stature and knowledge, and I never saw that twist coming! The photography, music, effects, script, direction and sound are all on point and together this creates an incredible film that still stands the test of time.
Steve Galloway, Literature Editor & Reporter
40 years! It really scares me that it is 40 years since an 8-year-old boy went to the cinema for a birthday treat with his mother. The cinema is now a banqueting hall and I have to walk past it most days on my way to and from work. When I walk past, I can remember the excitement running through my veins. I remember seeing the iconic posters and standing their gazing at them longingly until the day arrived for me to get my chance to see it. I’d possibly only seen A New Hope twice by that time but had read the comics until they were virtually transparent. So that cinema visit was renewing my acquaintance with a galaxy far, far away and was something of my dreams.
My favourite moment is the scene on the bridge of the Imperial Star Destroyer where Darth Vader has assembled the group of bounty hunters to pursue the Millennium Falcon. There was so much mystery about these new recruits. We’d had glimpses of Boba Fett in the build up to the movie with the early release of his action figure and the much-maligned Holiday Special. Fett obviously got the starring role and gets his bounty in the end. Since the release of Empire, I have been well known for my love of the bounty hunter, this man of mystery.
It was Fett and his cohorts that captured my imagination and made a lasting impression on me. So many possibilities there in front of us. We have seen all their characters develop in all the different books, comics and spin offs over the years. One development has been as recent as last year through IG-11 in The Mandalorian. The series shows just how deadly the inanimate stick like IG-88 really was. The question I do ask myself is “Aren’t you meant to dislike the character that gets the good guy?”
Happy 40th Anniversary and may the Force be with you!
Kat Rees-Jauke, Literature Reviewer
It is fair to say that I am probably the black sheep of the Jedi News team because I don’t really remember my first viewing of The Empire Strikes Back. When I was discovering the Star Wars universe five years ago by enjoying the Original Trilogy on lovely HD Blu-ray, Episodes IV and VI, for me at least, just left a bigger impression. So, it’s okay, you can start yelling traitor. I know I’m in a minority category!
That’s not to say I don’t remember it at all, it’s just a bit hazy (and no, before you ask, I had not been drinking). What I do remember very clearly is adoring Bespin. As an artist I was immediately drawn to the 1920-30s art-deco aesthetic of Cloud City, and the complementary pastel hues of the surrounding cumulus clouds. Sitting there watching the Millennium Falcon land in such a unique city on a beautiful planet, I knew I had just found where I wished I could live in a galaxy far, far away.
When I was watching Episode V for the first time, I knew about that big reveal moment at the end. In this modern age of the internet, magazines, and other media, it is almost common knowledge that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father. Did it spoil my viewing in any way? No! That scene is just too iconic not to love. Plus, I was mesmerised by the matte paintings of Ralph McQuarrie in the background and wondering how on earth he’d managed to force the perspective. There I go again with the art and cinematography of Star Wars…always overthinking these films I am, as Yoda would admonish.
Mark Alder, Literature Reviewer
Without question, without hesitation, The Empire Strikes Back is by far the greatest Star Wars movie ever made. I’d argue (as I’m sure many would) that it is the greatest movie of all time. If you read one of my very first articles, Raiders of the Lost VHS, you’ll know that for me and my brother, we experienced Empire on VHS with adverts from ITV. The adverts made up a part of my viewing experience and now that I’ve found a copy with these included, it’s the only way I now watch the movie.
At a time when sequels were not considered to be great, Empire broke the mould. It was even better than the first. It opened up the galaxy that we all fell in love with and showed us that our heroes wouldn’t always win, they could lose (and lose big). Irvin Kershner did the right thing with Empire, he decided that amongst all this action, that it was crucial to include character moments. It would have been easy to forget about these moments, a lot of modern movies do, but Kershner stuck to his principles and made Empire the film that it is. Seeing Chewbacca upset, the moments between Leia and Han, Luke talking to Artoo, the film always slows down to give us these moments that really help us understand and relate to the characters.
Amongst all of these characters, it is Yoda that still stays with me. Those scenes, the words, the beliefs, are not just important for a Jedi, but are principles to apply to one’s own life, and I frequently do. That entire scene when Yoda is describing the force, lifting the x-wing, is so profound that it is my favourite scene in the entire saga. The puppetry is incredible, but it is Mark Hamill’s performance that makes us believe that Yoda exists. I don’t think Hamill gets enough credit for the incredible acting that contributes to Yoda working as a real creature. Luke also taught us that even our greatest heroes can make mistakes, which for a child at five, is an important lesson to learn, that mistakes are made and that it is ok.
To think that the film is forty years old is shocking. It still feels fresh and can invoke such emotion through its character moments and the jaw dropping score by John Williams. It doesn’t fall into the trap that modern films do, which is all action and no substance. Kershner never rushes us through the scenes, never tries to include too much. Empire is a story of character and a dark one at that. It’s a film that I never grow tired of and I’m sure it’ll still be the best of the Star Wars movies for another forty years. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have The Empire Strikes Back to watch, with Quavers, Weetabix and Vitalite adverts included….
Jason Ling, Animation Expert & Photographer
My first memories of The Empire Strikes Back go back to watching the film on tv with my reluctant family (I think they found something else to do). Being young I didn’t fully comprehend what I was watching. It was when George Lucas released the Special Editions that I got to see the true magic.
I loved every second and for the first time found myself immersed in the epic adventure with so many exciting characters. For me, the introduction of Yoda was brilliant. I have always been a fan of the Henson puppets but with Frank Oz’s voice this strange little creature came alive. It is testament to the skills of the creative team that the character has endured for 40 years.
Empire is a film that stands alone and yet is the perfect centrepiece to George Lucas’s masterpiece.
Happy 40th Anniversary
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
May the Force be with you, always!