Universally considered to be the best Star Wars film by people who know what they're talking about, The Empire Strikes Back is also notable for being the only VHS tape in my home that childhood-me was allowed to watch (the other two were Dirty Dancing and Staying Alive). By taking a darker tone and broadening the Star Wars wor- uh, galaxies, Episode 5 of the Star Wars sextology (a real word, people) cemented its franchise as the No. 1 thing that 8-year-old boys would scream at their mothers to buy them in Target for at least three more decades.
The Negative Reaction
When people first started reviewing The Empire Strikes Back, they weren't reviewing a follow-up to a sci-fi classic; they were reviewing a sequel to a successful summer action movie. And that's why the reviews tend to sound like a bunch of old folks trying to describe a video game. The New York Times reviewer said he didn't understand the plot and that the ending was too depressing. The Telegraph reviewer didn't care about the world and said that the dialogue -- which includes lines like "Do or do not. There is no try" and "I am your father" and "Never tell me the odds" -- was "dull."
These aren't the outliers, by the way -- the initial critical reception of The Empire Strikes Back was "mixed, lukewarm, and indifferent," largely because of how dark, slow, and brooding it was. Now if anyone can prove that Lucas actually read those reviews, then we know who to blame for the Ewoks.
"You want cheerful and kid-friendly? I'll give you cheerful and kid-friendly!"