Joss Whedon Hated Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Joss Whedon doesn't like cliffhangers?

By Rudie Obias | Updated

Joss Whedon

There was a time when Joss Whedon was a darling for the comic book and sci-fi world, handling the beginning of the Avengers timeline and just taking on some massive projects. So, of course, there was a time when his opinion on this kind of stuff really rung out.

And around the time he was was making Avengers: Age of Ultron, there was a lot of franchise sequel talk. Ever since the release of The Empire Strikes Back in 1981, almost every sequel that followed tried to go dark, just like the Star Wars sequel, which is regarded by many as the best film of the franchise. But while Joss Whedon likes Empire, he also thinks it has one glaring flaw.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Whedon’s conversation ranged from The Avengers: Age of Ultron and the new S.H.I.E.L.D. series on ABC. He also calls The Empire Strikes Back and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II two sequels that “got it right.” But the element of Empire that rubs Whedon the wrong way is its half-hearted ending.

Joss Whedon said about Empire Strikes Back, “Empire committed the cardinal sin of not actually ending,’ Whedon noted to EW. ‘Which at the time I was appalled by and I still think it was a terrible idea.”

Joss Whedon continued, “It’s not an ending…which had a cliffhanger leading into the next entry of the series, Return of the Jedi. ‘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.”

Was Joss Whedon right about the ending of The Empire Strikes Back? I didn’t watch The Empire Strikes Back until well after the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983, so I can’t weigh-in on the three-year cliffhanger. I can imagine it being frustrating to see our group of heroes’ storylines unresolved at the end of the film, but I don’t think it takes away the power of the movie.

The Empire Strikes Back is a darker film and shows that not everything will work out in the end. Director Irvin Kershner, screenwriters Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, and George Lucas did a great job managing the film’s story against audience expectations. That said, I don’t think you could get away with something like that today.

The Wachowskis did something similar with the ending of The Matrix: Reloaded. The film’s ending is even more of an abrupt (and unsatisfying) cliffhanger than Empire‘s ending.

However, in reference to Joss Whedon’s timeline issues, that cliffhanger left audiences hanging for a considerably shorter period, with only six months between the release of The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions. If Revolutions had not been released for another three years, it would have been even more disappointing than how the Matrix sequels turned out.

Joss Whedon’s thoughts were made clear and with Avengers: Age of Ultron he did try to tie something of a bow on the story. But the movie itself wasn’t very good and he wasn’t brought back to take on the rest of the franchise in the end.

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