STAR WARS Fans in 1980 Reacted To EMPIRE STRIKES BACK in the Same Way Fans are Reacting to THE LAST JEDI
Before the Internet, fans got their movie news from magazines and one of the biggest sci-fi magazines in the 80s was Starlog. One of the cool things that Starlog did was provide fans with an outlet to share their feelings and speak their minds about the films and TV shows that they were passionate about. They basically published letters that were sent in by fans. It was the closest thing that fans had to an internet forum or social media in the 80s!
Archive.org has a whole collection of Starlog, and ArticleHit collected several of the fan letters that were published in issues #39-41 sharing their feelings on The Empire Strikes Back, which is a favorite Star Wars film among fans today. As it turns out, fans were torn on that movie much in the same way that fans are torn on Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi.
It's really cool and interesting to see what fans were saying back in the day. As you read some of these, you'll see the similarities of what fans are saying right now about The Last Jedi. It seems Star Wars fans have never changed and that's a comforting thought!
Robert L. Beedy-Scarola was in denial that Darth Vader was really Luke's father:
Is Luke related to Vader? Most think so now that Vader came right out and said it. Well, I say, do you believe everything you hear? Vader may have lied just to enlist Luke to his side. Vader would then dispose of Luke once he got what he wanted.
If you felt like The Last Jedi left too many unanswered questions, you'll be happy to know that some fans felt the same way about Empire Strikes Back. Sean Bernard said:
I know they wanted to leave something to settle in the other sequels, but they left a little too much. For instance, Han Solo’s predicament. The movie should not have ended until Han was either killed by Boba Fett or Jabba or rescued by Lando Calrissian or Chewbacca, the former, preferably. Also, the fate of Bespin is not told. Was it taken by Lando’s troops, taken by Imperial troops or destroyed by Vader? I like Lando Calrissian and Billy Dee Williams was very good playing the part.
There was also the unresolved question of there being “another”, so of course, the fans speculated away:
And, one of the biggest questions in my mind is who is Yoda’s “other” student? Could it possibly be a girl — a love interest for Luke? I have 1,095 days in which to draw my own conclusions.
Could it be Vader himself? Considering that there was an equilibrium of power between the good and dark sides of the Force, it would not be impossible to turn Vader into the antithesis of what he is now, especially if Luke (who, except for Yoda may be the most powerful member of the good side of the Force) is truly his son.
I suggest Princess Leia. She is young enough for the training; she withstood Darth Vader’s tortures; she is dedicated to the cause; Princess Leia, not Lando, “heard” Luke’s cries for help; Han Solo is not in shape to be going anywhere for awhile and he is too old. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the third film, Leia, instead of Luke, destroys the Emperor. Of course, it will be the year 2000 before we find out.
This next comment talks about the relationships between Luke, Leia, and Han. It's pretty funny considering they didn't know that Leia and Luke were brother and sister:
C’mon Leia, why don’t you take a look around? Can’t you see what Luke is up against? You could have a “nice guy” like him. Instead, you are turning your back on him. Forget that it was Luke that saved you from having your atoms scattered throughout the galaxy. Forget that it was Luke, and not Han Solo, that wanted you rescued from the Death Star detention area. But you don’t need to remember all that, Leia. As long as hot-lips Han is around, who needs Luke anyway?
Fans even disagreed about Han Solo's iconic “I know” line:
Somebody should tell Harrison Ford that when a woman tells a man, “I love you,” “I know” is not an acceptable response. That scene was not funny, it was infuriating.
Empire Strikes Back is fantastic. The special effects are superb. And Han Solo’s “I know” is the best line since Rhett Butler’s “My dear, I don’t give a damn.” I love it.
Here's a fan that is pissed off about the movie being racist and sexist:
George Lucas has made a movie even more racist and sexist than the first. I would think that Billy Dee Williams would resent being the token black in the film. Also, there was only one other woman, apart from Carrie Fisher, in the movie.
Starlog staff writer David Gerrold offered his own criticisms of the film in a review titled "Empire Strikes Out". He explains in the review that he didn't think the movie was as good as mainstream critics were making it out to be. That's interesting because that's exactly what is happening with The Last Jedi!
I liked it. I really did. I just didn’t like it enough.
Just about every other critic in the country has been telling you how good the picture is; they’ve been falling over themselves to tell you. It’s embarrassing. I feel guilty for not liking it as much as I’m supposed to.
Structurally, the film is flawed by its need to imitate its predecessor’s “formula” of fast-paced cross-cutting. We cut back and forth between Luke and Yoda on Dagobah and Leia and Han in the asteroids, and the time sense of both sets of events is distorted. How long were Han and Leia fleeing? How long is Luke studying?
It was one of the first movies to ever tell four stories simultaneously and have the four stories not really be connected with each other. The studio said that was impossible, you can’t do that. You have to tell one story, then the next story, and the next story.
Well, now, all of television is done that way, I mean, almost every television show has got that style. But at the time, it was extremely controversial. And one of the reasons a lot of studios wouldn’t touch it is because I was trying to intercut these four stories.
People don’t realize, with these kinds of movies … it’s because they’re fresh and they’re different and they’re experimental that, I think, people still like to watch them. Now, the whole industry sort of moves in that direction and they become the standard, but people forget that at the time those movies were made, especially American Graffiti, it was a very avant garde movie.
Why not stay with Han and Leia until they leave the asteroid and head for the Bespin system, then cut to Luke arriving at Dagobah and stay with him until he leaves?
Changes the pace? Yes, it slows it down. It also suggests some scale of distance between these places. (Crosscutting also implies simultaneity — a concept which most modern physicists say is impossible, especially on an astronomical scale. Sorry.)
Isn't it fascinating to read these comments!? Again, this is proof that Star Wars fans are still the same. Even though not everyone loved Empire Strikes Back, it is the most beloved Star Wars film in the whole franchise. As time goes on it's not hard to think that fans will come to love The Last Jedi in the same way. What do you think?