Joss Whedon Doesn’t Like the Ending to ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’

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Joss Whedon Does Not Like Empire Strikes Back Ending Joss Whedon Doesnt Like the Ending to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

There’s no doubt about it – Joss Whedon (The Avengers) is a fan of Star Wars. All it would take is about ten minutes of watching Firefly to come to that conclusion.

But that doesn’t mean that the writer-director doesn’t have any issues with the franchise. Case in point: Whedon recently revealed that he’s not much of a fan of the ending of The Empire Strikes Back, particularly its unresolved nature. In fact, his exact words were: “It was a terrible idea.”

(Keep in mind – Joss Whedon does NOT think that Empire is a bad movie in the slightest. In fact, the only reason the film was even brought up was because he was citing a sequel that managed to “get it right.”)

Courtesy of EW, here’s the full exchange:

“[Empire Strikes Back] committed the cardinal sin of not actually ending. Which at the time I was appalled by and I still think it was a terrible idea.”

The interviewer was a tad surprised by this, so he asked Whedon if he really thought that Empire had a bad ending.

According to Whedon:

“Well, it’s not an ending. 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.”

Everybody’s seen The Empire Strikes Back, right? We all know that near the end of the movie, Han Solo is frozen in carbonite and taken by the bounty hunter Boba Fett to be sold to Jabba the Hutt; we all know that Luke Skywalker gets his hand lightsabered off by Darth Vader, who claims to be his father, Anakin Skywalker. It’s such a fixture of pop culture that even people who’ve never seen the film know what happens.

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back Joss Whedon Doesnt Like the Ending to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

“That’s not true! That’s impossible!”

While Whedon is certainly free to feel however he wants to about Empire, it could be argued that the film IS a complete experience. Many of the character arcs started in the film are concluded, more or less, by the end – they’re just not feel-good conclusions.

No, you don’t know precisely what becomes of Han Solo, but that’s as a result of the mistakes he made in the story. Against Leia’s wishes, he took the crew to Cloud City and he paid the price for doing so; off to Jabba’s Palace he goes!  Likewise, Luke left his training way too early – against Yoda’s wishes – and Vader wiped the floor with him, emotionally, mentally, physically, and otherwise. Maybe if Luke had stuck around for more Force training, he would’ve been more capable of withstanding any paternal revelations.

That’s why there’s a cliffhanger. It’s not just there because the producers are saying “See you next movie, everybody!” It’s also there because of the mistakes these guys made as characters. Their actions had unsatisfying and semi-inconclusive consequences. They lost because they screwed up.

Han Solo in Carbonite in Empire Strikes Back Joss Whedon Doesnt Like the Ending to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Now, there will undoubtedly be people who say, “But Joss, what about individual TV episodes with cliffhangers? You’ve made so many of those!” In fairness, Whedon is differentiating here between a film experience and an episodic experience (never mind that the Star Wars movies have long been considered episodic, and they’re steeped in the stylistics of the movie serials of yore).

However, a better example would be a cliffhanger to the end of a series. Has Joss Whedon ever produced a major cliffhanger for one of his TV shows that left a lot of things unresolved?

Yes. Perhaps one of the more notorious examples of unresolved series finales is Whedon’s Angel, which saw Angel and his crew running headlong into battle against the Senior Partners’ massive army (made up of all manner of monsters, including a dragon). Before we can find out what happens to them, the credits roll.

Is this a good analogy for Empire‘s ending? I would argue that it is, though some might say that it’s more akin to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which rather famously didn’t depict the fate of its two protagonists against an army of Bolivian soldiers.

However, I would counter that the difference between these two “endings” is that we absolutely know what happened to Butch and Sundance – they died. Straight up. There’s no doubt about it. They did not hold their own against an entire army because they are not supernatural creatures of the night magically imbued with souls.

Angel TV Cliffhanger Ending Joss Whedon Doesnt Like the Ending to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

The series finale of ‘Angel’

As for Angel and his friends, we have no idea what happened to them (unless we’ve read the comic book continuation). Did they win their fight against the Senior Partners? Were lives lost in the process? We’ll never know because it never played out onscreen.

Much like Empire, the ending to Angel left some major life and death questions to be answered, and yet it was still an incredibly satisfying and bittersweet experience for fans. Unlike Empire, we never got answers to those questions, because Angel was canceled by The WB.

What say you, Screen Ranters? Do you agree with Joss that The Empire Strikes Back doesn’t really have an ending? Drop us a line in the comments.


Joss Whedon’s next movie, The Avengers: Age of Ultron hits theaters May 1st, 2015. Star Wars: Episode VII is rumored to be scheduled for a December 2015 release.

Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.

Source: EW

Follow Ben Moore on Twitter @benandrewmoore
TAGS: Star wars
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  1. Wow, this guy totally just lost the little respect he had from me and should shut his damn mouth. That has one of THE best endings in cinema, not to mention is more than a movie, but an overall experience. The fact George ended on that note was even more incredible. He left an incredible movie on screen that STILL compelled you to want more. You weren’t tired out from what you just witnessed, you actually wanted to dive back into it as soon as possible. He knew he was doing a third, who the heck is this guy to call him out like that!?

    What a disrespectful hack, the only reason The Avengers worked out for him was because the other movies were directed by finer people. Joss Whedon is terrible. I watched Serenity a movie known as some “cult” classic and I couldn’t watch more than 15 minutes of it. It was atrocious, stick to TV pal it was the only thing you did well.

    • George Lucas had nothing to do with the ending, according to various sourcebooks. While Lucas knew where the story was going, Kasdan and Brackett contributed to the cliffhanger ending, while the former really sealed it, and the director (Kershner) driving the point home.

      • Well that’s perfectly fine, clearly ALL directors have collaborators and writers for the most part. Kershner had a HUGE impact on the film and is WHY it’s so good, but Lucas surely had the idea running around his brain and trusted in his writers and director to flesh out the finer points.

        This has ZERO to do with my point. Whedon is a freakin’ idiot.

        • Dude, take it down a notch. First, Joss created Firefly & Serenity, which out Star War-sed Star Wars. Secondly, while I myself like the ending of TESB Joss is entitled to his own opinion. Take “the force” out your mouth and stop sounding like a whiner over someone disagreeing with YOUR fave movie. BTW I agree Angel’s ending was a cop out as well.

      • Source, please? Brackett’s writing credit was honorary. Her script, as I understand it, was entirely thrown out. According to Kasdan, Lucas was the major driving force behind the story and screenplay.

    • How old are you, Ian? Did you see Empire in the theatres, or on DVD/B-Ray? If in the theatres, all respect for your patience. If at home, as a whole 3-movie experience, then your compliments towards Empire, while justified, are only coming from your perspective, and don’t take into account how the actual theatre-goer felt at that time.

      As for Whedon himself, it’s disappointing that you would feel The Avengers is a hack movie (you DID say he was a disrespectful hack, and that would apply to his directing abilities, I would think, since that’s what he did with Avengers and Serenity). To take six completely different superheroes, and give them their own individual entrances and parts to play, and have them gel so well as a team (remember, so far, for the most part, these were individual heroes, with their own storylines, separate from each other, with only an after-credit tag to tie them together). I think it’s an incredible movie, regardless of the difficulties involved. But adding that, I don’t think “hack” applies at all. He’s a director, and feels that to leave your audience hanging for who knows how long. Back to Future 2 did it, The Hobbit 2 did it; heck, Lord of the Rings 2 did it. While I had no problem with B2tF2 or LoR2, I was frustrated with the sudden blackout at the end of Hobbit 2. And I know a lot of people were ticked about the endings to B2tF2 and LoR2, so having a problem with cliffhangers isn’t the same as saying a movie is bad, which is what you seem to be saying about Whedon’s movies: Avengers and Serenity. Just asking for a little perspective, which kids seem to lack today. Makes for a pretty judgmental, low-tolerant society, in my opinion (“MY opinion”). Just saying…

      Cap’n Dukerschneid

  2. The difference between the ending of Angel and Star Wars (Empire) is that Angel was ended by the network and Star Wars was a stand alone movie. Joss I’m sure did not intend to end Angel and in TV land shows often return on the same or other networks after they figure out how stupid they were to have canceled the show in the first place. It gives the fans of a TV show something to hang onto while they petition to get the show back on the air! Star wars was not supposed to be “The Perils Pauline” where everyone would come back to see a continuing story.

    • First of all, Empire is definitely not a standalone movie. And secondly, Joss knew fairly early on that Angel was being canceled (February), so it’s unclear whether or not that’s how he intended to end it. Regardless, a season of television is as standalone as an episode of a movie series, no?

  3. Because there’s no solo movie in between the Star Wars movie. Come on Whedon, are you still butthurt that they picked Abrams over you?

    • Why would Whedon ever be considered to direct such a high profiled and established franchise movie? He has no experience!! Besides being lucky and landing the Avengers job (primarily because of his “geek” Marvel nature), he has only one ‘legitimate’ directorial experience, but it ending up being non notable to the public, unless you’re a fan of Firefly.

  4. raven calling the crow black…

  5. I dont know where you get your delusions laserBrain -The Avengers movie was cool, but it doesn’t mean that the fans want to know your opinion about Star Wars . So pipe down

  6. He’s absolutely entitled to his opinion about the ending of Empire, but the French movie thing… Come on. It’s like saying “if I wanted to see a boring predictable movie with nothing original at all in it, i’d watch a Hollywood movie” …

    • A Hollywood movie like The Avengers perhaps?

  7. He should note that The Empire Strikes Back is the act two of a three-part drama.

  8. When I was a kid and saw Empire I remember thinking – the movie just stopped. I agree with Joss.

    • Exactly.

      Had the SAME exact thought and it was dissapointing.

      So much butthurt. So little time.

      Joss is right (to some). To those who disagree with him, don’t act like such a whining baby about it? It’s disgusting.

  9. Ben Moore: The Angel finale is the best series finale I have ever seen – the final shot encapsulates the entire message, point of the entire show and mission statement: ‘The Fight Never Ends’.

    You never ‘finish’ atoning, which is why Angel signed away the Shanshu Prophecy in the finale etc.

    You cannot compare Angel’s last scene with Empire – Angel had closure in terms of the overall themes of the show (it doesn’t matter if the characters die or live!) where as Empire seemed to just ‘stop’ rather than ‘end’, so I agree with Joss.

    • You must not have seen many finales. As such things go, the “Angel” finale was mediocre at best…I found it fairly disappointing. TESB, on the other hand, expressed an ending for an epic tale that, if left alone (no third film, in other words) would have ended tragically but hopefully…and quite appropriately. That would have been uniquely intriguing.

    • I love the ending to Angel. I also love the ending to Empire and would have, like Archaeon, been quite satisfied with it as the last film in the series. Like I wrote in the article, I think there is an emotional conclusion for the characters, much like Angel.

  10. It’s funny how many people are so butt-hurt over this. “Oh, Whedon you just suck because you don’t like what I like”

    Honestly, I like Star Wars just fine, but I find it to be extremely generic. It’s fun, but it’s not the end all be all of sci-fi. It is not an especially imaginative story and the main reason it became as big as it did was the special effects.

    Also, George Lucas fans, I’m sorry, but the movie you love so much has very little in common with what George himself wrote. The studios change so much of it it was unrecognisable.

    • il princerino You are GROSSLY misinformed. Star Wars is exactly George Lucas’s vision, he did not let studios make any changes to his movies. He dropped out of the Director’s guild and paid lots of his own money to keep the movies his way. This is all in the documentary “Empire of Dreams”. All the changes he makes are because he wants to make the movies what me originally envisioned but couldn’t do back in the day due to money and technology back in the day. Also there are not many sci-fi movies that are as good or did as half as well as Star Wars.

      • Actually it was also the result of a lot of other people working hard on the film, in fact George found it hard to explain to his own people what he wanted from Star Wars and needed help from his concept artist who drew up a lot of what ended up in the film such as Slave 1 and so on.

        That’s not to say George Lucas didn’t have anything to do with the films just that it’s impossible for just one man to be responsible for a series of films and that his money helped pay other people to help him.

        Also I’d say that we give Star Wars too much credit, it was one of the biggest things in Sci-Fi but I’m not too sure if it should really be the standard by which Sci-Fi films set themselves. Then again Star Wars not being made by Fox gave us Alien so…

      • “Star Wars is exactly George Lucas’s vision, he did not let studios make any changes to his movies.” I believe you are. Lucas had a lot of creative minds working with him, especially his first wife, Marcia. It wasn’t until Lucas started the prequels when the studios and people backed off and let Lucas do whatever he wanted. Lucas didn’t envision anything and only wanted to distance himself away from his wife and the people that questioned him creatively. You have to be careful over manipulation and LFL “sugar coating” the making of the original trilogy. It was a tough time for Lucas on a creative level and personal.

  11. I love John William’s score at the end. Beautiful. The ending has always stayed with me because of that score and the closing shot of Luke, Leia and the droids.

    And then there’s ambiguous endings and endings like most of the Coen Brothers’ films. THOSE are the type of endings where I’m like, “WTF? That’s it?” With ESB, it’s just so epic that if it DID have a resolved ending with all plot threads neatly tied, I think you’d be more disappointed. It’s so epic in scope.

    • Damn right Brother!!

  12. Not Only Was ‘EMPIRE’ The Greatest Chapter Of Star Wars. It Is Superior To ANYTHING Whedon Has Ever Done.

    • It’s superior to ANYTHING ANYONE has ever done, before or since!!!!

      • No it isn’t

  13. Says the guy who basically uses the Independence Day movie bit to conclude his main act instead of uploading a virus you have ironman sending a nuke which conveniently disable all the landed Chetari… why or how… never explained.

    • Yep…Convenient, isn’t it? Whedon, however, is GOD, so you’ll want to be careful about criticizing him… 😉

    • because the wormhole was closed they where cut of from them power source, thought that was obvious no?

  14. The incompleteness of Empire’s ending is what makes the trilogy as a whole feel complete. The unresolved revelation that Vader is Luke’s father makes each movie necessary by A. retroactively making the premise of of A New Hope into something like a lie and B. making ROTJ into a necessary conclusion rather than a third wheel.

  15. I think the main thing Whedon brings to the table as an artist and as a thinker is a strong and well-considered conviction that things should be kept simple and non-pretentious. While I agree that getting caught up in aloof delusions of grandier is often what keeps people unhappy and alienated from one another, and while illustrating this through story works well (like when Hulk calls Loki a “puny god” and then mops the floor with him), I think Whedon takes this anti-elitist tendency too far and he ends up rejecting the subtlety and shrewdness that a director/illusionist needs to have in order create something that speaks to how mysterious and wonderful the world is.

  16. WHEN I SAW THIS IN the theater as HS student I did feel it was a weird ending–everyone did–but it was such an awesome movie no one cared.

    I do think the movies title says it all. The Empire Strikes Back ! It was resolved–for them

    We got the win in a New Hope, which ended with the most blissful ending of all time. How do you top that win?–You dont. So it was brilliant.

    SW 7 should begin with the Force being outlawed due to its destructive past. The backstory is…Luke agreed shortly after ROTJ that no one else will be taught and then is thought dead. Presently, The Princess of Coruscant is secretly his daughter. When she and her Aunt Leia sense a Sith among a delegation to the capital she goes to Dagobah to inform Luke that what he has foreseen has come to pass. He informs her that its worse than she knows..hinting great tragedy. She rushes back….furious because she senses it too.

    When she returns, Coruscant is gone..destroyed. All leaders, including Leia have perished. Her ship is bombarded by rubble but she is saved by Han Solo’s son( by another woman) in the M Falcon. He takes her to Han where she informs him Leia, his x-wife, was killed on Coruscant.

    They work to uncover the mystery along with the Droids, Chewy, and others as they seek to take back the throne of power belonging to Skywalkers.

    Appearances by Obiwan on Dagobah with Luke..teaching him he must enter the arena one last time and give his life for his daughter.

  17. Joss Whedon, uggggh!!! Avengers, ugggh! all CGI, fast cuts, action, lack of storyline and character development. made box office bank. Empire Strikes Back is part of a trilogy. Each builds upon the other and are not stand alone movies in a true sense. Star Wars could stand alone, but with Empire it offered a continuation. And, Lucas always made it clear he had a love for cliffhangers and we see that in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The ending of Empire touches on that love of the Cliffhanger and brings it to the audience. You want to know “what happens to Han Solo?” Joss Whedon will never be able to create anything as good as or better than Empire Strikes Back and that bothers him to no end. Joss Whedon is all smoke and mirrors and I can guarantee Avengers will not stand the test of time as Empire Strikes Back has.

  18. Be careful Mr. Wheddon, you don’t want to go angering the geeks you rely on, you are not there yet buddy. I liked Firefly, and the Avengers was good and all, but I don’t think you have the geek cred yet to attack the king of fanboyism that is Star Wars. Not to mention, you are all in the Mickey Mouse club now, so play nice.

    • A good question would be: will anybody be talking about the ending to Avengers2: Age of Ultron over 30 years from now?

  19. I’m sure I’ll be talking about the ending to Avengers2 30 years from now?

    So there.