As with all Star Wars films, The Empire Strikes Back is defined by its settings. The three disparate vistas we encounter—the icy wastelands of Hoth, the mystical marshes of Dagobah, and the hyper-modern, almost clinical hallways of Cloud City—take us on a journey that reflects that of our heroes.
The Wild Unknown
First off, we've got the icy planet of Hoth, which should be intimately familiar to anyone who's poured countless hours into Star Wars: Battlefront. This is a harsh planet with such cold weather that some of the Rebel's equipment isn't even able to function, forcing them to hole up indoors during the brutally cold nights. Oh yeah, and did we mention the ice monsters? Ultimately, these factors show us how desperate the situation is for the Rebels despite their victory in A New Hope.
Although Dagobah is also pretty inhospitable, it's distinct from Hoth in every other way. This swampy planet is teeming with wildlife and vegetation, for example. Also, the strange cave where Luke encounters fake Vader gives us a sense that there are even greater mysteries lurking beneath the muck. This mystical nature makes sense, as the planet is home for Jedi Master #1, a.k.a. Yoda, but it's also connected to the overabundance of life on the planet too—a reflection of Yoda's observation that the Force bonds all life in the universe.
Big City Lights
After a quick pit stop in a space worm's belly (another reminder of the strangeness of the universe) we arrive at Cloud City, a mining facility floating in the atmosphere of Bespin. This is completely different from the two previous settings we've encountered: It's technologically complex and bustling with people.
In fact, its stark white halls even remind us of a hospital. Not a compliment, folks. Although Cloud City is a cool place, this strange sterility should be a hint that the Empire isn't far behind.
Within this setting, we spend a great deal of time in the eerie, red-lit carbonation chamber. This, obviously, is where Han Solo gets frozen into a block of carbonite, but it also provides the setting for Luke's battle with Vader. Here, we feel like we're in the deep, dark underbelly of Cloud City—the creepy guts beneath its glossy interior. When contrasted with Dagobah, this setting illustrates the conflict between technology and organic life, a conflict that will be explored more deeply in Empire's sequel, Return of the Jedi.