01:30:01 – 01:45:01
Wow. We’re already on Chapter Seven of the Empire Edition of the 15-Minute Force. Time flies when you’re having fun. It is likely that this is our penultimate chapter of this edition. According to the counter on my DVD player, this movie clocks in at 2 hours, 7 minutes and change. I’m betting at least five minutes of that are credits, so we’ll probably wrap up the movie with Chapter Eight.
This chapter rejoins Chewbacca in his Cloud City cage, where he is working on reassembling the Threepio parts someone conveniently allowed him to have while he is incarcerated. As Chewie puts Threepio’s head on his upper body, backwards, and fiddles with some switches, the protocol droid begins speaking in tongues.
His first coherent words: “No! Secret. Stormtroopers? Here? We’re in danger. I must tell the others. Oh, no! I’ve been shot!”
From this, we’re meant to gather that Threepio stumbled across some Stormtroopers hiding in a storage room. And, it seems that, however unlikely or uncharacteristic this may be of Threepio, his first instinct was to tell his comrades rather than protecting his own metallic hide, which is his usual first impulse. Or else, Threepio is making all of this up for Chewie’s benefit, so that he will appear more brave than we know he is.
We cut to Han Solo being secured to some sort of torture chair by two Stormtroopers while Darth Vader looks on menacingly. As the torture begins, we cut to an anteroom to get reaction shots from Lando Calrissian, who stands beside Boba Fett, with Lobot nearby in the background of the shot. Han’s screams are bloodcurdling.
Moments later, Darth Vader exits the torture chamber and joins the others in the anteroom. Lando tries to speak to Vader, who utterly ignores the Baron Administrator of Cloud City. Instead Vader tells the bounty hunter Boba Fett that he can take Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt after he has Skywalker.
“He’s no good to me dead,” Boba Fett says, in a voice that’s obviously a special-edition change, because it sounds just like Jango Fett from the prequels.
“He will not be permanently damaged,” Vader says.
Lando, following behind the Sith Lord and the bounty hunter, asks, “Lord Vader, what about Leia and the Wookiee?”
“They must never again leave this city,” Vader says.
“That was never a condition of our agreement, nor was giving Han to this bounty hunter!”
“Perhaps you think you are being treated unfairly?”
“No.” Lando answers, reluctantly.
“Good. It would be unfortunate if I had to leave a garrison here.” Then the door shuts on Vader’s elevator. The Sith know how to make an exit.
As Lando stalks away, anger in his eyes, he says, “This deal is getting worse all the time.”
Sidewipe to Chewie and Threepio again. Chewie continues to tinker with the protocol droid, who makes some intimate bedroom noises as Chewie pokes and prods his electronic innards. There’s some minor comic relief as Threepio realizes his heads is on backward. He calls Chewie a “flea-bitten furball” and “an overgrown mophead.” For a protocol droid, Threepio isn’t well-programmed for gratitude.
Two Stormtroopers carry the tortured Han Solo into Chewie’s cage and drop the smuggler unceremoniously in the center of the room. Han says he feels terrible. Chewie extends a cot from the wall and lays his partner down on it. Then, Leia is put in the cell as well. She goes to Han’s side, wondering aloud why the Imperials are doing this. Han says that they never even asked him any questions while torturing him.
The door opens again, and Lando enters the cell, which is apparently Grand Central Station on Cloud City. Chewie growls at the Baron Administrator, and Han tells him to get out of there.
“Shut up and listen!” Lando says. “Vader’s agreed to turn Leia and Chewie over to me. They’ll have to stay here, but at least they’ll be safe.”
“What about Han?” Leia asks.
“Vader’s giving him to the bounty hunter.”
“Vader wants us all dead,” Leia says.
“Vader doesn’t want you at all! He’s after somebody called Skywalker.”
“Luke,” Han says.
“Lord Vader set a trap for him,” Lando says.
“And we’re the bait!” adds Leia.
“He’s on his way.”
With a few nasty words on the side, Han lurches across the cell and punches Lando in the jaw. Lando’s security men begin a beatdown on Han until Lando stops them, perhaps not as soon as he could have.
“I’ve done all I can,” Lando says. “I’m sorry I couldn’t do better, but I’ve got my own problems.”
“Yeah,” Han says, “You’re a real hero.”
After Lando leaves, there is a bottom-to-top screenwipe that’s reminiscent of a scene from Episode IV. In that earlier scene, the wipe followed Threepio as he was being lifted from the canyon floor on Tantooine. This time, the wipe follows Han being lifted from the cell floor by Chewie and Leia.
After the wipe, we are in the carbon freezing chamber. Vader is inspecting the facility, which he pronounces crude but adequate to freeze Skywalker. I had forgotten that the plan was originally to freeze Luke, not Han. Lando and Lobot are also in the chamber when some Imperial officer comes in and says Luke Skywalker is approaching Cloud City. Vader says to allow him to land.
Lando tells Vader that they use this facility only to freeze carbon, and that if they put Skywalker in there, it might kill him. You would think that it would definitely kill him. But, what do I know, both Han and Luke survived freezing temperatures cold enough to freeze the blood in tauntauns. Vader says he doesn’t want the Emperor’s prize damaged, so they will test the carbon freezing chamber on Captain Solo. Way to go, Lando.
Next scene, Luke Skywalker and Artoo approach Cloud City in their X-wing.
Then, Han, Leia and Chewie are marched into the freezing chamber, under guard. Threepio is strapped to Chewie’s back and is still complaining. I thought Chewie switched the droid off in the last scene. Why would anyone power him back up?
For that matter, why were Leia and Chewie brought in to watch the process? I know that Vader is sadistic and cruel, but this seems unnecessarily dramatic.
Lando, Boba Fett and Darth Vader are also present. This is a Big Moment.
Lando has to be the one to tell his old friend that he’s being put into carbon freeze. Boba Fett tells Vader that Han is worth nothing to him if he’s not alive. Vader tells Boba Fett that he will be compensated if he dies. Vader seems to treat the bounty hunter with more respect that he shows anyone else in the trilogy. I wonder why that is? Or am I only imagining it?
Vader orders his minions to put Han in the chamber. Chewie goes a little berserk for a moment. Boba Fett appears to be aiming his rifle to take a shot at Chewie, but Vader stops the bounty hunter, pushing the rifle barrel down with one gauntleted hand. Again, why? Why would Vader care if Boba Fett shot Chewie? I’m not sure if there’s a textual explanation for this. Could this be the subconscious “Good” Anakin rising briefly to the surface to perform good deeds? Or, could it be that blaster fire might cause some sort of explosions in the chamber, and Vader was just thinking Safety First, which the Empire NEVER DOES? Some mysteries are never solved.
So, Chewie knocks a few Stormtroopers off the platform. Injured or dead, we’re never sure which. Han calms down his co-pilot, telling him to conserve his strength because there’ll be another time. Han tells Chewie that he has to take care of the Princess. Meaning Leia, I assume, and not Threepio.
Han and Leia kiss. A real romantic kiss this time. Luke doesn’t have a chance with Leia now (he still doesn’t know she’s his sister, so cut the chatter). It’s obvious that these two are meant to be together. One of them is probably about to die, so that makes the kiss even more romantic, while they are bathed in the red light of the carbon freezing chamber.
The Stormtroopers break the two up, and Han is moved into position in the chamber.
And then the famous couplet.
“I love you,” Leia says.
“I know,” Han says. Remember: Han is a scoundrel.
Han is lowered into the chamber and frozen into the now-iconic block of carbonite. Lando checks the slab and tells everyone that Han is alive and in perfect hibernation. Vader then turns the easily transported Han Solo over to Boba Fett. The test was a success. Vader now knows that Luke can survive the freezing process so that the Emperor can enjoy his Jedi Popsicle.
Vader then orders Lando to take the Princess and the Wookiee to his ship. It’s a double-cross. Are we really surprised? When Lando objects, Vader informs him that he is altering their deal, and to pray that he doesn’t alter it any further.
Lando and Lobot share what can only be termed a “meaningful” look as the scene ends. Maybe Lando did have a contingency plan. He would have to be a fool to expect Vader to keep his end of a bargain.
We cut to Luke Skywalker, walking freely through Cloud City with Artoo close on his heels. Then both he and the viewer get to see the Han Solo carbonite sarcophagus floating down a hallway, flanked by Stormtroopers and led by Boba Fett. Luke draws his blaster but doesn’t take his shot.
Boba Fett was aware of his presence, though, and begins firing at Luke. Elsewhere, Leia hears the blaster fire but is being escorted towards Vader’s ship. Lando uses his Apple Watch to communicate with Lobot. An alternate plan seems to be in motion.
Luke begins exchanging gunfire with Leia and Chewie’s escorts. Leia tells Luke to stop because it’s a trap. It’s a trap! Admiral Ackbar is not in the movie, I should remind you.
Luke enters the carbon freezing chamber through a hole in the floor. He’s cut off from Artoo by multiple sliding doors that close behind him.
“The Force is with you, Young Skywalker,” Darth Vader says. “But you are not a Jedi yet.”
Luke walks up the glowing red staircase to approach the Sith Lord. Luke activates his lightsaber first. Darth Vader pauses a moment before igniting his own red lightsaber, as if debating whether he even needs his weapon to defeat the young non-Jedi in front of him. Then the two begin their duel.
Already, this confrontation is more exciting than the duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader. The forms and the stances seem more dynamic somehow, even though the two combatants aren’t moving much yet. Plus, the dim lighting and somewhat smoky air make the lightsabers themselves, and all the red lights in the chamber, stand out. It’s a great-looking set. It looks almost like a set for an ’80s music video.
As the two men really begin fighting, they are definitely more energetic in their movements than Old Ben and Darth. It’s almost as if they have actually studied swashbuckling footage.
Back out in the white corridor, Lando, with the aid of his assitant Lobot, execute their double-double-cross, disarming the soldiers escorting Leia and Chewie to Vader’s ship. Lando instructs Lobot to keep the Stormtroopers in the security tower and to keep it quiet. When Lando releases Chewie from his restraints, the Wookiee begins to strangle him while Leia berates him. How can they trust him after he allowed the Empire to freeze Han?
While gasping for breath, Lando manages to tell them that there’s still a chance they can save Han at the East Platform. Leia tells Chewie to come on, which keeps Lando alive, for a few minutes more at least.
On the East Platform, the frozen Han slab is loaded into Boba Fett’s flying clothes iron, the Slave I.
Artoo, who had been cut off from Luke earlier, rejoins Leia, Chewie, and the unassembled Threepio, plus Lando, as they rush towards the East Platform. They are mere seconds too late and can only watch Boba Fett as he takes off and rockets into the upper atmosphere. Stormtroopers are suddenly behind our heroes and begin firing at them.
Back to our title bout, the Sith Lord Darth Vader vs. Death Star Destroyer Luke Skywalker. Vader compliments Luke on his training progress. This does sound a little condescending, though, and you get the distinct impression that Vader is toying with Luke. As Yoda said, Luke is not ready.
Vader easily sends Luke’s lightsaber flying. It immediately deactivates, which suggests that there’s a killswitch of some sort. Then, Luke goes tumbling down the glowing red staircase. Vader seems to levitate down the staircase after him. Dracula-like. Vader brandishes his red lightsaber in front of the unarmed Luke, while telling him that his destiny lies with Vader, something Obi-Wan knew to be true.
Luke ain’t buying it. Vader backs him up until Luke falls into the carbon freezing chamber.
“All too easy,” Vader says, signalling for someone to switch on the chamber. There must be one of those costumed Little People around who I haven’t seen since Luke arrived.
Nope, I was wrong, Vader used the Force to throw the switch himself. He wasn’t signalling at all. That was just magic hand-waving.
What Vader doesn’t see is Luke leaping straight up out of the chamber before it activates. When he sees Luke above him, Vader—like me—is impressed with this never-seen-before Force power used by Luke.
Luke distracts the Sith Lord by using one of severed tubes to spray white stuff into Vader’s face. Liquid nitrogen, maybe? Something even colder?
While Vader is distracted, Luke uses the Force to retrieve his lightsaber, which he ignites and renews his battle with the nubian Sith warrior. Vader continues to brag about Luke’s abilities, like a proud father. He admires the way Luke has controlled his fear, but he encourages him to release his anger. Vader says only Luke’s hatred can detroy him.
As our current chapter of the Empire Edition of the 15-Minute Force draws to a close, Luke executes one of those neat somersaults like we saw him do on Dagobah, and then we leave our two combatants, still in mid-bout.
Exiting stuff. Han is frozen. Leia and Chewie have been saved by the untrustworthy Lando. Luke is seriously overmatched in his duel with Darth Vader, but the Sith Lord seems to be taking it easy on him. For some reason.
Join us in a week for our last chapter, for this movie at least, where we’ll see how all of this shakes out. Until then . . . Know This: I Am Altering Our Deal. Pray That I Don’t Alter It Further . . . And May The 15-Minute Force Be With You.