Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (a 15-Minute Force production): Chapter Seven: Luke’s Kamikaze Mission (Or: Soon I’ll Be Dead . . . And You With Me)

darthvader

01:30:01 – 01:45:00

The Jedi Edition of the 15-Minute Force hasn’t exactly been action-packed for the last couple of chapters. Everything seemed to slow to a crawl as we came to the Teddy Bear Village. Plus, Luke Skywalker had to share some information about genealogy with his sister, Leia Organa, just prior to turning himself over to the Empire in some lamebrain plot to turn Darth Vader from the Dark Side.

But, our players are moving again as Chapter Seven opens. Han Solo and Leia are making their way into the shield generator facility. General Lando Calrissian is about to lead the attack on the Death Star II. And Luke is brought by Vader before the Emperor himself, for a face-to-face meeting.

Except for the Luke scenes, on board the space station, there’s less talk and more action.

Vader and Luke exit the elevator and enter the Emperor’s throne room. With a gesture, the Emperor unlocks Luke’s handcuffs, freeing his hands. Then, demonstrating a complete lack of concern about any threat Luke may pose, the Emperor dismisses his red-cloaked guards. This is like your dad teaching you how to box when you’re five-years-old, when his reach is four times your own and you’re windmilling your arms while he keeps you away with a hand on your forehead.

The Emperor tells Luke that he’s looking forward to completing his training.

In time,” says Palpatine, “You will call me Master.”

Not gonna happen, Luke says. He won’t be converted the way his father was. Vader hands over Luke’s lightsaber to the Emperor. Palpatine compares Luke to Vader a little more, saying that Luke will soon be fully committed to the Dark Side just like his father. Luke’s hands are free and the lightsaber is temptingly close.

You’re wrong,” Luke says. “Soon I’ll be dead . . . and you with me.”

So, Luke’s game plan seems to be to get blown up on the Death Star II by the Rebel fleet, along with the Emperor and Vader. You can’t deny that Luke is brave. A bit on the stupid side, but brave.

Emperor Palpatine laughs and reveals that he is aware of the imminent attack by the Rebel fleet. He also tells Luke that his friends on the Sanctuary Moon—which is what he calls the forest moon of Endor for some reason—are walking into a trap, just like the Rebel fleet. The Emperor says it was he who allowed the Alliance to know the location of the shield generator. An entire legion of his best troops awaits Han, Leia, Chewbacca and the rest at the shield generator facility.

Cut to: The shield generator bunker. Things seem to be going well for the Rebels at first. And then the trap is sprung and our heroes find themselves surrounded by dozens of Imperial soldiers.

The Rebel space fleet comes out of hyperspace and bears down on its target, the Death Star II. Lando is in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, with his copilot Nien Nunb, and these two yahoos just don’t look right there. Han and Chewie are supposed to be in the Falcon, not the Colt 45 corporate shill and the monkey man.

For clarity’s sake, Lando is the Colt 45 shill.

The Rebel pilot leaders go through their now-expected roll call, and Wedge Antilles, Hero of the Rebellion and current Red Leader, gives the order to lock S-foils in attack positions. Whenever I’m about to dive into a difficult or daunting task, I always say, under my breath, “Lock S-foils in attack positions.” But, I am genuinely an OG Star Wars nerd. Don’t feel like you are required to do the same.

Before the Rebels can begin their attack on the Death Star II, Lando wonders aloud why they can’t tell if the shields are up or down. How could the Empire be jamming them if they don’t know they’re coming?

Lando gets on comms and orders the Rebels to break off the attack. His instincts tell him that the shield is still up. The attacking fleet veers off to avoid slamming into the invisible shield. Suddenly, the Imperial fleet appears out of nowhere, and Admiral Ackbar gets to say his now-famous line.

Take evasive action!”

No, not that line. This one: “It’s a trap!”

A large and rather frenetic space battle ensues. This is the type of action we paid to see. A redemption for the Teddy Bear Storytime Hour. The special effects don’t hold up as well in this sequence, even in the special edition DVD. I’m not sure if this is because of higher resolution television sets or what. You hear a lot about the special effects during the speederbike sequence being bad, but they held up better than these, as far as I’m concerned. This is where some righteous CGI tinkering should have been done.

Back on the DSII, the Emperor has Luke look out his neat round window to watch the space battle, taking perverse enjoyment by rubbing it in his face. See? Witness the final destruction of the Alliance and the end of your insignificant Rebellion. All the while he’s goading Luke, the young Skywalker’s lightsaber is within reach.

The Emperor loves the hate that’s boiling over in Luke. He even tells him to take his Jedi weapon and strike him down. He’s unarmed. Give in to his anger.

Down on the forest moon of Endor—Sanctuary Moon if you’re the Emperor—Han, Leia, Chewie and the rest of the Rebel strike team are led out of the bunker into the midst of a whole lot of Imperial troops and several chicken-walkers. The situation looks grim here, as well.

That’s what you do to create dramatic tension, right? Make your heroes think that they’re about to experience an easy victory, then pull the rug out from underneath them. Except there’s never really much dramatic tension here, because the droids have managed to plan a double-double-cross with the Ewoks, who now attack the Imperial troops.

Disciplined, well-trained military soldiers with state-of-the-art firepower should make short work of three-foot-tall teddy bears armed with crude bow-and-arrows, spears, and rocks. Instead, the stormtroopers manage to look completely overwhelmed by the Ewoks, all discipline and military fighting knowledge immediately abandoned. In fact, these stormtroopers never manage to look like soldiers at all. They look like extras in plastic armor.

I will reluctantly admit now that portions of the Ewok battle are entertaining. But, it is entertaining in the same way that Macaulay Culkin’s Home Alone war with Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern is entertaining. Which is to say, cartoonish, not realistic. It was out of place in the science fiction movie that I wanted to watch. Imagine the carnage if the Ewoks were attacking the space marines from Aliens, or even Arnold Schwarzenegger alone in Predator. There would be burning clumps of bloody fur everywhere.

Back in the midst of the epic space battle, Lando wonders why none of the Imperial Space Destroyers are firing upon the Rebels.

As it turns out, they are following orders. In his relentless campaign to make Luke give in to despair, the Emperor tells him, calling him “my young apprentice,” to witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station.

What an incredible ruse! The Death Star II only looks unfinished. It’s actually fully operational, which makes that earlier scene in the movie when Vader was threatening the station commander seem superfluous. This also means that the Empire was putting all of its eggs into the one basket that is the moon-surface-based shield generator because there are incredible gaps in the station’s superstructure that would allow huge spaceships to fly inside and target the reactor. This seems more ludicrous than womprat-sized exhaust port targets.

The Death Star II begins to fire, taking out Rebel ships. Admiral “It’s a Trap” Ackbar tells all craft to prepare to retreat. Lando still has faith in his friend Han Solo, though. You know, the guy he allowed the Empire to turn into a carbonite coffee table. They need to give Han a chance to take down the shield. How are they supposed to know when the shield is down? Who knows?

Back on the forest moon of Endor, Han and Leia need Artoo’s help to gain access to the bunker again. Or do they? After the astromech droid gets knocked out of commission by an explosion, Han shrugs and says he guesses he can hotwire the controls.

It’s telling that we’re more concerned about Artoo’s safety than we ever are Han or Leia’s. Even back in 1983, I never felt like any of our main characters were in any danger. I knew that even the treacherous Lando would survive. Only old characters like Obi-Wan, Yoda, Darth Vader and the Emperor die in these movies, which now strikes me as ageist, since it seems the same thing could be said about the newer movies as well.

Back in the Emperor’s throne room, Palpatine shifts his tactic from gloating about the Rebel Alliance being destroyed right before Luke’s eyes to telling Luke that all of his friends are about to die. Oh, he really wants Luke to go for his lightsaber. It’s right there! Get it, Luke. Strike down the Emperor.

Only, that’s not going to happen in this chapter, which now comes to a close.

I think everything’s going to wrap up in Chapter Eight of the Jedi Edition of the 15-Minute Force, so we’re going to temporarily leave you hanging in absolutely no suspense at all. I mean, it’s obvious that the Empire is about to experience total, unequivocal victory over the Rebels. Right?

Until next time . . . Strike Me Down with All Your Hatred, and Your Journey to the Dark Side Will Be Complete . . . and May the 15-Minute Force Be With You.

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