Alright, so Dagobah has Yoda going for it, but it’s also a marvel of movie magic. A smoky, atmospheric setting, it’s all tortured trees and drooping vines, while you can almost feel the humidity in the air. It's almost like Yoda was torturing himself by going there...
Han Solo and Princess Leia bicker in the Hoth bases's south passage (ahem). He’s pissed because she won’t admit she wants him to stay. She’s adamant that she wants him to stay to help with Rebel cause – not because she has feelings for him. “You’re imagining things,” she retorts… Amazing chemistry.
Darth Vader recruits a number of bounty hunters to seek out the Millennium Falcon, all of them bizarre and alien-y – including one that looks like a man-sized lizard. Also present, of course, is one Boba Fett (see far left), but we’ll get to him later…
“The Force is with you, young Skywalker. But you are not a Jedi yet,” taunts Darth just before he and Luke lock lightsabres. His silhouette is so recognisable that we don’t even need him to be lit up.
How do characters in the Star Wars universe receive hospital treatment? According to Empire , they're put in a massive tube of water while wearing a man-sized nappy. It looks sort of fun to us.
Han and Leia’s banter comes to a head as the two lock lips aboard the Millennium Falcon. She calls him a scoundrel, which he rewards with a passionate smooch. Which C-3PO reliably interrupts. Ahh, love.
Alright, so it’s a man-in-a-suit, but that’s exactly why we love the wampa snow monster who kidnaps Luke at the beginning of Empire . And the rudimentary effects (take note, George) don’t stop the wampa’s unveiling from being a wholly effective boo scare – his slaying of the tauntaun is nothing short of nightmarish.
I feel terrible
Post-torture scene, Han Solo is pale and exhausted. His only comment on the situation? “I feel terrible.” No kidding.
This is no cave
Han and co discover that they haven’t landed in a cave on an asteroid at all – they’ve actually just gone straight inside a massive space slug, which isn’t too happy about all the shooting that’s been going on in its belly. Cue lunatic flying antics and a brisk escape from gnashing teeth.
“Would it help if I got out and pushed?” pouts Leia, as the Millennium Falcon looks doomed to be stranded on Hoth. Oh she of little faith. After a little careful button-jabbing, the Falcon takes off, escaping Vader and his forces. Close one…
“You have failed me for the last time, Admiral.” Darth Vader shows what a Sith can really do – he strangles the admiral via video link, then promotes the general even as his predecessor dies behind him. Damn, Vader’s bad .
Fall To Pieces
C-3P0 gets put through the wringer in Empire , not least when he’s blown into pieces by Stormtroopers in Cloud City. Which leads to Chewie attempting to put him back together, and then carrying him round in a back pack. Adorable – even when Chewie’s strangling Lando.
Ice-encrusted steeds who love to complain (just listen to the gurgling noises they make), the Tauntauns are sort of like little T-Rexes with ram horns. They're both elegant and cool and we want one. Now.
R2D2 falls off Luke’s X-wing once they’ve landed on Dagobah and ends up in the water. R2 hums to himself as he begins to extricate himself from the bog, only to be grabbed by a water-dwelling beastie. He’s soon spat out, seeing as there’s not much meat on him, and begins puking up bog mud. Delightful.
Im not afraid
Luke is young and brave, telling Yoda that he’s “not afraid” to become a Jedi and fight. Yoda’s ominous reply is supremely chilling: “You will be. You will be.”
Meet n Greet
Han Solo and co are met at Cloud City by Lando, who pretends to be angry with Han. “You got a lot of guts coming here after what you pulled,” spits Lando. Han offers his best innocent look, then reacts as Lando leaps at him – for a hug. This is also where we discover the Falcon used to be Lando’s, which is a neat little detail.
Theyre moving into attack position
Cornered by the Star Destroyer and with hyperdrive still on the fritz, Han comes up with a crackpot scheme to avoid his pursuers once more – by flying right at the Destroyer and damn near smacking them on the windscreen as he whips by. Nice.
Han gets rough treatment courtesy of Darth Vader, who zaps and spikes him with a futuristic torture device. Han’s bloodcurdling howls are enough to, uh, curdle blood. “He will not be permanently damaged,” Vader assures a concerned Boba Fett.
No, there is another
“That boy is our last hope,” intones Ben, as Luke flies off to Cloud City. “No, there is another,” replies Yoda ominously. At the time it was a bit of cryptic foreshadowing, but with hindsight we know he’s referring to Leia. Would they really have trained Leia if Luke had died or was lost to the dark side? Sadly we never get to find out.
Insults in the Star Wars universe don’t make much sense in our system, but as takedowns go, Leia’s is one of the most quotable: “Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder!” To which, naturally, Han replies: “Who’s scruffy-looking?” Guess he doesn’t think Nerf herders are all that bad.
Han and Luke are both missing in the blizzards of Hoth, but the Rebel base needs to be shut down as the weather conditions worsen. As the massive doors are closed, Leia look on with troubled eyes, and Chewie lets out a heart-rending howl. Shiver-inducing.
Oh, switch off!
C-3P0 tells R2D2 where to shove it as they chat on Hoth. We do like a good robot insult.
A tiny moment in Empire 's opening scenes, but one that sums up Han Solo and Princess Leia’s relationship perfectly. As Han returns from scouting with Luke, Leia spots him come in and shoots him a wide-eyed look before dismissing him. These two just love to hate each other.
Princess Leia finally does what we’ve all been wanting to do the entire movie – she switches C-3PO off. Literally. After the tin bucket reprimands Han for “going too far this time” and hiding the Falcon on the Star Destroyer, Leia shuts the irritating thing down. Even Han’s grateful.
The Hoth Base
You’d never suspect that behind all that Hothian snow there lies a fully active Rebel base. Which, of course, is the whole point. With giant Perspex maps, computers and star ships all crammed under the ice, it’s a snug but busy warren of activity. We can't get enough of it.
Not only Chewie welding, but Chewie using his protective eye goggles like monocles, which makes him look sort of like a very hairy Tom Cruise. Alright, not really, but it’s still cool.
Straight out of a fairytale, but given a future tech-y sheen that makes Cloud City at once beautiful and technologically fascinating. And those sunsets are amazing.
Obi-Wan makes the first of a handful of enigmatic appearances, as Luke lies in the Hoth snow having just escaped the wampa. Though Ben’s barely in the film, it’s he who tells Luke to go to Yoda, setting up much of Luke’s Empire story arc. Not bad for an apparition.
Darth Vader kneels in front of the Emperor, and we’re immediately terrified of this new power – if Vader’s bowing to him, this guy’s gotta be bad.
We get our first glimpse of Darth Vader sans helmet in Empire , as a back view of the villain’s skull reveals he’s horrible scarred. Luckily we don’t see it for long – his helmet’s lowered onto his head pretty sharpish.
Han Solo uses a lightsabre for the first and only time in Empire Strikes Back . And he uses it for a fittingly Jedi purpose – cutting open a Tauntaun to put Luke into the warm innards. He’s typically blasé about it, of course: “I thought you smelt bad on the outside!”
Never tell me the odds
In the Falcon driving seat, Han Solo finds that he can’t use hyperdrive and yet still has to dodge Imperial forces. How does he get out of this one? By flying straight into an asteroid field, and demonstrating simply insane piloting skills as he dodges the floating debris.
Captain Needa surrenders himself as responsible for the Star Destroyer’s inability to capture the Millennium Falcon. “Apology accepted,” quips Vader, after psychically strangling the wretched captain.
Quite frankly the coolest bounty hunter in the universe. He’s a man of few words, but that’s Fett’s strength – he’s entirely focussed on the task at hand. He’s also the guy who tracks Han to Cloud City and puts a stop to his wild goose chase through the stars. Just don’t talk to us about what happens to him in Return Of The Jedi. Just don’t.
Thats A Wrap
Where A New Hope ends on a jubilant high, Empire ’s end credits roll in just as things are at their bleakest. Sure, everybody’s alive (just), but Luke’s got a mechanical hand and Han Solo’s been frozen in carbonite and shipped off to Jabba the Hutt’s pad. One heck of a cliffhanger.
Luke ventures into a cave that is strong with the dark side, a trip that is witnessed by creepy reptiles that hiss and slither around our young hero. Then Darth Vader emerges from the darkness, slow-mo, breathing heavy. Things only get worse when Luke lops his head off, revealing who's behind the mask…
Black As Night
Much is made of the fact that Empire Strikes Back is the darkest film in the franchise, but it’s entirely true. Sure, Luke’s family gets burnt to a crisp in A New Hope , but Empire undulates with real menace – Vader’s offing his staff one by one, while Luke goes on a journey of self-discovery that takes him to literally dark places. And then there's that revelation. Which is what makes this the best of the entire saga.
Up And Away
“There is no try,” says Yoda, shortly before demonstrating what the Force is really capable of by levitating Luke’s X-Wing out of the swamp. It’s the first time we’ve seen the Force being used for something big, and leads to Luke exclaiming, “I don’t believe it.” Yoda’s sage response? “That is why you fail.”
Ben Burtt’s sound design gives these massive land-striders a real sense of power. Meanwhile, they wreak utter destruction on the Hoth-based Rebels even as Luke and his fighter pilots attempt to bring them down. It’ll take a lot of cunning to bring these guys to their knees…
Laugh it up, fuzzball!
Han doesn’t appreciate being made a laughing stock when Leia rebukes his claims that she’s the reason he has to stay with them on Hoth. Chewie laughs at his co-pilot, prompting the above outburst.
In Cloud City, Darth Vader waits in a room for Han Solo and co. When Han opens fire, Vader blocks the blaster fire with his gloved hand. Which, in one fell swoop, discredits the scoundrel’s vow in A New Hope that “hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side”.
Was there ever a hero as cool as Han Solo? Sure, some have come close, but when it comes to arrogant charm and sarcastic one-liners (not to mention lunatic schemes), Solo’s hard to beat. As Leia notes: “You have your moments. Not many of them, but you do have them.” Ahhh.
Battle Of Hoth
Empire opens with a bang as Imperial forces crack down on the Rebels on Hoth, sending out their stampeding AT-ATs. It’s a fantastic show-stopper, involving some seriously clever battle tactics - in particular Luke using his lightsabre by cracking open the underbelly of one AT-AT to chuck a bomb inside. Now that’s thinking with your head.
Empire reaches new dark depths as Han is frozen in carbonite by Darth Vader. When that slab of carbon slams down on the floor, revealing Han’s frozen image, it’s nothing short of gut-wrenching.
Obi-Wan may technically have been killed in A New Hope , but that doesn’t stop his spirit returning to nudge Luke in the right direction. His third appearance comes as Luke leaves Dagobah and help Han and Leia. “This is a dangerous time for you, and you will be tempted by the dark side of the Force,” advises Ben. But Luke’s having none of it. D’oh.
Luke and Vader clash lightsabres for the very first time. In a notable difference to the prequel trilogy – which was full of sabre duels – this is the only lightsabre fight in the whole of Empire . Which means it has real impact, especially as the last time we saw Vader fight somebody, it was Obi-Wan – which didn’t exactly end well, did it?
Yeah, yeah, Empire is the darkest film in the saga, yada yada yada. But while writers Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan took the Warsverse into thematically bleak terrain, it was director Irvin Kirschner who matched their script with luscious visuals. He gives the first Star Wars sequel a chilly sheen in places, and a gritty realism in others (see Dagobah). Hats off to the man.
“Looking? Found someone you have, I’d say,” titters Yoda manically as Luke first encounters the little green man. It’s a brilliantly played intro to the character, as he goes from babbling baboon (giggling, rooting through Luke’s possessions, squabbling with R2) to wise old man in the space of minutes. Size matters not, indeed.
I love you
Before Han Solo is frozen in carbonite, Leia breathlessly declares her love for him. Ever the scoundrel, Han’s reply is characteristically off-hand: “I know.” Classic.
I am your father
Empire comes to its emotional climax, delivering this sucker punch twist that remains one of the biggest “Whaaaaaa?” moments in the history of cinema. Luke’s anguished “Noooo!” still gives us shivers. And a franchise is officially born.