I never realized how good the final duel was in Empire Strikes Back

Leia and Lando make it back to the Falcon, then the movie switches to Vader and Luke battling it out on the tailfin structure.

I never noticed before (been years since I saw it) that Vader came out of the doorway all pissed off, like he really lost it.

My every watch has been focused on Luke, but wow, what direction and depth of character I missed all these years.

I’m just struck by how well that character was developed, yet I never picked up on it.

It is amazing. Irvin Kirschner deserves a ton of credit for taking a really good movie(Star Wars) and elevating it to an amazing level.

I think Richard Marquand deserves a ton of credit for Jedi as well. The duel at the end of that is also amazing. I think Luke attacking Darth Vader after Vader says, “If you can’t be turned to the Dark Side, then perhaps…she…will,” is one of the highlights in cinematic history. The music, the drama, the skilled duel, everything about it is fantastic.


Best duel in the series hands down. The prequels made the lightsaber battles longer and faster and that was cool but they never recaptured the magic of Empire.

The best thing about it is how one-sided it is. Luke’s had his training montage, we’re at the climax of the movie, things seem to be swinging the Rebellion’s way a little - we’re conditioned to expect a win for the good guys at this point. But the clue’s in the title - Vader doesn’t just beat Luke, he outclasses him. Luke’s thinking in terms of a lightsabre duel and Vader casually uses the Force to beat Luke up with the scenery. These huge chunks of starship are hurling themselves at our hero and there’s nothing he can do about it. Vader doesn’t kill him only because he’s trying to recruit him. And Luke only lives because he’s prepared to plummet to his death rather than join up.

That was how I remembered the fight, from when I first saw it back in the early Eighties. I THOUGHT Vader sominated the entire fight… but when I saw it with my 7 year old son more recently (I hadn’t seen the movie in its entirety in decades, before that), I was surprised at how well Luke did in the early going.

Later on, Vader was able to outclass him, but Luke did unexpectedly well at first. To use a crude analogy, a young, inexperienced fighter MIGHT come out swinging against Muhammad Ali, land a few punches, and look dangerous in the early rounds… but you’d expect Ali’s to shake that off, get his composure, and then reach into his bag of tricks to make the kid look feeble as the fight wears on.

I agree that the RotJ duel scenes are really good, much better than the rest of the movie (the flying bike scene is another awesome one though). But it is hard to say if it’s Lucas or Marquand that should get the lion’s shares of the credits there. From all acounts, Marquand was quite overwhelmed by all the SFX, and action scenes, and, apparently, Lucas shot more than a few of the RotJ major shots or scenes (and I’m sure he must have been very present in editing).
I loathe Lucas for the new trilogy, and how, just by caprice, he unraveled a lot of the OT’s magic, but that doesnt mean that back in the days, he didnt have “It”.

Well I wouldn’t say Vader outclassed him… only inasmuch as Vader kind of “cheated”. I mean, you’re swordfighting and also hitting the guy in the back of the head with toasters and stuff at the same time.

While you could say there’s no “rules”, if we’re supposed to believe Obi Wan’s speech in New Hope describing a nobler time and a gentleman’s weapon and all that, Vader could be argued to be using bad form here.

Course, with the prequels, Lucas crapped all over Obi-Wan’s description of the era of light sabers and Jedi, but hey.

It is an interesting pt. to say that there’s a great contrast in Luke getting pwned after you’ve seen his training montage. I mean, if the movie had been made 8 yrs later, the whole Dagobah thing would have had a Bob Seger track behind it and end with Luke knocking the sword out of Yoda’s hand to show how much he’d learned… and then after the big training montage Luke goes off to face his Clubber Lang /Cobra Kai and… loses miserably and gets dismembered.

And you’ve got to figure that Vader wasn’t going to have much respect for Luke’s training - where would he have gotten it from, after he killed Obiwan? You’ve got to believe that if the Emperor and Vader thought that Yoda was still around, they would have tried to track him down.

So Luke’s known training was whatever Ben had time to give him on however long the jump to Alderan took.

If I remember correctly, it was pretty clear Vader was just toying with Luke at first. In the first half of the fight, Vader is fighting one-handed, and his swings don’t have any passion; he almost seems bored by the whole thing. If he weren’t a cold, soulless machine man, he undoubtedly would’ve been taunting Luke through the whole thing.

It’s in the last bit of the fight where Vader gets serious and decides it’s time to teach this punk a lesson, and comes out swinging with two handed strikes.


David Prowse was Darth Vader. Everything from the way he held himself to the way he moved just screamed power and menace.

Vader didn’t really get medieval on Luke until he got hit on the shoulder. Then the anger came out and off came Mr. Hand.

I’d even say that faster and longer actually diminished the duels in the prequels. I agree that it could have been neat to have them fight with faster movements, but a lot of the duels in the new ones just look…ridiculous, almost. Only when Obi-Wan fights Darth Maul one on one for a few seconds does it ever get cool. The fight at the end of Revenge of the Sith just goes on too long. And the Yoda one in Clones is just ridiculous.

My understanding is that Marquand was in charge, though. Lucas was more present here than with Kirsch, but Marquand did direct the entire movie. By 1983, it just seems like Lucas’ talent was waning already.

Luke was always known to be slightly on the whining side, but this was when Vader decided “he’s no son of mine”

…my cousin can do an near perfect facial impression of that scene.

We do not speak of Yoda in AOTC.

Not to go all namby-pamby in a dueling thread but the fights in the prequels lacked emotion. It was hard to care about the prequel characters so watching their fights was boring.

The Empire duel is freaking scary. When Luke kicks Vader off of the carbonite freezing platform I always think he should take that opportunity to flee. Instead Luke hops down after Vader and all I can think is, “You deserve to get your hand chopped off like a little bitch, why would you follow that menacing brute into the dark abyss? WHY!?”

Too much back-flipping faux martial arts crap in the prequels too. I showed up for a sword fight, not to see Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon this time with LIGHTSABERS!

I know it may be taboo to criticize the original but in the entire flow of all 6 films the absolute weakest has to be Obiwan/Darth in Star Wars.
We’ve seen Anakin in previous films take on the likes of Dooku and Obiwan in extreme fashion and he is now in his prime as the newly annointed Vader.
Obiwan has been fighting for years against Maul, Dooku, Sidious, etc.
So we have this climactic rematch between the two and they poke at eachother with their sabers like a couple of walking sticks. Either the other 5 films don’t fit with it or it doesn’t fit with the other 5 films.


You may be more right than you know.

Lucas has said in commentary that the Obi-Wan / Vader duel at the end was intended to be, literally, the weakest. That is to say, these are two very old fighters (or, perhaps one very old and one very decrepit), and that the duel was supposed to be a fight between two men who could barely physically lift their swords anymore.

I guess I could sort of buy it in Obiwan’s case but Vader had quite a resurgence of style for the following two.

But that doesn’t really make any sense with anything else in the films. “Size matter not. Judge me by my size?” The whole idea is that the Force flows through you and provides your strength. Obi-Wan, while old, was still one of the greatest Force users ever, and while Alec Guinness did a terrific job with the character in every other respect, his duel with Vader was just embarrassing.

Exactly. It was like watching someone play Mortal Kombat but with new skins. I would not have been surprised if, when Dooku lops off Anakin’s arm, a voiceover shouted out, “FINISH HIM!”