The Empire Strikes Back is one of the gold standards filmmakers aspire to when making a sequel. And though both Chris Pratt and Kevin Feige swear it was never mentioned during the making of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the films share a lot of similarities. A lot of similarities.
If you haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (or The Empire Strikes Back for that matter), please note:
In Empire, as soon as the Battle of Hoth begins, Luke heads off to fight the AT-ATs and then head to Dagobah while Han and Leia try to escape from the Empire and have their Cloud City adventure. The Guardians also split up very early, as Star-Lord, Drax, and Gamora go off on one adventure while Rocket and Groot go off on their own. The majority of the movie keeps both groups apart until the climax.
“No, I am your father.” “I’m your father, Peter.” Both films feature pretty massive revelations as to the identity of the main character’s father. Sure, it’s at the beginning of Guardians and the end of Empire, plus Empire was bringing back a character from the first movie, but both turn out to be villains and have ulterior motives.
Han Solo has to navigate impossible odds to evade the Empire through an asteroid field. Star-Lord and Rocket have to be the best pilots in the galaxy to get through their own asteroid field to evade the Sovereign. Aside from how the scenes end, they are almost identical.
When Han and Leia get to Cloud City, it’s a magical place, but Leia feels something is wrong with it. Of course, she’s right, Darth Vader is already there and the whole thing is a trap. When the Guardians get to Ego’s Planet, it’s also a beautiful place, but Gamora has a similar feeling something that is wrong. She is also right—Ego plans on killing the rest of the Guardians and keeping Peter there to help him destroy the galaxy.
Throughout all of The Empire Strikes Back, the flirting and sexual tension between Han Solo and Princess Leia is palpable. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Star-Lord and Gamora have a very similar dynamic: flirtations, awkward exchanges, near kisses. Han and Leia do finally admit their feelings for each other, right at the end, when Han’s about to be frozen in carbonite. While they don’t exactly declare their feelings at the end, Gamora’s acknowledgment of what Star-Lord calls the “unspoken thing between them” is as close to “I know” as it gets.
Luke Skywalker has a bunch of new powers he’s not sure how to use and learns about them from the experienced Yoda. Star-Lord also turns out to have unexplained powers and the old, experienced Ego helps him to develop them. Ego even has his son close his eyes and concentrate, just like Luke and Yoda. Luke ends up being much more successful than Star-Lord.
When Darth Vader reveals to Luke he’s his father, he tells Luke he wants to rule the galaxy with him. It’s the same offer Ego makes to Star-Lord once he reveals his true identity.
The Empire Strikes Back features some of the best bounty hunters of all time, hunting down both the Millenium Falcon and Han Solo. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 isn’t quite on that level but has more bounty hunting overall. The film starts with the Guardians winning Nebula to bring her in for a bounty, then the Ravagers are hired to capture the Guardians.
Empire and Guardians Vol. 2 have very similar structures. Each starts with a battle, the characters have to escape, they split up, some are captured and others groomed for grander things, the places these things happen in aren’t friendly, and at the end the teams reunite to save each other. Admittedly, Empire has a much more ambiguous ending with the capture of Han Solo but Guardians surely matches it emotionally with the death of Yondu and five end-credit scenes teasing what’s next.
I’ll admit this one is a stretch, but we’re near the bottom of the list at this point and I think I’ve made my point. Anyway, in Empire the Millennium Falcon flies into the mouth of a space slug. In Guardians, Drax jumps into the mouth of an interdimensional alien. They’re different but both gross, and why go through the mouth?
Again, both Chris Pratt and Kevin Feige told io9, The Empire Strikes Back was not part of the conversation when making Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.
“Never once [was it brought up],” said Pratt. “When I think of Empire Strikes Back I think about a movie that’s really setting up the next movie. [But] there was never talk of Guardians 3 while making this movie. It felt very much like a complete film.”
“No, it wasn’t [brought up],” agreed Feige. “And believe me, Empire Strikes Back is always on the top of my film-going brain, but, no.... Maybe somewhere in my subconscious, I was thinking about it. James is a Star Wars fan, but he doesn’t dine at the office of Star Wars as much as I do. So, that never came up.”
We believe you, guys, but there sure are a lot of similarities. That’s not exactly a bad thing, though.
* Correction: Made some small factual Star Wars tweaks rightfully pointed out in the comments.