Ask any Star Wars aficionado to identify the greatest entry in Lucasfilm’s saga, and they’ll likely point you in the direction of Empire Strikes Back.
First released all the way back in 1980, Irvin Kershner’s blockbuster sequel was a storytelling masterclass filled with spectacle and unforgettable moments, along with the instantly recognizable “I am your father” line – arguably one of the greatest twists in modern cinema.
It’s small wonder, then, that Empire is still considered to be one of the best sequels ever made. And though Rian Johnson consistently downplayed its similarities with Star Wars: The Last Jedi all throughout production, the so-hot-right-now filmmaker recently outlined the ways in which Empire‘s cliffhanger inspired his first (and seemingly last) entry into the world-famous Skywalker Saga:
The Force Awakens was the first chapter in our trilogy, Empire Strikes Back was the second chapter. We’re the second chapter in this trilogy. And if you look at where Empire Strikes Back took that very simple hero vs. bad guys dynamic, and I guess this is kind of easy to lose the shock of this over the years, the ‘I am your father’ moment has become so ubiquitous and ingrained in culture. If you really think about, in the context of everything you just described about that first Star Wars movie, what that does is suddenly it takes…Luke has just been able to project his shadow, and us as the audience by extension, project his shadow onto this literally faceless bad guy that’s the personification of evil, so it’s black and white, good and bad. Awesome.
Since its initial launch in December, Rian Johnson has spent the past four weeks partaking in a post-release analysis of Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Rey’s parentage, Broom Boy, Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker and his “emotional” finale…you name it.
However, after detailing the sequel’s underlying ties to Empire on Bullseye with Jesse Thorn (via ComicBook.com), the director turned his attention to that cliffhanger:
Empire Strikes Back hit ‘I am your father,’ all of that. Suddenly, the waters get muddy. Suddenly, that is completely subverted. And the bad guy you thought you could just kill is actually a part of you. And…you now have to start thinking in terms of a much more complicated arc of redemption. And his reaction to that, that’s one of my favorite moments in all the movies, is Mark’s [Hamill] performance when he screams that ‘No!’ in reaction to that. That’s what I felt like we had to do in this one.
With The Last Jedi done and dusted, Rian Johnson has since been placed in control of an all-new Star Wars trilogy, replete with fresh locations and original characters. It’s still incubating in the early stages of development, though, as Lucasfilm has Solo: A Star Wars Story and Episode IX to contend with first.