Remembering The Empire Strikes Back 35 years later

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The first time I saw Empire in the theater people cheered as soon as the lights went down. I was too young to understand just how significant that was, but I got a sense that this was unusual for movies. I also remember the impact of Luke losing his arm. That kind of thing just wasn’t supposed to happen, or so I thought, and it opened up for me that anything could happen.

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My oldest brother, then a senior in high school, was able to see it opening night. I had to wait for the weekend. Naturally, he came home and spoiled it for the rest of us. I still really resent this.


Empire was when I learned that film criticism (as opposed to merely “reviews”) was an actual thing. That it was possible to have interesting discussions and debates about storytelling choices, context, history and so on, that may or may not have informed the makers and - crucially - that there was no categorically right or wrong outcome to these arguments. For a twelve year old, that was a big deal.

[I just wish Lucas hadn’t then blown it by making *Return* as unsubtle as it ended up. Heck, even *Revenge* is more nuanced, and that’s saying something.]

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I saw it opening weekend. It was great, shocking even. As much as I loved Yoda’s deeper explanation of the Force, as an 11yo, I preferred the happier “a boy can save the world” storyline from the previous movie. Even to this date, while I recognize how much more layered and complex Empire is compared to New Hope, Episode IV is still my favorite. I blame my inner child…

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I saw this in 70mm when it opened. I still remember the sense of vertigo during the snowspeeder POV shots.

and a plot twist no one saw coming.

Including Lucas!

i fully remember sitting in the theater and getting that gut punch from darth vader. i didn’t believe it, couldn’t believe it. it’s hard for people who grew up with ESB as part of the cultural landscape to understand how surprising it was, but ooof, it really really was stunning.

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The thing I most remember is refusing to believe that Vader was Luke’s father. I honestly thought he was lying just to get in his head and swing him to the dark side. I argued with everyone about this right up until Return of the Jewish came out. I was so disappointed that he really was Luke’s father.

(Ugh, I hate autocorrect sometimes. Return of the Jedi. Sorry)


I remember the rush of cold air blasting me in the face! Yes, i felt the cold!
I can even still hear the scanner’s electronic mumbling quietly underneath that exciting musical score.


Thank Yahweh for Mel Brooks.

one of my distinct memories from the first movie was the vertigo i got during the POV scenes of the x-wings diving into the death star trench. it really made me dizzy, like i was on a rollercoaster car that was doing that. funny how quickly we get used to such things.

That’s either an unusual typo, or you know something we don’t about Jews…

wrong board

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