4 Lessons ‘Force Awakens’ Must Learn from ‘Empire Strikes Back’

The next 12-plus months will feature more trailers, stills and interviews meant to whet the public’s appetite for a sequel 32 years in the making.

Let’s hope “The Force Awakens” director J.J. Abrams studied the second, most respected film in the original trilogy – “The Empire Strikes Back.” It, more than any other piece of “Star Wars” lore. It should be the Force guiding the post-production process.

  1. It’s the People, Stupid: With apologies to James Carville, the next “Star Wars” installment can dazzle us all it wants, but without a human connection it’ll be another soulless sequel. What’s the most memorable moment from “The Empire Strikes Back?” Raise your hand if it’s Han Solo telling Princess Leia, who just said, “I love you” to him, “I know.” Classic line, and one that Harrison Ford improvised. That exchange would ring hollow if we didn’t connect with the characters.
  2. Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Watch “Empire” today and the sight of Yoda may astound you. Did they really expect a rubbery Muppet to anchor the middle of the movie? Yes, and it worked beautifully. Crisp special effects are wonderful, and a dime a dozen in 2014, but a three-dimensional character unlike any we’ve ever seen is far better.
  3. Don’t Get Greedy, Kid: The teaser trailer revealed a few interesting items, including an R2D2-style robot with a spinning ball for a body. Was that a bit of trailer texture, or the first of many goodies meant to spark a toy-buying frenzy? Relax, Team Disney. Any new “Star Wars” film will move product. What sells even more toys? Unforgettable new heroes and villains. Ewoks and Jar Jar Binks need not apply.
  4. The Element of Surprise: Wait … Darth Vader is Luke’s father? That revelation shocked our pop culture senses, yet within the franchise’s context it made perfect sense. “Empire” was full of surprises, from that reveal to the monster’s gut our heroes thought was an asteroid crevice. Today’s movies throw plenty of twists our way, but they rarely make sense let alone satisfy. Any new “Star Wars” film will benefit from a hard-earned surprise factor, especially since many elements in the space western are as beloved as they are shopworn.

DID YOU KNOW: The Ewok language features a mashup of Tibetan and Nepalese verbiage.

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