It used to be a given in Hollywood that a sequel was never as good as the original. This has obviously changed in recent years, with fans expecting no less than a stellar experience the second time around.
Of course, George Lucas and company sure didn't need the geeks telling them this when he was making The Empire Strikes Back; it was absolutely a given it had to be as good, if not better, than Star Wars: A New Hope.
Thankfully, Empire was arguably, or unarguably, the best in the original trilogy, and like Godfather II, it was indeed a sequel that was better than the first installment.
In recent years, several authorized Making of Star Wars books written by J.W. Rinzler were published that included exclusive stories and photos from both the first and second installments. The UK's DailyMail also just ran a number of behind the scenes photos from the movie, where it appeared the cast and crew were having a lot of fun despite the insane pressure of the various sets.
You may have seen the photo of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher all having a laugh during the shoot, despite the fact that Norway, the land of Hoth, was having its worst snow storm in fifty years, and oddly enough, Tunsia, where the Star Wars and Empire deserts were, had a huge rainstorm, it's biggest in fifty years as well. (Fisher of course had a line in the film about how she'd rather kiss a Wookie, and there's also a picture of her and Chewbacca smooching as well).
All these fun memories and photos have been also been hitting the web because the sixth Star Wars Celebration is kicking off in Florida this August 23-26, which like ComicCon should be enormous geek fun. Just the thought of babes walking around in the Princess Leia bikinis should be enough to make any Star Wars nut excited.
Years back, I did a tribute story to Star Wars, and here's what Jim Bloom, who was the associate producer on Empire, told me about following up one of the biggest sci-fi epics of all time:
"Back in the United States at Industrial Light and Magic, there was the challenge to make Empire even better. They wanted to raise the bar even further. There was more money for to try and do it. I don't think they were as restrained budget wise as they were on the first one.
"The letters from the fans and the accolades were so strong that I think everyone felt a responsibility to try and outdo what had been done on the first one, to make it more stunning, more interesting, all of those things. It was difficult and challenging, but there was a real (effort) among the people who worked on it to try and make it happen.
"I think one of the first shots we did was the asteroid chase sequence, which was part of the trailer. The idea was: You saw what we did on Star Wars, now here's what you can look forward to when The Empire Strikes Back comes out."