Can you believe it Ninja Clan, it’s been 30 years since The Empire Strikes Back hit the screens of our local movie theaters. The sequel to Star Wars, which was finally released in the summer of 1980, not only surpassed it’s predecessor in box-office receipts but in the Ninja’s opinion managed to actually be the best of the trilogy, climaxing with one of the biggest and most shocking plot twists in film history.
I can still remember sitting in the dark theater with my friends and having the magic of Hoth and the ensuing battle wash over us only to be followed by the awesome introduction of Yoda and finally the great reveal by Darth Vader leaving many of us gasping audibly. In honor of the special anniversary, members of the Ninja Clan will be meeting in the Basement of Mystery for a viewing of Empire, can’t wait and we encourage the rest of the Ninja Nation to get together and do the same in their lairs.
A quick plot summary: Three years after the destruction of the Death Star, Imperial forces continued to pursue the Rebels. After the Rebellion’s defeat on the ice planet Hoth, Luke journeyed to the planet Dagobah to train with Jedi Master Yoda, who had lived in hiding since the fall of the Republic. In an attempt to convert Luke to the dark side, Darth Vader lured young Skywalker into a trap in the Cloud City of Bespin. In the midst of a fierce lightsaber duel with the Sith Lord, Luke faced the startling revelation that the evil Vader wass in fact his father, Anakin Skywalker.
I’ll probably be getting out some of my Star Wars memorabilia for the viewing in our lair. I know we all have our own special Star Wars talismans and the Ninja was no different. After Empire came out I was given a rubber Yoda hand puppet for Christmas. I loved the puppet but sadly lost it to a flood in the basement years later. To my surprise a quick search around the net turned up pictures of the puppet in no time.
Now, what I do still have is the comic book adaptation of Empire. I pulled them out of the long boxes and placed copies of the covers below. The adaptation started with issue #39 of the Marvel Star Wars series and ran through issue #44. If you haven’t read them, pick them up they are surprisingly rich and add to the lore of the movie. See below for the covers.
A couple of tidbits picked up from other sites around the net:
For the battle scenes on the ice planet of Hoth, the initial intent was to use bluescreen to composite the Imperial walkers into still-shots from the original set. Instead, an artist was hired to paint landscapes, resulting in the Imperial walkers being shot using stop-motion animation in front of the landscape paintings.
One of the highlights of the movie was the introduction of Jedi Master, Yoda – voiced by legendary Jim Henson puppeteer, Frank Oz. Make-up artist Stuart Freedom admits to have used his own face as a model and added the wrinkles of Albert Einstein for the appearance of exceptional intelligence.
Though iconic in Star Wars lore, Mark Hamill has since admitted his dismay at spending months filming on the Dagobah set – which was raised five feet above the stage floor, allowing puppeteers to crawl underneath and hold up the Yoda puppet – as he felt like a trivial addition to a set made more of animals, machines, and moving props. Kershner commended Hamill for his performance with the puppet.
During production, great secrecy surrounded that twist. 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 with the showstopping line being “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. Jones later reported that his initial reaction to the line was, “Oh, he’s lying!”.