Irvin Kershner (1923 – 2010)

You may be wondering, who is this Irvin Kershner? I ask, what adjectives are appropriate for this man? Perhaps… a brilliant director responsible for the greatest film in the Star Wars franchise: The Empire Strikes Back.

I first watched The Empire Strikes Back on VHS with my brother and father. It was family movie night. I was 10. I was one of those lucky kids who hadn’t been spoiled about Luke’s relationship with Vader. So when the big moment revealed itself on Cloud City, my jaw dropped. When the movie ended, I desperately wanted to watch the last movie. My mom came into the room. “Oh don’t worry. Luke and Leia are brother and sister.” Thanks mom, for the spoilers.

Everything ended well, of course. Vader turned to the light and saved Luke from the Emperor. Leia rescued Han from Jabba the Hutt. The Empire got defeated by teddy bears in a forest. The audiences in 1980 must have felt so frustrated when Empirefirst came out. They had to wait three years to find out what happened!

Whenever I think of Empire, I’m reminded of how groundbreaking the film was. This movie introduced audiences to the Imperial March. It had an ice planet, swamp planet, and a cloud city! Moreover, Empire was a movie where the villains thoroughly defeated the heroes from beginning to end.

After reading The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, I gained enormous respect for Kershner.

It’s obvious that the movie was incredibly difficult to make. The actors were drama-queens and/or using drugs during filming. An on-set accident nearly killed Mark Hamill. The movie was behind schedule and underfunded.

Perhaps familiar to those who dislike the Star Warsprequels, George Lucas had some pretty interesting ideas that needed to be reined in (such as a gargoyle castle for Vader). Kershner wanted to make a darker, more serious film that focused on character development. The series is stronger because of this decision.

Irvin Kershner, may the force be with you.

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