Star Wars: the contested end of The Empire Strikes Back defended by the director

Star Wars: the contested end of The Empire Strikes Back defended by the director

Back in 1980, when “The Empire Strikes Back”, the second feature film in the Star Wars saga, landed in theaters, and its director Irvin Kershner already had to respond to some fans, surprised by the end of the film.

An Imperial army more powerful than ever. A terrible revelation. A crushing defeat and a severed hand for Luke Skywalker. A Han Solo frozen in carbonite and delivered to his worst enemy…

At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, the second installment of the original Star Wars trilogy, things are not going well for the heroes of the Rebel Alliance, who were celebrating the destruction of the Death Star in the previous episode. And it is therefore on a particularly sinister note that the feature film ends, while waiting for Return of the Jedi.

When the lights come back on in theaters in 1980, some fans who hadn’t anticipated such a dark conclusion at all said they were taken aback, surprised, and sometimes even a little shaken. What to react the director of the film, Irvin Kershner, who at the time, had declared in interview for NBC 5 never having considered an alternative ending for his feature film:

“It was the only end”he had thus affirmed in a definitive tone, before explaining why, according to him, certain fans had been able to declare themselves disturbed by this choice.

“If the ending shook them, it’s probably only because they saw the first Star Wars, with its triumphant conclusion. Everyone was winning, patting each other on the shoulder, giving each other medals. People lined up and […] paid homage [aux personnages] because they had become heroic figures. Well, the heroic figures from the first film no longer exist in this one. Because in this one, they’re just lucky to have survived this dastardly creature called Darth Vader. The simple fact of having survived, sometimes, is already a lot in this life.”


Lucasfilm Ltd.

Fully assuming the darker and more realistic tone of The Empire Strikes Back, Irvin Kershner continued:

“If you don’t expect a triumphant ending, then you are totally satisfied. And vice versa. It’s like in life. Things never happen the way you expected. I always expect the unexpected .”

More than 40 years later, while many other films have joined the Star Wars galaxy, The Empire Strikes Back is today unanimously considered one of the best episodes of the saga.

(Re)discover all the hidden details of the film…

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