Believed to be one of the best sequels of all time, The Empire Strikes Back twisted the established ideas of the original film with a more serious tone and the notion that the heroes don’t always win.
Towards the end of the film, Luke Skywalker loses a whole limb to Darth Vader, with said enemy dropping some pretty shocking parentage news on the poor guy. Then, Leia confesses her love to Han, everyone’s favorite smuggler, right before he gets a cold carbonite bath. The audience and characters just keep taking one hit after another, but there was a bit of starlight at the end of the tunnel. After facing devastating losses, the two heroes hug each other and look out at the galaxy as John Williams’ score brings a hopeful note to the character’s futures.
The ending is iconic, highlighting Star Wars’ ability to balance the light and the dark throughout its films. That wasn’t always the plan though, according to force user and voice actor extraordinaire Mark Hamill. After fans inquired whether the final shot of Luke and Leia hugging was a re-shoot, Hamill confirmed it himself on Twitter.
“Filmed 4 months after we wrapped principal photography on [Empire Strikes Back], it wasn’t a ‘re-shoot,’ it was an added scene,” replied Hamill. With there being concerns “about the downbeat ending [and] thorough defeat of the protagonists,” Hamill says that the final shot was included as “an uplifting moment of hope [and] rejuvenation to reassure the audience.”
Re-shoots and adding new scenes right before the movie comes out isn’t new for the Star Wars franchise. Just in 2019, the world got to throw up their lightsabers as Lucasfilm altered the iconic Han/Greedo scene (again) with the launch of Disney+. Though, it feels like the force was balanced with the addition of The Empire Strikes Back’s optimistic final scene instead of tilting too far into the dark side.