Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi has only been out for little over a week and its left fans more divided than ever with its different portrayal of Luke Skywalker and its Guardians of the Galaxy-style humor. But as it turns out, it isn't the first Star Wars film to leave a bad taste in fans' mouths.
Starlog was the premiere science fiction magazine of the 1980s, originally covering Star Trek and growing to encompass all of sci-fi. Its May 1980 issue published a letters column giving fans an outlet to praise or criticize Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back. Luckily for us, Archive.org has a collection of Starlog issues to give us a glimpse into reactions to the film.
Like in The Last Jedi, Empire fans were skeptical about family tree reveals. Robert L. Beedy-Scarola said:
Is Luke related to Vader? Most think so now that Vader came right out and said it. Well, I say, do you believe everything you hear? Vader may have lied just to enlist Luke to his side. Vader would then dispose of Luke once he got what he wanted.
Fans also believed that Empire left too many questions unanswered. Sean Bernard said:
I know they wanted to leave something to settle in the other sequels, but they left a little too much. For instance, Han Solo's predicament. The movie should not have ended until Han was either killed by Boba Fett or Jabba or rescued by Lando Calrissian or Chewbacca, the former, preferably. Also, the fate of Bespin is not told. Was it taken by Lando's troops, taken by Imperial troops or destroyed by Vader? I like Lando Calrissian and Billy Dee Williams was very good playing the part.
Fans speculated about who Yoda's other student could have been. Arlene Bahrenburg said:
And, one of the biggest questions in my mind is who is Yoda's "other" student? Could it possibly be a girl — a love interest for Luke? I have 1,095 days in which to draw my own conclusions.
While Bill Smith said:
Could it be Vader himself? Considering that there was an equilibrium of power between the good and dark sides of the Force, it would not be impossible to turn Vader into the antithesis of what he is now, especially if Luke (who, except for Yoda may be the most powerful member of the good side of the Force) is truly his son.
Keith Hoffman said:
I suggest Princess Leia. She is young enough for the training; she withstood Darth Vader's tortures; she is dedicated to the cause; Princess Leia, not Lando, "heard" Luke's cries for help; Han Solo is not in shape to be going anywhere for awhile and he is too old. I wouldn't be surprised if in the third film, Leia, instead of Luke, destroys the Emperor. Of course, it will be the year 2000 before we find out.
Fans were also torn about potential love interests in the movie.
C'mon Leia, why don't you take a look around? Can't you see what Luke is up against? You could have a "nice guy" like him. Instead, you are turning your back on him. Forget that it was Luke that saved you from having your atoms scattered throughout the galaxy. Forget that it was Luke, and not Han Solo, that wanted you rescued from the Death Star detention area. But you don't need to remember all that, Leia. As long as hot-lips Han is around, who needs Luke anyway?
Empire fans couldn't agree on the "I know" line either. Jeannette Vogelpohl said:
Somebody should tell Harrison Ford that when a woman tells a man, "I love you," "I know" is not an acceptable response. That scene was not funny, it was infuriating.
Nancy Savula said:
Empire Strikes Back is fantastic. The special effects are superb. And Han Solo's "I know" is the best line since Rhett Butler's "My dear, I don't give a damn." I love it.
Starlog staff writer David Gerrold gave his own criticism of the movie in a review titled Empire Strikes Out. Despite the headline, he didn't hate the movie, but just thought that it was okay.
I liked it. I really did. I just didn't like it enough.
Just about every other critic in the country has been telling you how good the picture is; they've been falling over themselves to tell you. It's embarrassing. I feel guilty for not liking it as much as I'm supposed to.
His initial criticisms are based around hard science fiction inaccuracies, which given we now know Star Wars isn't hard sci-fi, are easy to ignore. But his criticism of the film's story structure mirror that of The Last Jedi.
Structurally, the film is flawed by its need to imitate its predecessor's "formula" of fast-paced cross-cutting. We cut back and forth between Luke and Yoda on Dagobah and Leia and Han in the asteroids, and the time sense of both sets of events is distorted. How long were Han and Leia fleeing? How long is Luke studying?
How long was Rey training with Luke on Ahch-To? Is it comparable to the time spent by the Resistance fleeing from the Empire? We're not sure, but given Empire's Rotten Tomatoes score of 94%, we're willing to bet that in a few years, watched through nostalgia-glasses, The Last Jedi will hold up.
One thing all Star Wars can agree on though is the worry that comes with a J.J. Abrams-helmed Episode IX.