01:45:01 – THE END
In my opinion, Act Two of the movie Star Wars (it didn’t become A New Hope until 1981, so don’t correct me) transitioned to Act Three in the exact place where Chapter Seven of the Star Wars Edition of 15-Minute Force ended. There’s not much more movie left to watch at this point.
This may make Act Three seem a little short. If you travel back to the archives, you’ll see that I suggested that Act One ended somewhere between the 45-minute and 1-hour marks, in Chapter Four of this edition. My contention is that Act Two begins when Luke and Ben (and the droids) escape Tatooine in the Millennium Falcon, along with new cast members Han Solo and Chewbacca. That seems long for a first act in a 2-hour movie, until you factor in that we didn’t get Luke Skywalker on-stage until Chapter Two. The first fifteen minutes or so of this movie seemed to be about the droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO. We could consider this part to be a prologue to the main story, which is Luke’s story.
I think it works equally well if you consider the entirety of the first six movies to be Anakin Skywalker’s story alone. The same act breaks would apply for Darth Vader in this movie as well. I’ve been toying with the idea of the original trilogy being Han Solo’s story instead. Which means the true story doesn’t begin until Luke and Ben meet up with Han and Chewie in Mos Eisley. That makes for an even longer prologue and a very short second act. Maybe the doors don’t hang too straight on that cabinet. Since the droids are in all six of the original movies (and, to a somewhat lesser degree, in the Disney-era movies), maybe the entire saga is their story. Food for thought.
Wherever you think the third act begins, this chapter begins with the X-wings beginning their run on the Death Star, as we are told that the rebel base on Yavin 4 will be in range of the battle station’s world-killing laser in just fifteen minutes, which is about how much movie we have left. This is the beginning of what will become known as the Battle of Yavin, although it would more accurately be called the Battle of the First Death Star, since the action occurs there, not on Yavin or Yavin 4.
Red Squadron does its roll call. Luke is designated “Red Five.” S-foils are locked into attack positions. This seems to mean the wings are opened up into the “X” position, which is why I assume these starfighters are called X-wings. The pilots switch their deflectors on—double front—as they pass through the massive battle station’s magnetic field.
Red Two, who reminds me of Larry from Three’s Company, says, “Look at the size of that thing,” which prompts Red Leader to tell him to cut the chatter.
Gold Squadron also shows up. I’m not sure what they are doing. The X-wings of Red Squadron begin making their approach, dropping in low to the surface of the Death Star, under heavy fire. Luke says he’s going in but has to pull up after he gets a little singed.
On board the Death Star, Darth Vader says they are going to have to destroy the rebels ship-to-ship and orders one of his underlings to have the crews get to their fighters.
The mustachioed Red Three says he’s going in and asks Porkins to cover him. Very quickly, Porkins develops a problem and is barbecued.
Back on the Death Star, Grand Moff Tarkin is standing there, looking all solemn and imperial. A voice says that the rebel base will be in range in seven minutes. Movie time is moving faster than real time.
Back in the cockpit of Luke’s X-wing, Luke hears Ben’s voice telling him to trust his feelings. Luke doesn’t even trust that he’s hearing Ben’s voice. He taps the side of his helmet as if there’s something wrong with his comm system.
Then the TIE fighters swoop down after a quick warning from the rebel base. Another member of Red Squadron is shot down, and Luke retaliates by blowing up one of the TIEs. The edits are quick and furious here, and this is exciting stuff.
On the Death Star: Vader says that some of the fighters have broken off from the main group, and then orders a couple of Imperial pilots to come with him.
Luke’s X-wing is damaged, but he’s says it’s not bad and orders R2 to repair the damage. We finally get to see what it is an astromech droid is designed to do. Luke is having trouble shaking the TIE fighter on his tail until Larry Dallas, playboy neighbor and used car salesman (who may just be Wedge Antilles instead), comes to his rescue.
Gold Leader says they are beginning their attack run. Now I see that Gold Squadron are all in Y-wing fighters. They are shaped like the capital letter “Y.” To be more accurate, they are shaped like football goalposts, but “Y-wing” is more succinct.
We get a quick shot of Darth Vader, in his distinctively modified TIE fighter, leaving a Death Star hangar accompanied by two other TIE fighters. Vader orders his outriders to stay in attack formation.
Gold Squadron begins to make its trench run to fire upon the exhaust port. Darth Vader and the twins soar in behind Gold Squadron and make short work of the three Y-wings.
The bearded general back on Yavin 4 orders Red Leader to hold half his force back for another run. Luke is ordered to move back, along with Red Two and Red Three, while the rest make their trench run. Using his targeting computer, Red Leader gets off a shot on the exhaust port, but not before the Darth Vader Trio takes out two of the X-wings. To add insult to injury, the shot misses, impacting on the surface.
Red Leader orders Luke and the others to set up for their attack run, and then he, too, is shot down by Darth Vader. Red Leader’s X-wing crashes down onto the surface of the Death Star, as if there is a definite gravity well being generated by the station, as you would expect in a structure of its size.
And then there are three.
On board the Death Star, a voice announces that the rebel base will be in range in one minute. The clock is ticking.
Luke’s two remaining Red Squadron companions are Biggs and Wedge. For reasons I can’t begin to fathom, since he’s the least experienced of the three, Luke seems to have become the de facto leader. Luke orders Biggs and Wedge to close it up, and tells them that they’re going in full throttle. Wedge Antilles answers him in the affirmative and calls him “boss” without a trace of sarcasm in his tone. Maybe Luke is using the Jedi Mind Trick on them. Biggs questions whether they’ll be able to pull up out of the trench in time at that speed. Luke tells his old friend that it’ll be just like Beggar’s Canyon back home. He doesn’t add that their target is about the size of a womp rat, but I’m sure that’s understood.
Since Red Leader is dead, there’s no one to tell the remainder of the squadron to cut the chatter. The three talk about towers and worrying aloud about whether the computer will be able to hit the target. Luke tells R2 to repair a stabilizer that’s broken loose again. He seems to be flying okay, so I’m not sure what exactly the stabilizer stabilizes.
Suddenly, but expectedly, the Darth Vader Trio is behind them. Wedge is hit and can’t stay with the other two. Wedge, the hero of the Rebellion, deserts his last remaining squadmates. Sure, Luke told him to leave, but a real hero would have executed some sort of kamikaze move to take out at least one of the TIE fighters. Not Wedge, though. Hero, my ass.
The three TIEs stay on the remaining two X-wings. Luke tells R2 to try to increase the power, which sounds like a BS command to me, one of the go-to’s in weak science fiction writing.
Then, Biggs’s giant mustache is shot down. As far as I can tell, only Darth Vader is killing the rebel pilots so far. The other two TIEs just seem to be his entourage. Now Luke is alone. If he ever grieves for his friend Biggs, we never see it.
On the Death Star. . .the rebel base is within 30 seconds and closing. . .
Vader says he’s on the leader. Back at the rebel base, C-3PO implores R2 to hang on. Luke attempts to use the targeting computer, but Ben Kenobi’s disembodied voice interrupts and says, “Use the Force, Luke.” I’m not sure why Luke would take the advice of someone who let himself get cut down in a lame laser swordfight, but he decides to trust his feelings. “Let go, Luke,” Kenobi insists.
As he is closing in on Luke’s X-wing, Darth Vader says, “The Force is strong with this one.”
Old Ben keeps yammering away until Luke turns off his targeting computer, which confounds those at the rebel base, which is about to be destroyed by the Death Star. Luke assures them all that he is all right. Which I wouldn’t have been reassured by at all.
Darth Vader fires at Luke, hitting R2, who gives a bloodcurdling electronic scream. Luke announces that he’s lost R2. This is a sad moment. Like, ET dying sad.
While all of this is going on, the rebel base has finally come into range. Grand Moff Tarkin tells his soldiers that they may fire when ready. Buttons are pressed while primary ignition begins. Couldn’t they have done all of this before clearing the planet? Then the secret rebel base that Princess Leia knowingly led the Empire to would have been instantly destroyed and the Rebellion would have been crushed. Sure, this may have cut the saga short, but it would have saved us from Ewoks.
Vader has Luke in his crosshairs once again, even announcing, “I have you now,” when the Millennium Falcon, with Han and Chewie on board, of course, shows up for the last-minute rescue. You see, Han loves more than just money! He also loves Luke. Wait? No, that can’t be right. With a corny “Yahoo!” Han swoops in, cannons a-blazing.
First one non-Vader TIE and then the other are hit, and Vader’s way-cool modified TIE ricochets off into space, tumbling wildly.
Han says, “You’re all clear, kid! Now let’s blow this thing and go home!”
Luke takes his womp rat shot just as the Death Star is about to fire its giant laser at Yavin 4. The Death Star explodes spectacularly. In the special edition, the explosion even has a neat Praxis Ring, which I like very much. I liked it in the theater, too.
I can’t experience the exact same feeling I had when I watched this movie back in 1977, but some of it’s still there. That exhilarating sense of victory. That David-versus-Goliath moment. The vicarious pride felt when ghost-Ben says, “Remember. The Force will be with you always.”
It was a drug-like rush back in that dark theater when I was what would be called a ‘tween nowadays. I’ve been chasing that dragon ever since. Other movies have come close, but nothing can replace that first cinematic high.
Okay, this may be a bit hyperbolic. “Smile, you son of a bitch” was a couple of years prior to this movie and similarly explosive and impactful. But, this was in space! And an even bigger rush to my young psyche.
Even though Darth Vader, the primary Big Bad of this movie, gets away at the end, Star Wars still seems remarkably self-contained. Of course, we would decide soon after that we wanted a sequel. But, in many basic ways, this movie stands apart from the rest. It could exist without any of the others having ever been made. Sometimes, I find that comforting.
And that’s that. The obligatory reunion scene and award ceremony back on Yavin 4 follows. Everyone is smiling a lot. During the final scene, where Leia puts the medals around Luke and Han’s necks, we are reassured that R2-D2 is still functioning. We see him shaking excitedly beside C-3PO.
Much has been made about Chewbacca not getting a medal. And I see that as an oversight as well, especially since he joined the others on stage. But, these two are latecomers to the Rebellion. Where are all the other rebel soldiers who should be receiving medals? My head canon suggests there were other award ceremonies that we don’t get to see. This particular one was only important because it is Luke’s story. Or Han’s. One of them, at any rate.
I will not donate this movie to Goodwill. It will remain in the collection. I am reassured that it has earned its status as a classic. The intervening years may have given me more perspective on the story, but they haven’t dimmed my love of it.
Next, we’re going to begin our journey through the movie I’ve always named as my favorite of all the Star Wars movies, to date. Let’s see if that’s still true.
Until next week. . .You’re All Clear, Kid! Let’s Blow This Thing and Go Home . . . .And May The 15-Minute Force Be With You. Always.