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The Star Wars Mistake Hiding In Plain Sight For 39 Years

On behalf of the propmasters who worked on one of the greatest science fiction films of all time: whoops.

Lucasfilm executive Pablo Hidalgo recently took to Twitter to share an image which constitutes, in light of the stature of the film in which it appeared, one of the most egregious goofs in the history of cinema. We'll put it this way: if you never knew that the Skywalker clan originated in the Big Apple, you're in for a surprise.

Hidalgo was only six years old when Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back dropped in theaters, but as a lifelong fan who has worked as a creative executive at Lucasfilm since 2015, it must have pained him to share this image. In his tweet, the executive began by noting that he's often stated that Star Wars flicks offer something new to the audience upon every viewing, an assessment that probably has more to do with the series' diligent attention to detail than it does boneheaded errors. But upon his latest viewing of Empire, Hidalgo had one small detail leap out at him like a vicious Wampa defending its territory: the etchings on the bottom of Luke Skywalker's lightsaber in the iconic scene in which the budding Jedi uses the Force to summon his weapon and free himself from his icy, upside-down imprisonment.

Well, this certainly seems like a heck of an oversight on the part of the props department. Sure, in standard theatrical screenings, the markings would hardly have been legible to the audience. But The Empire Strikes Back, being a hotly anticipated sequel to the single most pop culture-dominating, visual effects-driven blockbuster the world had ever seen, enjoyed a profitable 70mm run in theaters (one which encouraged audiences to attend by way of additional footage which wasn't present in the standard presentation). How could it be that, with thousands upon thousands of fans viewing this scene in the highest resolution available at the time, not one of them noticed that Luke's lightsaber was apparently manufactured in New York?

For that matter, we'll do you one better. Empire has been available on Blu-Ray for years, a release which boasts pristine resolution and which has undoubtedly sold literal tons of copies. A solid majority of Star Wars aficionados consider The Empire Strikes Back to be the undisputed high point of the entire series; there absolutely exists a contingent of fans, thousands strong, who have viewed this film more times than the sum total of every movie you have ever seen. The fact that this blatant goof has escaped the attention of one of the most dedicated and rabid fan bases on the planet for almost four decades is, quite simply, mind-boggling.

Hidalgo engaged in a lively exchange with fans in the wake of his post, many of whom (of course) were quick to point out that while the error was indeed visible, it wasn't exactly legible. (Hidalgo's response: "On the big screen it can be seen; though of course, it took about 40 years for me to notice.") Hidalgo also pointed fans who may be interested in a deep dive into the Star Wars series' props toward a website that features a nifty compendium of all of the common, everyday objects which were used to bring the series' world to life — many of which were pressed into service on multiple occasions.

We'd like to gently point out that by "eco-friendly," the man means "cheap." This serves as an intriguing reminder that, for all their unprecedented scale, the original Star Wars trilogy was completely unafraid to employ guerrilla filmmaking techniques in service of its galaxy-spanning vision. Perhaps, though, we're missing the point. 

Was Anakin Skywalker, whose lightsaber was passed down to his son by Obi-Wan Kenobi, actually a New Yorker? This might go a long way toward explaining his volatile temperament and awkward approach toward the object of his affection, Padme Amidala, in the prequel films. Is the Force, which binds all living things in the galaxy together, somehow centered in the Big Apple? This would give the unique sense of camaraderie among its residents an interesting context.

We jest, but only because we love Star Wars just as much as you do. It's actually a testament to the skill of the filmmakers that the enormous worldwide audience for The Empire Strikes Back was so utterly sucked into its world that every last one of them failed to catch this glaring detail for so long. At this point, though, we feel compelled to rewatch the entire series, in the highest resolution possible, to see what else escaped our attention. Perhaps Greedo's blaster was actually manufactured in China, or Darth Vader's chest plate was repurposed from a microwave oven. Heck, we're going to go ahead and follow Hidalgo on Twitter right now, because if he can spot a tiny detail that eluded fans for almost 40 years, he must be using the Force.