Study Guide

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Point of View

Point of View

A Semi-Serialized Narrative with a Wide Scope

The narrative technique of The Empire Strikes Back is kind of like a cave on a meteorite—it may look sorta normal, but it's actually as bizarre as a giant space-worm's belly.

The Empire Strikes Back employs some unconventional narrative techniques that earned it criticism during its initial release, but eventually helped build its reputation as perhaps the greatest film in the Star Wars series.

First off, the film begins—and ends—in medias res, which is a fancy Latin phrase that means "in the middle of things." It opens with Luke performing reconnaissance on Hoth and ends at the onset of Han's rescue mission.

This totally reflects the influence of serialized sci-fi stories on Star Wars—Lucas is giving us the sense that this is but one small glimpse of our heroes' many adventures. Also, it establishes that The Empire Strikes Back represents the first half a story which will be concluded in Return of the Jedi. In other words, we get a nutso cliffhanger.

In another departure from the first film, we don't follow a single story—we're generally cutting between two or three distinct story lines at a time. Sometimes we chill in one location for a few minutes, but, for the most part, we cut between these stories at a frantic pace, reflecting the urgency the characters feel. These stories eventually come together and culminate in a harrowing showdown in the bowels of Cloud City.

No matter which way you slice it, The Empire Strikes Back's semi-serialized narrative structure and expansive scope give us an even more intimate look at this fascinating universe than the first film. What's more, it establishes what we're seeing is just the beginning of the story—all the dominoes set up here will fall in Return of the Jedi.

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