40 Years of ESB: What Empire Brought to the Star Wars Saga
Today is the 40th Anniversary of the release of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. And while Star Wars: A New Hope had already created a fascinating world with instantly-iconic heroes and villains, The Empire Strikes had some of the most incredible world building of all.
This movie introduced a variety of characters and relationships that would change the Star Wars saga forever. Let’s look at just a few characters and concepts that celebrate their 40th anniversary in fandom today.
In a terrible storm on Hoth, Luke Skywalker is mere moments from dying of hypothermia when a voice calls out to him. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s force ghost appears and instructs Luke to go to the Dagobah system so that he can learn form Jedi Master Yoda.
It is the first time we meet the powerful but diminutive Jedi. But when we first meet him, he tricks us into thinking that he’s just a playful and eccentric creature, more interested in rifling through Luke’s belongings than anything. What we learn is that he is testing Luke’s patience.
Someone who is sensitive in the Force needs to be patient. Yoda was at first concerned about Luke’s anger and passion. He tested Luke and pushed him and bothered him to see if he was ready to learn. If Obi-Wan did not ultimately convince Yoda, Luke might have never been a full Jedi.
Jedi Master Yoda works in mysterious ways, ever-changing and flowing just like the Force itself. His presence, his voice, and his incredible puppetry made him an instant classic among fans.
The greatest bounty hunter in all the galaxy makes his debut in Empire Strikes Back, as he hunts down the Millennium Falcon and infamous Han Solo. And while Darth Vader enlists the help of many bounty hunters, he makes goes out of his way to warn Boba Fett not to disintegrate the target. Even Lord Vader knows how deadly and how effective Boba Fett truly is.
Boba Fett was out to collect a bounty, and he successfully acquired Han Solo for Jabba the Hutt after assisting Vader, testing the Carbonite freezing process so that it could be used on the Sith Lord’s real target- Luke Skywalker. With only four lines in his first film appearance, this mysterious man in Mandalorian armor immediately captured the imagination of audiences everywhere.
Boba Fett’s braids on his right shoulder pauldron are known to be the braids of Jedi and Wookies, two groups with notoriously skilled warriors. We could have never guessed that Boba Fett’s sparing first appearance would have opened up the door for shows like Star Wars™: The Mandalorian to grace our screens four decades later.
Darth Vader serves someone even more powerful than himself- his master, and the Emperor of the Galactic Empire, Darth Sidious. But when Empire Strikes Back was first released, we didn’t know any of this. All we knew is that Darth Vader, an already horrifying and mysterious villain, bowed before the hologram of an even more horrifying and even more mysterious villain.
“There is a great disturbance in the Force.” It is his first line and it perfectly exemplifies his role within the Star Wars Saga. While he is referring to Luke Skywalker’s connection to the Force, the writers cleverly show us that The Emperor himself is the great disturbance, which he continues to be across all three trilogies.
This great looming power was pulling the strings behind everything. It was a brilliant introduction to a magnificent villain.
Once again, Star Wars told us everything we needed to know about Lando Calrissian from his very first line. And while it was an accusation (mostly just to mess with Han) it told us how the audience should see Lando right away:
“You smiley, double-crossing no good swindler. You gotta a lot of guts coming here after what you pulled!”
And that’s exactly what Lando Calrissian ends up doing. He double crosses Han Solo and his whole team. Lando likes to see himself as a businessman, doing whatever it takes to survive. But ultimately, he tries to help the team by at least informing them what Vader plans to do. And he does intend to keep Leia and Chewbacca safe.
Lando had no say when it came to Boba Fett showing up and collecting his bounty. But the most interesting part of it all was a new technological method of capturing targets: Carbonite Freezing. A way to hold someone in complete stasis, and a good way to keep your target from running away!
It’s a cruel fate that ultimately makes a souvenir and a centerpiece out of a person. Despite that, Boba Fett wasn’t concerned with the process, he was concerned with the cash. He nearly got into a fight with Darth Vader because he was concerned that the Carbonite Freezing wouldn’t work. But when the process worked, we got the iconic look of Han Solo in Carbonite.
In Empire Strikes Back, we get to see what many fans believe to be one of the greatest lightsaber duels of all time. This tense battle shows Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker battling with both body and mind. It is a philosophical debate alongside a duel. Two opposing ideologies of the light side and the dark side of the Force.
Of course, the most important and most iconic reveal in the entire film is that Darth Vader is actually Anakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker’s father. “Search your feelings, you know it to be true.”
The Skywalker family is powerful in the Force, and this cemented how truly complicated the relationships in Star Wars Saga would come to be.
What is your favorite moment from The Empire Strikes Back? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!
And if you’re looking for a way to celebrate and display your love for Star Wars, look no further than Sideshow’s full galaxy of Star Wars collectibles! If Jabba the Hutt can display Han Solo in Carbonite, why can’t you?