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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

retro trailer: ‘The Empire Strikes Back’

Take a look back at an old trailer…

Even pulpier than the film itself! “A big new sprawling space adventure!”

This past Friday was the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, which was released on May 21, 1980. Which means it’s been 30 years since my 10-year-old brain was darkened and depressed by this grim film. Yeah, it’s got funny robots and smartass quips, but it also has Han Solo frozen in carbonite and Luke losing his hand and discovering that Darth Vader is his father and a betrayal by Lando who is supposed to be Han’s second best friend (after Chewie, of course), all of which culminated in the knowledge that we’d have to wait three years before we learned how it would all turn out.

Mike Ryan contemplated this anniversary in Vanity Fair:

On May 21, 1980, my parents agreed to take me to see The Empire Strikes Back. That day, my innocence died a little. From what I had been told about Star Wars, I expected a fun-filled ride. Yeah, that didn’t happen. What I saw was C-3PO get blown into a million pieces; Luke Skywalker cut off the head of Darth Vader only to see his own face (you think that scene is trippy now, try it as a five-year-old), then, later, get his hand severed by his own father; and Han Solo get frozen in Carbonite and, for all I knew, killed. Actually, my parents got me to the film a little late, so the first piece of action I ever saw on a proper movie screen was Luke Skywalker getting slashed in the face by a Wampa—a Wampa that later got his arm cut off. Again, with all due respect to George Lucas, this is not a fucking kids movie!

Empire’s plot taught a generation of children that when life gets you down … it’s probably only going to get worse. The most positive people I know all love Return of the Jedi; the cynics love Empire.

I’m one of those who loves Empire.

(Thanks to bronxbee for the reminder of the anniversary and the suggestion of this film for this week’s retro trailer.)

The Empire Strikes Back is available on DVD in Region 1 from Amazon.com and from Amazon.ca and in Region 2 from Amazon U.K.

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  • Cori Ann

    Huh. I guess Leia is the only NPC available to romance in this game? ;p

  • Again, with all due respect to George Lucas, this is not a fucking kids movie!

    A kid’s movie like, say, Bambi? Old Yeller?

    At least he didn’t accuse George Lucas of doing you-know-what to his childhood…

  • That summer I was 10. My mom wanted us all to go on a road trip to West Virginia to visit family there, so we never even got to see the movie when it really came out.

    By the time we had circled back to Auburn AL to visit even more relatives, we had cousins old enough to drive us to a small theater with wooden seats somewhere near the campus (I doubt it’s still there). By then, the movie had been partially spoiled for me and my brothers – we knew who Yoda was before his secret introduction, for example, and that Han and Leia were getting all romantic – but the biggest twist was still one we hadn’t heard until we saw it and heard it. NOOOOOOOOOOOooooooo.

    This was still a mind-blowing moment for someone in such formative years. There’d been 5, maybe 7 movies that defined my years. The first Star Wars was the first: Empire was the second, and it stuck with me longer.

  • Just watched the trailer.

    Good God, were they really that bad with trailer-making back then?

  • I’d like to think they were better than that because I distinctly remember seeing a theatrical trailer for this movie back in 1980 that was a lot more subtle than that one. This one sounds too much like a sequel to Hardware Wars

    Yeah, I know. If I’m going to date myself this badly, I might as well treat myself to dinner and a movie…

  • bats :[

    I saw this the first time around (and boy howdy was I excited). But like Tonio Kruger, I don’t remember the trailer being this bad, particularly the narration — it couldn’t have been, could it?

  • This seems more like the trailer I remember. Granted, I didn’t go to the movies too often back then.

    And there’s two more trailers apart from this and the one MaryAnn posted.

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t remember trailers at all from back then. You had to actually go to the movies to see trailers — there was no YouTube. :->

  • dafydd

    I think y’all will stop picking on the narration in the trailer when you realise that’s Harrison Ford. Yep, a long time ago even Harrison Ford was able to sound animated and excited about something.

  • LaSargenta

    I’m with Tonio. That is the trailer I remember, too.

    And, PaulW, they weren’t all that cheesy. I went to a lot of movies and even remembered some random (non-SW/TESB) trailers from 1980 that I’ve gone and looked for and, lo and behold, found:
    American Gigolo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRSvVc48-Rk
    Cruising http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x3infcAtfs
    Brubaker http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m34st7foilE (well, the voiceover for this is kinda cheesy. I won’t even mention Mad Max’s trailer on that score, either.)

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