The Empire has discovered the secret location of the Rebel base on the ice planet,
Hoth. Despite the Rebels' resistance, the Empire manages to crush their forces in a
spectacular opening battle scene pitting the Rebels' snowspeeders and ground forces
against the Empire's towering, four-legged, armored walkers.
As the Rebels scatter, Luke Skywalker heads up for the swamp planet of Dagobah, where he
hopes to train as a Jedi Knight with the ancient Jedi Master, Yoda. Meanwhile, Imperial
forces pursue Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and C3PO in a thrilling chase through an
asteroid field in the Millenium Falcon.
Skywalker, Solo and the Princess eventually end up at the Cloud City of Bespin, where
Darth Vader plans to trap Luke and convert him to the dark side of the Force. Luke finally
confronts Vader in a climatic lightsaber battle, but a dark secret which Darth Vader
reveals to Luke threatens to destroy Luke's allegiance to the Rebel cause.
Although the special effects and sets used in the Empire Strikes Back are some of the
most visually impressive works ever made seen in film, the techniques utilized are among
the most time-honored in movie magic. Stop-motion animation and matte-paintings have been
used extensively in science-fiction and horror films since the 1950's.
Stop motion involves moving miniature models a tiny bit at a time, while photographing
each movement as a separate shot. When the film is played back at normal speed, the action
of a creature or creation looks "normal". Scenes involving Hoth's tauntauns and
the Empire's giant walkers are both stop-motion creations.
Filmmakers know the best matte backdrop is one an audience never notices. These seamless ,
detailed, painted backgrounds against which action takes place used to help create the ice
planet Hoth, the Cloud City, the swamp planet Dagobah, and the airshaft in the climatic
scene with Luke and Darth Vader.
Movie magic as lustrous as that found in the Empire Strikes Back requires an expansive
thinking. To construct Han's Millenium Falcon, a team of welsh maritime engineers crafted
a life-size 40-ton vessel built in a hangar once used for huge sunderland flying boats of
the 30's. It was then disassembled and shipped to Elstree Studios in London where interior
shots were filmed.
The ice planet Hoth was shot on location at Finse, Norway, a frigid moutain pass nearly
un-inhabitable, even in mild winters. In spring of 1979, 50-foot drifts and severe storms
prevented Harrison Ford from reaching the set. With shooting scheduled for the next day, a
special train equipped with snow plows cut a path to Ford and delivered him to the set in
time for shooting.