Joss Whedon Explains Why He Thinks 'The Empire Strikes Back' Is "Not A Movie, It’s An Episode”

News
by Kevin Jagernauth
August 23, 2013 9:05 AM
19 Comments
  • |

If you were anywhere near the Internet last night, you know that the Twittersphere and Facebookverse was dominated by two things: nerds freaking out over Ben Affleck being cast as Batman in "Superman Vs. Batman," and Joss Whedon dissing "Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back." But here's the thing about the latter tidbit of news—it's not the first time Whedon has made his feelings known on that film.

Last year, the writer/director made clear his feelings on the first 'Star Wars' versus the sequel, and why, for him at least, 'Empire' doesn't hold up. “I still believe that even though 'The Empire Strikes Back' is better in innumerable ways than 'Star Wars,' 'Star Wars' wins because you can’t end a movie with Han frozen in Carbonite. That’s not a movie, it’s an episode,” he said. And now, he's elaborated a bit more on those thoughts.

In a wide ranging interview with EW, Whedon expanded on his thesis further. “ 'Empire' committed the cardinal sin of not actually ending,” he explained. “Which at the time I was appalled by and I still think it was a terrible idea.”

“Well, it’s not an ending,” he continued, addressing the cliffhanger finale of 'Empire.' “It’s a Come Back Next Week, or in three years. And that upsets me. I go to movies expecting to have a whole experience. If I want a movie that doesn’t end I’ll go to a French movie. That’s a betrayal of trust to me. A movie has to be complete within itself, it can’t just build off the first one or play variations.”

And well...Whedon does have a point. Can a blockbuster movie like 'Empire'—as good as it is—really be counted as complete chapter if it leaves you hanging for the next movie? We're sure you all have an opinion on this, so feel free to weigh in below.

You might also like:
Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

19 Comments

  • mattheww | August 24, 2013 5:55 PMReply

    Good, I'm not the only one who accidentally posted their comment twice.

    Good, I'm not the only one who accidentally posted their comment twice.

  • mattheww | August 24, 2013 5:53 PMReply

    It's so much worse than he says, because of two things:

    1. It also has no beginning or middle. We get a half hour of mop-up explaining Mark Hammil's new face, then divergent strands with Yoda and the cloud city that further... what exactly? By which I mean, what story within episode... oh christ, 2. Episode 2. Nothing, that's what. I guess they're learning, and running, and falling in love. But none of it sprang from anything in nor will any of it be resolved within this discrete movie. So we're left with the pleasure of spending time with characters we know and love from the first film, and a handful of great moments: The Hoth battle. You WILL be. I know. I AM your father.

    And you may be thinking, what's so bad about that? Isn't it all standard universe-and-character expanding Act II stuff, and excellently executed Act II stuff at that? Well, sure, except for one ti-i-i-i-ny problem (and to me this is the arrow through the heart of "Empire...")

    2. Act III turned out to be "Return of the Jedi." And needless to say, peee-hyuuuuuw. But it's not just one bad movie. Because "Empire" was a formless mess that coasted on a combination of good will we brought to it from the first film and the understanding that we were clearly in good hands. So even though THIS film ends abruptly, all would certainly be tied up in a wildly satisfying manner in Part III. But when we tuned in "next week" or "three years later," was it? Nooooooooo! It was a creatively bankrupt, cash-grabby children's story. Which means we were saps for ever being fine with "Empire" in the first place. Not only did it HAVE no satisfying ending, there WAS no satisfying ending. It was a sham and a lie and it played us for rubes.

    When people complain about the prequel trilogy I'm never sure what they mean. Yes those movies were awful, but so was every movie after the first one. What did anyone expect?

  • mattheww | August 24, 2013 5:53 PMReply

    It's so much worse than he says, because of two things:

    1. It also has no beginning or middle. We get a half hour of mop-up explaining Mark Hammil's new face, then divergent strands with Yoda and the cloud city that further... what exactly? By which I mean, what story within episode... oh christ, 2. Episode 2. Nothing, that's what. I guess they're learning, and running, and falling in love. But none of it sprang from anything in nor will any of it be resolved within this discrete movie. So we're left with the pleasure of spending time with characters we know and love from the first film, and a handful of great moments: The Hoth battle. You WILL be. I know. I AM your father.

    And you may be thinking, what's so bad about that? Isn't it all standard universe-and-character expanding Act II stuff, and excellently executed Act II stuff at that? Well, sure, except for one ti-i-i-i-ny problem (and to me this is the arrow through the heart of "Empire...")

    2. Act III turned out to be "Return of the Jedi." And needless to say, peee-hyuuuuuw. But it's not just one bad movie. Because "Empire" was a formless mess that coasted on a combination of good will we brought to it from the first film and the understanding that we were clearly in good hands. So even though THIS film ends abruptly, all would certainly be tied up in a wildly satisfying manner in Part III. But when we tuned in "next week" or "three years later," was it? Nooooooooo! It was a creatively bankrupt, cash-grabby children's story. Which means we were saps for ever being fine with "Empire" in the first place. Not only did it HAVE no satisfying ending, there WAS no satisfying ending. It was a sham and a lie and it played us for rubes.

    When people complain about the prequel trilogy I'm never sure what they mean. Yes those movies were awful, but so was every movie after the first one. What did anyone expect?

  • Mark | August 23, 2013 11:39 AMReply

    I understand his point about the lack of a resolution, but I would ask him "What about the first two Godfather movies?" Each of those stories ended on pretty bleak and rather unresolved terms, yet they are considered two of the greatest films of all time. I think the 'episode' label is misused with regard to the Star Wars films. 'Episode' implies a standalone narrative that tells a self-contained story with clear resolution. "Empire" falls more in line with a serial drama. It's like the second act to a long miniseries with developing plots and evolving character arcs. It ends with one of the most renowned cliffhangers in the history of cinema. I personally consider "Empire" the best of the original three. It's the darkest and most character driven 'episode' in the series.

  • NG | August 23, 2013 12:27 PM

    A movie is allowed to leave you wanting more, in fact it should. It's allowed to leave you wondering. What Joss thinks it SHOULDN'T do is leave you "waiting." That's the key word. You can want more, but you shouldn't NEED more. A movie that begins a story and simply says "come back next time for the exciting conclusion of..." isn't a movie in itself, it's an episode in a series of movies. That's the flaw of Empire, but one that New Hope and Jedi don't suffer from. New Hope begins a story, and leaves you wanting more by the end, without leaving you needing more.

  • Mark | August 23, 2013 11:39 AMReply

    I understand his point about the lack of a resolution, but I would ask him "What about the first two Godfather movies?" Each of those stories ended on pretty bleak and rather unresolved terms, yet they are considered two of the greatest films of all time. I think the 'episode' label is misused with regard to the Star Wars films. 'Episode' implies a standalone narrative that tells a self-contained story with clear resolution. "Empire" falls more in line with a serial drama. It's like the second act to a long miniseries with developing plots and evolving character arcs. It ends with one of the most renowned cliffhangers in the history of cinema. I personally consider "Empire" the best of the original three. It's the darkest and most character driven 'episode' in the series.

  • Mark | August 23, 2013 11:39 AMReply

    I understand his point about the lack of a resolution, but I would ask him "What about the first two Godfather movies?" Each of those stories ended on pretty bleak and rather unresolved terms, yet they are considered two of the greatest films of all time. I think the 'episode' label is misused with regard to the Star Wars films. 'Episode' implies a standalone narrative that tells a self-contained story with clear resolution. "Empire" falls more in line with a serial drama. It's like the second act to a long miniseries with developing plots and evolving character arcs. It ends with one of the most renowned cliffhangers in the history of cinema. I personally consider "Empire" the best of the original three. It's the darkest and most character driven 'episode' in the series.

  • Glass | August 23, 2013 11:36 AMReply

    This is why I can't stand TV writers - totally conservative about plot and dismissive of anything outside formula.

    I can't tell if Joss is just another smug douche TV writer, or TV writers idolize Joss so much that they act like him.

  • This Kid | August 23, 2013 10:47 AMReply

    “It’s a Come Back Next Week, or in three years. And that upsets me." Days the guy who ended the Avengers with a sequel tease

  • daniel | August 23, 2013 10:36 AMReply

    Richest troll ever.

  • RT | August 23, 2013 10:34 AMReply

    Joss needs to stop making people mad, yes he's talented, but he needs to put his words into action.
    Since he's all ready working for Disney, he should be considered to direct one of the other Star Wars films.

  • CB | August 23, 2013 9:55 AMReply

    More bullshit from that mediocre geek tv-movie-level director?! What a lot of rubbish! So films with definitive plot conclusions are now a sin? The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Inception, Mulholland Drive, The Dark Knight, The Silence of the Lambs, Don't Look Now. Yeah, let's make predictable, derivative comic book movies even more unexciting by making a third act without any possibility of interpretation or open ending discussion.

  • NG | August 23, 2013 10:11 AM

    Actually not at all what he said, so I'm not sure where you got that. Just because a movie leaves questions unanswered doesn't make it an "episode" in the sense that Joss is calling Empire an "episode." A movie is allowed to leave you wanting more, in fact it should. It's allowed to leave you wondering. What Joss thinks it SHOULDN'T do is leave you "waiting." That's the key word. You can want more, but you shouldn't NEED more. A movie that begins a story and simply says "come back next time for the exciting conclusion of..." isn't a movie in itself, it's an episode in a series of movies. That's the flaw of Empire, but one that New Hope and Jedi don't suffer from. New Hope begins a story, and leaves you wanting more by the end, without leaving you needing more.

  • NG | August 23, 2013 10:10 AM

    Actually not at all what he said, so I'm not sure where you got that. Just because a movie leaves questions unanswered doesn't make it an "episode" in the sense that Joss is calling Empire an "Episode." A movie is allowed to leave you wanting more, in fact it should. It's allowed to leave you wondering. What Joss thinks it SHOULDN'T do is leave you "waiting." That's the key word. You can want more, but you shouldn't NEED more. A movie that begins a story and simply says "come back next time for the exciting conclusion of..." isn't a movie in itself, it's an episode in a series of movies. That's the flaw of Empire, but one that New Hope and Jedi don't suffer from. New Hope begins a story, and leaves you wanting more by the end, without leaving you needing more.

  • CB | August 23, 2013 9:55 AM

    *without

  • Darth Godard | August 23, 2013 9:50 AMReply

    confirmed, whedon was the worng guy for the sequels.

  • Dirtycash | August 23, 2013 9:30 AMReply

    Of course it is. Hence the name Star Wars: EPISODE V - The Empire Strikes Back .

  • JRColvin | August 23, 2013 9:28 AMReply

    Of course it's an episode. It kind of says so right there in its title.

  • lookf4r | August 23, 2013 9:22 AMReply

    confirmed whedon hates french movies.

Email Updates