After the stunning and surprising success of "Star Wars", which is not only a succussful in theaters but also has become a culturla phenomenon, it was only a matter of time until the dicision to do a sequel was made because the plot of "Star Wars" hasn't been entirely told so far. The Empire hasn't been defeated, Luke hasn't become a Jedi and Han still on Jabba's headhunter list. Due to George Lucas, who was uncertain wheather or not the first movie would become a huge success, he ordered a book for a sequel (actually he also mad a bet with Steven Spielberg and promised 2.5% of his profit when "Star Wars" would become more successful than "Close encounter of the third kind" - even today Spielberg gets hits 2.5.%). The book was called "Splinter of the mind’s eye", it was about Luke Skywalker protecting the Kaiburr crystal from Darth Vader. He also chopped of his arm in a fight. That way he attempted to break new ground for a possible continuation of the saga. These days, spin-offs in the form of comics, games, novels and short stories are an important part of the enrite saga. But only because of the amazing success of the first Star Wars movie, the way for a true movie saga was clear.
Already in 1978 the pre-production of the next "Star Wars" chapter with the less sensational title "The Empire Strikes Back" bagan. This time neither trouble nor expensed were spared to bring Lucas' vision on the big screen. Unbelievable 33 millions USD just for the production were estimated - a tremendous amount of money in 1978 (just for comparison: "Star Wars" cost 10 millions, Spielberg's "Close encounter of the third kind" 19.4 millions and even that almost bankrupted Columbia). And they didn't make the effort to lower the production costs. On the contrary, instead of going to Tunesia to illustrate Tatooine, the team went to Norway for the exterior shots of Hoth. But the local weather created sth. like an ice planet, which made it impossible for the crew to go outside for days because the equipment would have been in danger with a tempurate of -29 degrees celsius. To avoid wasting time, at least some scenes in the ice were shot: while the camera was placed in the hotel lounge, Mark Hamill was walking around in the snow in a distance of just a couple of meters. But also the SFX shots were more difficult than expected. Not only that the SFX turned out to be more complex - instead a dogfight between Tie Fighter and X-Wing, an entire field of asteroids with a lot of elements in it had to be animated - but they were also out of luck. After weeks of building the Millenium Falcon detail by detail, the entire set burned down even before the shooting.
"The Empire Strikes Back" also became a sinister episode in Lucas' personal life. Lucas had already given up the job as director to focus on the production of the saga, but private problems - his marriage went down due to the enormous stress at work - finally were one reason that the "Star Wars" saga needed to be minimized.
But it was worth the effort. "The Empire Strikes Back" is considered the best part of the saga among fans plus it's considered one of the best sequels in movie history ever. Being pretty successful at the box office, the movie 538.375.067 USD worldwide (inflation-adjusted 2010: 1.338.311.602 USD). Even the critics were delighted about the conversion of the saga, although some few citized that the plot lacks an ending and that some questions remained open. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science rewarded the effort of the SFX crew with 2 Oscars - one of them for best sound design again, the other one a special Oscar for the SFX.
In the following I'd like to explain the original conception of the entire "Star Wars" saga, as designed before and after "The Empire Strikes Back".
The fact that the "Star Wars" saga originally had a complete different concept and direction, has already been mentioned in the previous comparison. After the tremendous success of the first movie, George Lucas still had much more complex and bigger saga in mind. In 1978, the New York Times reported that 10 movies had been scheduled - that statement has never been officially confirmed, so let's just say that the Times wasn't completely wrong. In fact nine movies were scheduled. The following part is about the scheduled ennealogie plus the direction of the sequel "The Empire Strikes Back" in the first phase.
II. a) Nine films to rule them all!
These days, George Lucas doesn't get tired of emphasizing that the "Star Wars" saga consists of six movies. But it wasn't always like that. After the successful release of "Star Wars", different ideas came up. George Lucas had an epic saga in mind, which stretches for several decades and consists of three trilogies in total. Even at the set of "Star Wars", he asked Mark Hamill if he could imagine to return to his character 30 years later in a new movie. At least that's how Mark Hamill remembers it.
That gives us a clue that another trilogy, which takes places after the events of "Return Of The Jedi", was supposed to beome real. How far the plans for 12 movies (according to Hamill) were preceded is uncertain. Of course one shouldn't interpretate too much in it, because some incidentally-mentioned thoughts shouldn't always be considered for real. Gary Kurtz, producer of "Star Wars", often explains that even the first movie hadn't originally been a part of a trilogy. The vague idea of a saga was existent, but the movie itself was designed as a stand-alone project.
After it was clear that FOX was totally psyched about the idea of shooting another movie, Lucas took the offenise in public as well and spread his idea. In the introduction of the first official "Star Wars" novel "Splinter of the mind's eye", George Lucas confirmed it:
So, the question is: what would Lucas' originally ennealogie be about? There's nothing to discuss about the prequels because the already existed in a to the old movies very similar concept (Fall of the republic, extinction if the Jedi, rise of the Empire). But when it comes to Episode VII, VIII and IX, the ideas get seperated. Orginally, Luke Skywalker was supposed to return as an old Jedi Master to teach the next generation facing the danger - as described by Mark Hamill. Luke's character would have been pretty passive here (similar to Obi-Wan). That first idea doesn't suit with later-upcoming ideas, which constantly changed in progress of the saga because they had originally been made before the production start of "The Empire Strikes Back". This movie and "Return Of The Jedi" changed the basic idea very much (please find about the original concept of "The Empire Strikes Back" in the following two passages).
Gary Kurtz, producer of "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back", mentioned on a Sci-Fi convention in Houton, Texas that the upcoming episodes were about Luke Skywalker's way to a Jedi Master and founder of a new Jedi order. Furthermore he was going to go on the quest for his sister (at that time it wasn't Leia) and finally face the Emperor in a magnificant final sequence (Vader would have died in Episode VI). As already mentioned, the schedule for "Return Of The Jedi" was entirely different here. Han was supposed to die, Leia should beome the Queen, the Ewoks weren't planned (instead the Wookies were involved) and the seond Death Star wasn't even mentioned. The scheduled nine-part series - state: pre-production of "The Empire Strikes Back" would have been looking like that (more or less):
As we all know, things didn't turn out the way they expected. Many plot elements for the final trilogy are sumarized in Episode VI (Luke's sister, the Emperor's death etc.). After a tough divorce, several personal setbacks and another very successful franchise (Indiana Jones), Lucas decided to change his entire life. He didn't want to spend all the time with "Star Wars" any more - especially because he still had to shoot an entire trilogy (the prequels). There isn't going to be another trilogy. That's for sure and has already been confirmed by Lucas.
II. b) Screenplays
Contrary to the previous film, the basic structure of "The Empire Strikes Back" was always the same: the rebels are being driven away by Hoth, our hero-troup is separated. Luke flies to Dagobah and meets Yoda, who trains him. Han, Chewie, Leia and the two droids stray through space until they alledgedly finally find shelter in Bespin. There, they are betrayed by Lando, though (for his city's benefit) and Han Solo is frozen in carbonite, while Luke faces Vader, who tells him a terrible secret. This basic structure was not worked on a lot except for the exact procedure and some changes in priorities – there are little significant differences in the several screenplays, though, which are quite important for the direction of the saga.
The saga's paternity-problem should be known among all the fans by now – because one of the biggest and most famous plot twists in the history of cinema was originally thought to be much less shockingly. Vader's famous words "No, I am your father!" were not even shot – which lets many fans to believe that the idea of Vader's unhoped for paternity came up late in the post-production, during the scoring. This isn't right, though. It is true that Vader should tell Luke at first that Obi-Wan murdered his father, but the idea of his paternity occured to Lawrence Kasdan while manufacturing the last version of the screenplay. So it is not George Lucas'. What today sounds like an ingenious idea (but is not a shock-moment any more since the prequels have been released), was not necessarily appreciated by the fans at the time, the very first fans, so to speak. Back then, there were also discussion inside the fandom and many didn't want to accept that Vader was really Luke's father – or even a human being. Even James Earl Jones, Darth Vader's voiceover, was convinced that Vader was lying in his favor.
Luke's training scene on Dagobah, in which he meets Darth Vader in a dark vision, was therefore also planned differently. Here, Vader talked to Luke and tried to drive a wedge between his friends and him. He knew about his love to Leia and how Han was going to try to destroy it. If he followed Vader, they could rule the galaxy together. Apart from the fact Leia was not Luke's sister here, yet, this is a really interesting concept, which was reused for the prequels in a very similar form.
Due to the fact that Vader was now officially Luke Skywalker's father, other concepts had to be canceled. Luke's way to Dagobah was different in early versions of the screenplay. In the first version, he found a crystal in his lightsword, which basically showed him the way to Dagobah. In another version of the script, it was his own father who appeared to him as a Jedi-ghost, showed the way to Yoda and also reported about him having a sister who would already be trained to be a Jedi somewhere in the galaxy, until Obi-Wan took that part completely and appeared to Luke himself.
Neither was the emperor originally part of the plot. Even though he was already mentioned in the previous film, his entire personality was only supposed to be a mysterious shadow behind all the films, until finally emerging some day. Vader's holograph-talk, which is now lead with the emperor, was originally held with a certain Vizier Morlock (Full role name: Sate Morlock, Grand Vizier to his eminence the Emperor), one of the emperor's direct representatives. Since it would have degraded Vader's position of might to stand below yet another person next to the emperor, this role was canceled and directly introduced the galaxy's evil omnipotence. He was not originally called Palpatine (and is never named in the original trilogy – only mentioned in the ending credits), but had different names, such as mentioned-above Sate Morlock or Sate Pestage.
The loveplay between Han and Leia was originally designed a little differently. When they want to kiss on board of the Millenium Falcon, suddenly C-3PO bursts in and hinders this through his presence. Originally, this was Chewbacce – intentionally, according to C-3PO, because the love interest would make their mutual adventures harder. A jealous Wookiee? This idea was fortunately dropped...
Another idea that should already indicate to the planned prequels, was, that Lando Calrissian, here still under the name of Lando Kadar, was a former soldier of the clone wars, and Leia thus principally does not trust him, because he was a clone of whose father, according to his statement had many (cloned) sons (thus own replicas). This idea is found in bounty hunter Bobba Fett in the prequels, who is in the end also just a clonge of his father Jango Fett. Fett is now basically the Superfather of all clones – whereas the Lando-scene allows to speculate there were originally many different clone-fathers...
II. c) Further concepts
Of course, there were many different conceptional drawings made for "The Empire Strikes Back". Some of them reveal dropped plot-elements, others point to a completely different visual direction, which would continue the rather fairytale-like character of its predecessor.
A large part of the concept drawings originate from designing-legend Ralph McQuarrie (a visit to his Website is a must for any filmfan). McQuarrie managed to do almost on his own what entire designing-teams are responsible for nowadays. Nearly the entire design of the "Star Wars"-universe is based on his concepts and drawing. How much his layouts influenced the film is not only visible in the design, but also the perspectives and shots he chose.
His drawings were partly used unalteredly for the finished films. Of course, MacQuarrie did not only work on the "Star Wars"-saga, but was also involved in the designs of films and series like "Battlestar Galactica", "Back to the Future", "Cocoon", "Star Trek", "Masters of the Universe" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark".
By now, there are several different official versions of "The Empire Strikes Back" - if you compare them to each other, they mostly only offer minor differences. The most important of these versions are the original Theatrical Version, the Special Edition and the DVD-Release from 2004. The DVD released in 2006 is actually based on the THX-Edition from 1995, therefore it's not listed seperately.
There also exist infamous deleted scenes for "The Empire Strikes Back", but they are not numerous. The shooting-script is almost identical to the finished movie and thus, most deleted scenes are found in the first plot arc on Hoth.
IV. a) Luke's healing
Shortly after the end of shooting for "Star Wars" Skywalker-actor Mark Hamill was involved in an accident of no fault of his own, which left a few scars in his face. This made it impossible for Lucas to reshoot any scenes, which he verifiably intended to. For the sequel, on the other hand, it was possible to include the face injuries sensibly into the story, by having a Wampa attack him on the ice planet Hoth. Only after he managed to escape, his face was completely visible. Luke's healing process was originally much longer and also dwelled on the facial injuries explicitly.
This scene is at hand at large parts, but the dialogue was removed. This served as attunement for another plot line which had been cut completely.
In the end, it is good this scene was cut out – especially when looked at in the context of the entire saga. Luke and Leia are siblings – this was arleady established in "Return of the Jedi". Having their affection for each other become deeper like this would have a strange aftertaste. There still is a scene in which Luke and Leia come closer to each other left in the current version, but thankfully, there is room for interpretation. Unfortunately, though, C-3PO's line about the captured Wampas was cut out, too, so all the scenes that were built on that line had to go as well...
IV. b) Wampage!
As just mentioned, a horde of Wampas invaded the rebel base, attacked some rebels and earlier killed several Tauntauns. Finally, the Wampas could have been locked up behind a guard door. When the imperial Snowtroopers stormed the base, they open this door – naturally not knowing that the Wampas are behind there.
This scene missing is a real shame, because it has a certain comedic effect concerning the Snowtroopers which brightens the rather dark film a little, and establishes the the Wampas as Hoth's aboriginees by their renewed and numerous appearance. At least this would have been one of the conclusions out of that. Thus, there only appears one Wampa in the current version that attacks Luke and abducts him – which degrades it to a simple monster of the moment. This is not right, though. There are several Wampas, they live on Hoth and defend their habitat relatively effectively.
It is interesting that this entire plot line had been implemented very cautiously as an integral part of the story – beginning with Han's commet during Luke's Bacta-tank-healing(„The kid ran into something mean, and it wasn't the cold. [...] If this snowball's got nasty natives, they could be anywhere.“) and the mysterious Tauntun-killings up to C-3PO's deadly trap for the Snowtroopers. Since the empire was already the ultimate threat from outside, the Wampas were rather unnecessary as additional danger from the inside – especially since the current complete plot line on Hoth, which essentially serves as an introduction, is only ended after 35 minutes. The Wampa-scenes would have delayed the actual plot in their sum for several minutes.
Photographs of this entire storyline can be looked at on the CD-Rom "Behind the Magic", a short extract of that was also shown in one of the numerous trailers. This plot line is also contained in the Marvel-comicbook-adaptation – but not in the novel.
IV. c) The Sky over Bespin
After Leia has become aware of Luke's cry for help, Chewie and Lando decide again to fly back to Bespin. There, they find injured Luke, holding on to a steel framework with his last strength. Lando gets him back through a shaft. This scene was slightly longer, originally you saw Lando fighting the strong gust of wind and tries to drag Luke on board.
A scene, that was probably cut to improve the pace. It would have built up more (unnecessary) tension and, in that way, delayed the further storyline, which is now finalizing.
IV. d) More scenes and alternative shots
Of course, there are other short shots, scenes and dialogues in "The Empire Strikes Back" that were cut out. Among others, Luke was allowed to turn to a laser-cannon during the defense of the rebel base. Also, General Veers, an AT-AT-commander, was to have a spectacular silver-screen death. He found his death in a Kamikaze-attack of rebel Derek "Hobbie" Klivian – at least that's what the official novel describes. Hobbie himself survives in the film, though, and is now also part of the expanded universe (a.o. He appears in the Thrawn-trilogy, which takes place after "Return of the Jedi").
In another longer scene, Darth Vader asks during the arrival on Hoth, whether there were any rebels left in the base. A Snowtrooper denies this.
Han's and Leia's loveplay on Bespin was a little longer, too – here, Han pushes Leia a little with his charming-not charming manner, to get to home base. Successfully, mind you.
Han Solo's famous "I know." was improvised by Harrison Ford, by the way – actually he was supposed to respond to Leia's declaration of love with "I love you, too!", which was also shot. This sounded too corny for a dashing space-hero, which is why director Irvin Kershner give Harrison Ford the freedom to improvise.
V. a) Comparison of the images
The image has been completely modified for the Special Edition. Contrast and colors are adjusted and different. Furthermore the original copies have been scanned for the modification. That means the old SFX look different now so that the CG shots are considered new or renewed. Another aspect is the different image section in a couple of scenes.
Here a tiny comparison between the old Theatrical Version (on the left) and the Special Edition (on the right).
As already mentioned, a new image section has been chosen for many (not all) scenes. The Special Edition usually contains more information, but there are also a few scenes with less information in the Special Edition.
Two scenes as an example. The image of the Theatrical Version has been combined with the image of the Special Edition:
The modified images aren't going to be mentioned any more.
V. b) Cuts
The actual comparison. Here all new, modified or extended scenes are being listed.
V. c) Modifications
Old SFX have been modified for the Special Edition, but replaced by CG shots. That goes escpecially for the rims of the space ships and the old Bluescreen footage.
Those differences don't find further consideration in the comparison.
For the Special Edition, the footage itself got new CG backgrounds and characters, some scenes are even entirely new. Those differences are massive, but the content of the scenes often remains unchanged. That's why the running time is equal, too.
Find three examples for a better understanding:
V. d) Audio differences
Here and there some new dialogs have been insert for the Special Edition from 1997, other dialogs are slightly different. The running time of these scenes remains unchanged.
0:00:00 | New scene (equal content)
The FOX logo has been renewed.
0:00:06 | New scene (equal content)
So has the LucasFilm logo.
0:00:06 | New scene (equal content)
The intro text is different.
0:00:22 | Modified image
The text looks slightly different.
0:09:39 | New scene (equal content)
The Wampa scene has been completely reshot. The old scene only contains a shadow of his, now Wampa may eat his prey with relish.
0:09:58 | New scene (equal content)
Another shot of Wampa eating.
0:10:27 | New scene (equal content)
The old scene of Wampa wandering around has been replaced by a new, slightly longer shot.
0:10:37 | Modified image (equal content)
Wampa coming closer has been cpoied in the imaga here.
0:10:41 | Additional scene
An additional scene of screaming Wampa after Luke chopped off his right arm has been added.
0:18:33 | Sound modification
After Luke was being picked out of the Bacta tank and being on the road to recovery now, C-3PO congrats him. In the Special Edition, Luke thanks him for that.
0:33:31 | Sound modification
Again an added statement of Luke (during the battle of Hoth) which wasn't in the Theatrical Version.
0:40:41 | Modified image (equal content)
The color of the laser shots of the Tie Fighters has been modified during the chase of the Millenium Falcon. Now the shots are green instead of yellow.
0:47:53 | Sound modification
After R2-D2 was eaten by a swamp monster and then spit out again, Luke straightens him. The Special Edition contains a different statement here.
1:16:57 | Additional scene
When the Millenium Falcon is on the run across the garbage dump, a short scene of Bubba Fett's Slave I taking up the chase has been added.
1:16:57 | Modified image (equal content)
The distance shot of Han's approaching to Bespin slightly varies. The Millenium Falcon and the Storm IV have both been replaced by a CG model. Furthermore a sun has been added to the background.
1:19:22 | Additional scene
Additional shot of the Millenium Falcon plus escort flying through Bespin and landing on the platform.
1:19:22 | Modified image (equal content)
During the landing of the Millenium Falcon, the background has been completely replaced.
1:20:05 | Modified image (equal content)
Now there's a train under the gangway plus some vehicles in the sky - only the flat silhouette of the city hasn't been modified, even though it looked different at the landing (see above).
1:21:09 | Modified image (equal content)
Again some added vehicles in the sky, the city itself remains unchanged.
1:21:26 | Modified image (equal content)
The old window has been replaced. AS a result of that, an old continuity mistake has been cut out (daylight).
1:21:29 | Modified image (equal content)
Another CG shot of the window.
1:25:04 | Modified image (equal content)
The distance shot of Bespin has been removed. In the Special Edition, one of the vehicles has been removed and a Tibian gas mine added instead.
1:25:09 | Additional scene
Additional CG shots of Bespin. The camera goes with a vehicles crossing Bespin.
1:25:09 | Modified image (equal content)
The exterior shot of Leia and Han's retreat to Bespin is different. The building has been modified (surprisingly it looks pretty much like a very early concept by Ralph McQuarrie) and a vehicle added. Because of that, an other mistake in continuity has been deleted. Now the architecture of the exterior and interior shots suit very well.
1:25:11 | Modified image (equal content)
When Han kisses Leia's forehead, a vehicles flies over their heads.
1:26:50 | Modified image (equal content)
Again an added shot of Bespin.
1:26:55 | Modified image (equal content)
And another added shot of Bespin. This time the modification creates a mistake in continuity because the following shots still contain the old backgrounds (without modification).
1:27:42 | Modified image (equal content)
Due to a mistake in the editing of the blue screen shots, R2's reognition color was black in the Theatrical Version. This mistake has been eliminated now.
1:39:15 | Modified image (equal content)
A shot of R2-D2 has a new background.
1:39:28 | Modified image (equal content)
Another image modification.
1:42:53 | Changed order of the scenes
Due to an added scene, the shot of R2-D2, when he tries to crack the security code, appears earlier.
1:42:56 | Sound modification
When Lando Calrissian warns the inhabitants of Bespin against the Empire, the Special Edition contains a second "Attention!".
1:42:57 | Additional scene
Two additional shots when Lando Calrissian warns the inhabitants against the Empire. The above-mentioned scene of R2 begins earlier, a shot Lando is missing plus there is a longer pause in his speech.
1:42:59 | Modified image (equal content)
A shot of Lando is missing in the Speial Edition in exchange for the new scenes of Bespin.
1:47:16 | Sound modification
When looks falls into deep, a scream has been added to the audio track of the Speial Edition. The screams comes from an alternate take of the Emporer in "Return Of The Jedi" btw.
1:49:45 | Sound modification
When Darth Vader leaves Bespin, a statement of him has been changed. Furthermore that scenes contains new footage.
1:49:10 | Additional scene
A new scene of Darth Vader leaving Bespin and returning to his shuttle has been animated for the Special Edition.
1:49:28 | Additional scene
A new scene of Darth Vader flying with the shuttle to the destroyer Executor has also been animated.
1:49:28 | Additional scene
Now a shot of Darth Vader's arrival on the Executor, alternate footage from "Return Of The Jedi" has been used (scenes from Vader's arrival on the second Death Star). One looks precisely, one can notice that Moff Jerjerrod already started to move his lips to welcome Lord Vader.
1:49:49 | Modified image (equal content)
A small mistake in continuity has been deleted. Now a second hatch opens above Lando. That hatch was already in the following scene of the Theatrical Version.
1:59:04 | Additional scene
The final credits, accompanied by a repitition of the "Imperial March", are new in the Special Edition.
1:59:04 | Modified image (equal content)
The advice concerning the copyright has been renewed.
• VHS: „Das Imperium schlägt zurück“ CBS/Fox, Frankfurt 1984.
• VHS: „Das Imperium schlägt zurück - Special Edition“ Fox Home Entertainment, Frankfurt 1997.
• DVD: „Star Wars - Episode V: Das Imperium schlägt zurück“ Fox Home Video, Frankfurt 2006.
• CD-ROM: „Star Wars: Behind the Magic“ LucasArts, Brunnfeld 1998.
• Deborah Fine: „Star Wars Chroniken“ Egmont Vgs, Köln 1997.
• Ralph McQuarrie: „The Art of Ralph McQuarrie“ Dreams and Visions Press, Campbell 2007.
• George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan, Leigh Brackett: „The Empire strikes back: The Illustrated Screenplay“, New York 1998.
• Donald F. Glut: „Das Imperium schlägt zurück“ Goldman Verlag, München 1985.
• Alan Dean Forster: „Splinter of the mind’s eye“ Ballantine Books, New York 1978.
• Archie Goodwin: „The Empire strikes back“ Marvel, New York 1980.
Websites (abgerufen am 26.12.2009)
• George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan, Leigh Brackett: „The Empire strikes back“