Hoth

Haikuesday: Luke Skywalker (ESB)

Oh No! A Wampa!
Commander Skywalker is
attacked by a beast!


Hanging Upside-Down
Oh look, it’s his lightsaber…
..but just out of reach. ūüė¶


OH WAIT! USE THE FORCE!
Eyes closed and hand extended…
The saber responds.


OH NO! THE WAMPA!
Freed from the ice, Luke attacks.
Poor one-armed Wampa. ūüė¶


Hoth’s frozen tundra.
A blizzard lashes at Luke
and our hero falls.


Ben’s apparition
gives Luke a direct command:
“Go to Dagobah.”


Stuffed in a Tauntaun…
…they smell bad on the outside
and on the inside.


Floating in Bacta.
Then, a few minutes later,
kissing his sister.


The Battle of Hoth.
All-Terrain Armored Transports.
Luke leads Rogue Squadron.


“Hobbie! “I’ve been hit!”
…annnnnd once again Luke crashes
to Hoth’s snowy ground.


“All the scopes are dead.”
Luke enters Dagobah’s sky.
“I can’t see a thing.”


A swampy landing.
“Artoo, what are we doing…?”
The droid throws up mud.


“Like we’re being watched!”
A strange creature confronts Luke
and trashes his camp.


Important question:
“Why wish you become Jedi?”
“…my father, I guess.”


“We’re wasting our time!”
“Cannot teach him. No patience.”
The creature? Yoda!


Yoda on his back.
Luke begins Jedi training.
And learns of the Force.

Haiku Addendum:
Jedi training involves a
lot of cardio.


Dark, sinister cave.
“That place…strong with the dark side.”
So Luke just walks in…


Dark Confrontation –
Face-to-face with his father’s
killer: Darth Vader.


Red and Blue Collide
A dream like battle ensues.
There is no victor.


Upside-down again.
Luke lifts rocks using the Force.
But crashes again.


His X-Wing sinking.
“We’ll never get it out now!”
Yoda is annoyed.


“Luminous beings.”
“Life creates it, makes it grow.”
“You must feel the Force.”


Yoda moves Luke’s ship.
“I don’t…I don’t believe it.”
“That is why you fail.

Haiku Addendum:
I hope Luke thanked Yoda for
freeing the X-Wing.


Meanwhile, elsewhere…
Han. Leia. Asteroids. Slugs.
Darth Vader. Hunters.


Upside-down again.
This time Luke crashes after
a vision of friends.


Decision to make:
go and help his friends or to
finish his training.

Haiku Addendum:
because he is impatient,
Luke decides to leave.

Haiku Addendum:
internalizing lessons
is not Luke’s strong point.


Onto Cloud City!
Luke waltzes into a trap.
The truth awaits him.


“The Force is with you.”
The Carbon Freezing Chamber.
Luke confronts Vader.


Red and Blue Collide
Skywalker holds his own but
it won’t be enough.


Launched out a window.
Pushed back onto a platform.
An abyss below.


A deadly blade stroke.
Maimed by Vader’s blood red blade.
“There is no escape.”


“I’ll never join you!”
And now the truth is revealed…
“I am your Father.”


“That’s impossible!”
“…we can rule the galaxy
as father and son…”


Calm comes over Luke.
A decision has been made.
He lets go…and falls.


Upside-down again
Luke has nowhere else to go.
One option remains.


Calling to Leia,
Luke reaches out with the Force.
His sister responds.

Haiku Addendum:
in the next film, they will learn
that they are siblings.

Haiku Addendum:
…but pay attention and you
can figure it out. ūüėČ

Haiku Addendum:
Seriously, “Empire”
gives you the info.


Luke gets a new hand!
And Lando wears Han’s clothing.
Did Hobbie survive?


Meanwhile, on Hoth…
the one-armed Wampa adjusts
to a one-armed life. 

Luke maims the Wampa.
And Vader maims Skywalker.
Quite interesting…

This post is Part 2 of 3 in a special three-week version of Haikuesday exploring Luke Skywalker in the Original Star Wars Trilogy. Be on the lookout next Tuesday for for the final installement with haiku about Luke in Return of the Jedi!

Luke Skywalker (ANH)

 

Forgotten Faith: Doubting the Sacred

What Luke Skywalker accomplishes in the climactic final Act of Star Wars: A New Hope is nothing short of miraculous. Tasked with the responsibility of destroying the Empire’s planet killing Death Star, to succeed and win the day Skywalker unexpectedly gives himself over to the mystical energy field known as the Force. Doing so at the behest of the recently “deceased” Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, young Luke puts his faith in something greater than his available technology (or luck, or logic and reason), allowing the sacred and mysterious energy to guide his actions. In doing so, Skywalker not only saves the galaxy by destroying the Death Star, but also takes a giant leap of faith into a realm of wondrous possibility. As Skywalker speeds back to the Rebel base after the battle station explodes, Kenobi speaks to the young pilot from “the beyond”, reminding Luke that “the Force will be with you, always.” Luke Skywalker, farmer-turned Rebel pilot-turned galactic hero, will always have the Force as his ally.

Yet, when we once again meet Luke in The Empire Strikes Back three years after his leap of faith and heroic deed, the young man has all but forgotten the Force is with him.

After putting his faith in the Force in A New Hope, one would anticipate that when we meet Skywalker again that he will have started to more fully develop his understanding of, and connection to, the Force. This, however, is not the case, and is actually hinted at early in The Empire Strikes Back as Luke hangs upside down in the Wampa’s lair (having been ambushed and knocked unconscious by Hoth’s apex predator). His lightsaber protruding from the snow a few feet away, Luke’s initial instinct is to desperately grab for his weapon, and only concentrates on using the Force to bring the weapon to him once he recognizes the blade is out of reach.

 

Luke Wampa Cave
Luke hangs upside down in the Wampa’s lair.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Luke’s use of the Force in this instance reminds the audience of his connection to the energy field while likewise foreshadowing the lessons he will learn when he makes his way to Dagobah in the film’s second act. After all, in the Wampa’s lair we see for the very first time that one can move objects using the Force. Later in the film, this reality will be expanded, with Luke moving boulders and the ancient Jedi Master Yoda using the Force to move Luke’s X-Wing Starfighter.

The episode in the Wampa’s lair likewise foreshadows the doubt and disconnect Luke will display, with respect to the Force, when he travels to the Dagobah system to learn from Yoda. The Force is certainly with him, but at the outset of The Empire Strikes Back it is a curious afterthought, a seemingly forgotten aspect of his being. Even after bringing the lightsaber to him in the lair, the Force seems to fade away as panic sets in, Luke maiming the Wampa and anxiously fleeing the snowy cave.

At the end of A New Hope, Luke was the victorious hero who we last saw receiving a medal for destroying the dreaded Death Star. Now, only a short way into The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker stumbles out of the Wampa’s lair, his flight response fully in control. Unsurprisingly, Luke will succumb to the harsh elements on Hoth, collapsing into the snowy Tundra. Face down in the snow (see featured image above), his body surely experiencing the effects of hypothermia, it is here and now that Obi-Wan Kenobi curiously chooses to re-appear. Calling to the (freezing) young man, Kenobi appears in astral form and commands Luke to “go to the Dagobah system” where he will learn the ways of the Force from Yoda.¬†

Crashing into a Swamp

It is Luke’s journey to Dagobah that serves as the surest example of his mystical disconnect. Consider that as Luke flies his X-Wing into the planet’s atmosphere – the very same X-Wing he piloted to destroy the Death Star! – he relies entirely on the starfighter’s technology to guide him to the planet’s surface. “All the scopes are dead. I can’t see a thing…” he exclaims as he descends into the thick, dense atmosphere/fog covering the planet. The technology at his disposal fails him, and [a panicked] Luke does not call upon the Force to serve as his guide. It is no wonder he crashes into the swamp.

Luke Crashes on Dagobah
Luke stands on the nose of his X-Wing after crashing in the swamp on Dagobah.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

In turn, what makes this scenario all the more fascinating is that Dagobah is teeming with life, and as Yoda will explain to Luke, it is life which makes the Force grow. “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter,” the elderly Master will note once young Skywalker has started his rigorous Jedi training. Luke, we know from his actions in A New Hope, already has a special connection to the Force, an ability to destroy a planet killing superweapon thanks to faith alone. Never-the-less, piloting his X-Wing to Dagobah, Luke Skywalker is incapable of navigating his way to the surface of a planet glowing with the radiance of the Force.

In the three years between the end of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker has chosen to ignore, or has simply forgotten, his connection to the Force. Or, perhaps over time he began to doubt the mysterious energy field, placing more trust in technology than on the mystical source of his power. Indeed, Luke express such doubt to Yoda – “you ask the impossible”, the young man will exclaim when given a Force-specific task – and Yoda will note that it is Luke’s doubt, his inability to believe in the possibility of the impossible, which makes him fail.

Whatever the reason for Luke’s disconnect with the Force – be it doubt, forgetfulness, ignorance, or something else entirely – from a narrative perspective it is a profound way of highlighting that even after becoming a hero one can still face incredible challenges. Luke may have relied on the Force to destroy the Death Star, but he must also face great external/internal struggle to ascend beyond a singular act of heroism to become truly heroic. In fact, The Empire Strikes Back goes to great lengths to show Luke stumbling, being knocked down, and crashing time and time again as he embarks on this new path of ascendance, towards becoming a Jedi Knight. Consider the following:

  • Luke is knocked off his Tauntaun when the Wampa attacks.
  • He falls from the ceiling of the Wampa’s lair.
  • He stumbles over a snow drift as he escapes the lair, and later falls to the ground as he walks across Hoth’s desolate tundra.
  • His Snowspeeder crashes when it is struck by a laser blast.
  • After destroying an AT-AT using his lightsaber and a thermal detonator, he unhooks his harness and falls far to the ground below.
  • Piloting his X-Wing, he crashes into the swamp on Dagobah.
  • Exiting his X-Wing, he jumps into the swampy marsh and must crawl up the muddy embankment.
  • When he is doing his first handstand during his Jedi training, moving large rocks while Yoda sits on his feet, Luke becomes distracted and falls.
  • Later, doing another handstand, suspending a number of containers and his droid R2-D2 in the air, he again becomes distracted once again.
  • As he battles Darth Vader he is knocked into the carbon-freezing chamber; he is blasted out of a window; stumbles to the ground and barely escapes Vader’s next attack; and falls, by choice, into the great abyss at the center of Cloud City after learning he is Vader’s son (presumably choosing death rather than continuing to face his father).

After falling into the abyss on Cloud City, Luke ends up literally hanging below the city on a weather vane, grasping desperately with his one hand (the other had been cut off, along with his lightsaber, by his father) for the door above him. Even here, in this desperate situation, the literal and metaphorical lowest point in his life, Luke forgets his connection to the Force, instead trying to climb to safety with his single hand. Unsurprisingly, Luke once again slips and begins to fall, this time only being saved by his legs (which catch the weather vane).¬† Just as he was hanging upside down in the Wampa’s lair at the beginning of the film, at the end of the film Luke is once again in a desperate situation hanging upside down.

Luke Weather Vane
Luke hangs upside down from a weathervane below Cloud City. Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

In a sense, this is the most appropriate metaphor for the existential situation Luke Skywalker finds himself in throughout The Empire Strikes Back – his heroic journey has quite literally been turned upside down. Where he gave himself willingly to the Force in A New Hope, placing his faith in something greater, in The Empire Strikes Back he stumbles and falls as he attempts to rekindle, and grow, in his understanding of and relationship with the Force. Eager to learn about the sacred energy field in A New Hope, Luke’s forgetfulness and doubt are why he crashes and fails in The Empire Strikes Back.

Trooping Through the Snow

This¬†month’s Star Wars ComLINKS topic is Favorite Trooper and I have to say, when it was announced¬†I got really excited but also knew that it was gonna end up being hard to narrow down which type of trooper I love. In fact, right after I read the topic on Anakin and His Angel, I jokingly told Jenmarie (who runs the site) that my choice was “all of them.” For a hot minute,¬†I actually thought about writing about all of the troopers in Star Wars, explaining my love for each one, but I decided to nix that idea because 1) I don’t have the time and 2) the topic is singular, not plural. So, I buckled down and spent some time doing reflecting and it hit me:

My Favorite Trooper in Star Wars is the Cold Weather Assault Stormtrooper, otherwise known as the Imperial Snowtrooper.

I feel like I have said this about a hundred thousand times in other posts, but my favorite Star Wars movie has always been The Empire Strikes Back. A while ago, I wrote about how my favorite creature, the Wampa, is introduced in the film, and I have also written posts on my love of the Imperial Walkers and another on my fascination with General Veers. It should really come as no surprise, then, that my favorite type of trooper in Star Wars are the unique-looking soldiers who storm into the Rebel base on the ice planet Hoth. That said, I should note that my fascination with the Snowtrooper is not superficial, a mere by-product of my enduring love of The Empire Strikes Back. Rather, it is really the other way around Рthe various facets that make up the film provide all of the reasons I love it, especially those facets dealing with the Empire. 

Snowtrooper4
A Snowtrooper fires at the Millenium Falcon.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

You see, like Senator Ransolm Casterfo in Claudia Gray’s novel Bloodline, I too have always had a fascination with the Empire. This is not to suggest I support or admire the unjust, dictatorial and genocidal tendencies¬†of Imperial rule,¬†but rather that I have always found¬†myself¬†wanting to know more about¬†the “bad guys” in Star Wars in hopes of coming to a¬†deeper understanding of how it¬†operates on every level.¬†In this regard, I have always felt that of all three films in the Original Trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back provides the most fascinating look at the Empire, although this hardly means I dislike what we learn in the other two films. Rather, The Empire Strikes Back takes the monolithic Empire from A New Hope and adds a dynamic new way of thinking about it while also maintaining its terrifying essence.

The most obvious way¬†the film does this (though not the only way) is by utilizing elements of the Imperial military first introduced in A New Hope – Star Destroyers, TIE Fighters, and Stormtroopers – while also adding to¬†the Empire’s arsenal of soldiers and weapons. Thus, we are introduced to a handful of new military assets in the film: Probe Droids, a Super Star Destroyer, TIE Bombers, All-Terrain Armored Transports (AT-AT), All-Terrain Scout Transport (AT-ST), and of course, the Snowtrooper. On the surface, these new elements visually represent the¬†breadth of the Imperial military, showing that the Empire has far more at its disposal than previously thought. However, these assets also add incredible depth to Imperial power, depth that I continue to uncover in new ways¬†each time I watch¬†The Empire Strikes Back.

At this point, I could very well go into detail about the depth I am speaking of as it relates to each military asset introduced in the film. However, since the focus of this piece is my favorite trooper in Star Wars, I will end with some thoughts on the introduction of the Snowtrooper in The Empire Strikes Back and how, as a kid, their appearance added a dynamic dimension to my understanding of the Empire.

Into the Cold

The first thing that should be said¬†about the Snowtroopers is perhaps the most obvious: their appearance in The Empire Strikes Back is very brief. The first Snowtrooper we meet is in a short scene with General Veers, the Imperial officer leading the assault on Hoth in an AT-AT. Speaking to the soldier – presumably a commander of some type – Veers states that “All troops will debark for ground assault.” Otherwise, the bulk of scenes involving the Snowtroopers take place inside the Rebel Base, the men and women¬†racing through the halls along with Darth Vader. In turn, as the Millenium Falcon attempts to escape, we see the troopers set up their weapons and begin firing at the ship, with return fire from the Falcon killing a handful of the white clad soldiers.

Snowtrooper3
A screenshot of a Snowtrooper in Star Wars Battlefront.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Battlefront (EA Dice)

Like I said, their appearance in the film is very brief. And yet, even in their brevity, the Snowtroopers left an indelible mark on me, an enduring fascination that I have never been able to shake (not that I want to). On the surface, this mark is purely aesthetic, an interest in the outfit these soldiers wear into battle. In all honesty, I have always felt that the Snowtrooper uniform is quite beautiful, an admittedly odd sentiment but one I can no more explain than the beauty I see in a flower.

But passing beyond the aesthetic, what the Snowtrooper taught me about the Empire is something far more pointed. It showed me that the Empire utilizes Stormtrooper units that are trained and equipped for certain contingencies, in this case warfare on a icy planets. Granted, we do see different types of Stormtroopers in A New Hope РSandtroopers and Spacetroopers Рbut these are all variations on the standard armor that most of these soldiers wear. The Snowtrooper, on the other hand, stands out because its armor is fundamentally different from these other Stormtrooper units. And it is this very reason, this difference in armor, that helped pry open the door to the my Imperial imagination and made me realize these were not just ordinary Stormtroopers with different armor, but an elite type of Stormtrooper with a singular military purpose.

And with that said, I leave you with a thought that has rattled around in my brain for as long as I can remember: while I absolutely love the Imperial Walkers introduced in The Empire Strikes Back, a small part of me wishes, instead, that we could have witnessed the specially trained Snowtroopers methodically capturing the Rebel trenches on Hoth as a blizzard rages around them…that would have been a hell of a sight.


This post is part of the Star Wars ComLINKS series. Check out more Star Wars ComLINKS over at Anakin and His Angel.

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Imperial Profile: General Veers

“Com-Scan has detected an energy field protecting an area of the sixth planet of the Hoth system. The field is strong enough to deflect any bombardment.” – General Veers

While he only appears in a handful of scenes in The Empire Strikes Back (ESB), General Maximilian Veers has always been one of those peripheral Star Wars characters who absolutely fascinates me. In fairness, I have a Star Warsie fascination with all of the characters in the franchise, but there are some who really stand out and captivate me, and Veers is definitely one of them. 

So what exactly is the reason for my interest in the character that Julian Glover brought to life in ESB? Well, much of it boils down to the scene in which Veers¬†informs Lord Vader that the fleet has moved out of lightspeed. Standing before Darth Vader, General Veers exudes the poise and self-confidence one would expect from an Imperial officer. ¬†There is no hesitation in his voice as he provides Vader with a situational report, his articulation crisp as he describes the “energy field protecting an area of¬†the sixth planet of the Hoth system.” While he is caught off-guard by Vader’s criticism of Admiral Ozzel, there is no sense of fear as he explains Ozzel’s decision to “surprise” the Rebels. When Veers is¬†ordered¬†to prepare his men for a surface attack, he¬†acknowledges Lord Vader as any commander would his/her superior. In short, what this exchange¬†says about General Veers is clear: he is a clear cut example of military professionalism. ¬†And this professionalism is on display as he leads¬†his elite Blizzard Force¬†into battle of the icy planet.

As I noted in a previous post – Imperial Walkers on the North Ridge – General Veers opts to march his forces¬†across an open tundra in a frontal assault, doing so without any aerial or artillery bombardment of¬†the entrenched Rebel enemy. While this tactical decision may very well defy the logic of warfare, I’ve never felt that Veers actions in the battle are brash or ill-conceived. Rather, I imagine General Veers meticulously planning the battle beforehand, choosing his strategy with care and the input of his commanders. In turn, leading from the front in his Imperial Walker – Blizzard One – he¬†can react much more quickly to the ways in which the battle might change. True, leading from the front is also a great way to get yourself killed, and we see his Walker hit by enemy fire during the fight. Yet, in the scenes where¬†we actually see¬†him throughout the Battle of Hoth, his commanding presence is apparent, a stern determination plastered on his face.¬†This is a man, a General, who knows precisely what he is doing and will see things through to the very end.¬†

General Veers
General Veers commands the ground assault against the Rebel base.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Seeing things through is precisely what General Veers does, storming across the enemy¬†positions and finally destroying the generator that powers the shield protecting the Rebel base. Of course, the moment Veers destroyed the ¬†power generator is also the final moment we see him in The Empire Strikes Back and the Star Wars canon. Naturally, given my fascination, I am¬†left wondering what became of General Veers in the wake of the battle. Surely reports of the Empire’s masterful victory over the Rebellion would quickly spread across the galaxy, ensuring that Rebel sympathizers would be disheartened and Imperial loyalists emboldened. I can imagine the general being lauded¬†for his brilliant, tactical victory and valiant “lead from the front” style of command. Granted, this may not have been the first time General Veers received sweeping, public notoriety for his actions, but a victory like the one on Hoth¬†would most definitely elevate his name among¬†the Imperial populace and position within the ranks of the Empire.¬†

Still, I highly doubt¬†General Veers would allow the public spotlight ¬†to go to his head. No,¬†the man we meet in The Empire Strikes Back does not lend himself to personal aggrandizing and building his public image. Certainly other Imperial officers and officials were the type to do just that, reveling in their accomplishments and pining for the favor of the Emperor and his Ruling Council. But Veers just feels different, and I can’t believe he would be anything but a soldier who is¬†committed to his position and duty, not his personal gain.¬†

While it is interesting to ponder the sort of notoriety General Veers received after his victory on the icy plains of Hoth, my larger question remains: what happened to him after his brief appearance in The Empire Strikes Back? Well, if the novelization of the movie¬†is to believed, any honors he may have received for his actions were posthumous since he died during the battle when a Rebel pilot crashed into the command module of his Imperial Walker. But, since the novelization doesn’t count as canon we can toss his “death” out the window.

Veers in Dark Empire II
Captain Veers contacts his superiors prior to the Battle of Balmorra.
Photo Credit – Dark Empire II, Issue #1 (“Operation Shadow Hand”)

In a bit of twist, that¬†“death” was also thrown out in the Expanded Universe (EU). Veers makes a handful of appearances in the EU, ultimately being demoted to the rank of Captain and meeting his demise¬†during the Battle of Balmorra (found in the¬†Dark Empire II series). However, in the new canon his¬†post-Hoth story has yet to unfold. Then again, we also know next to nothing about the General¬†in his pre-Battle of Hoth days. Veers does make a small appearance in the Star Wars: Commander mobile game, and¬†we also know from a handful of other sources that he is from the planet Denon, is a husband and father,¬†and had some early military successes¬†on the planets Zaloriis and Culroon III. I¬†should note, though, that these last three points about Veers were originally established in the EU and carried over to the new canon.

Other than these few details about him, the pre- and post-Hoth story about General Veers is just waiting to be told, and I really hope there is a plan to tell it. In fairness, I would be equally pleased if other Imperial officers had their stories expanded, but¬†I am entirely biased in my wish to know more about General Veers. Left to me, Veers would receive¬†a full-fledged novel that, at the very least, would dig into¬†his early military career serving in the Clone Wars, his rise through Imperial ranks, and explain what happened to him not only after¬†Hoth, but once the Empire fell. Plus, a book dedicated to¬†Veers could be similar in many ways to the novel Tarkin, providing not only deep¬†insight into the General’s motivations, but also a more¬†thorough¬†understanding of the inner-workings of the Imperial military.¬†

But since it isn’t up to me, the best I can do for now is remain hopeful that Maximilian Veers will make some further appearances in¬†the Star Wars canon. Until that happens, I will just continue enjoying his handful of scenes in The Empire Strikes Back.¬†

Imperial Walkers on the North Ridge

With the one year anniversary of The Imperial Talker coming up, I thought it’d be appropriate to do a post on Imperial Walkers (I think you know why). What follows are some general thoughts and impressions on the use of the Walkers in The Empire Strikes Back.¬†


Echo Station 3-T-8. We have spotted Imperial walkers.” – Rebel soldier

A few minutes before the Imperial Walkers make their first appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, we watch as Rebel infantry prepare for the oncoming ground assault. The musical score that plays hints at the tension these soldiers are feeling as they make their preparations and scan the distant horizon for Imperial forces. But all that can be seen in the distance are cloudy billows of snow, made, we can presume, by Imperial ships landing forces on the glacial Moorsh Moraine.

When the enemy is spotted minutes later, shortly after the first transport safely evacuates Echo Base, the tension is cut for viewer and soldier alike. Now, as we look off at the horizon, small¬†black objects can be seen, and a strange mechanical sound, albeit faint, can be heard. In a flash, the infantry prepare their weapons, taking aim while one soldier, a sergeant, places electrobinoculars up to his eyes. Transported into his eye’s, we now get our first glimpse of an Imperial Walker…or rather, of a Walker’s massive foot¬†slamming¬†down to the ground.

Walker Foot
The foot of an Imperial Walker slams to the ground.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

I have always loved this shot, the fact that the first time we see the All-Terrain Armored Transport (AT-AT) – the technical name for the Imperial Walker – we only see a solitary foot. To me, this shot of an Imperial Walker’s foot is one of the most brilliant shots¬†in all of Star Wars. The image¬†serves as a momentary metaphor, a visual statement informing us of what the Empire plans to do to the Rebels on Hoth: crush them.¬†

Having zoomed in too closely, the Rebel soldier begins to zoom out and pan up, giving us a full profile of the towering war machine the foot belongs too. In turn, as he continues to zoom out, two more Imperial Walkers come into view. Just from looking at them, one can easily tell that these massive, mechanical beasts are perfectly Imperial, each one serving as a visual reminder of the power the Empire possesses, even after the loss of the Death Star.

Battle of Hoth 3
The Rebel soldier zooms out and a number of Imperial Walkers come into view.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Added to this visual reminder¬†of the Empire’s power, though, is also the fact that these slow, cumbersome war machines are marching across an open and barren tundra.¬†In short, General Veers, the commander of the Imperial ground assault, has opted for a frontal assault against a well-fortified position, a position that has received no aerial or artillery bombardment. Logic would suggest that the Imperial force will be cut to shreds, and yet, that is far from what happens…

As the battle opens, it quickly becomes apparent the AT-AT is formidable beyond compare. As Rebel soldiers fire weapons of all types at the advancing machines, nothing happens. Luke Skywalker himself, leading a squadron of T-47 Airspeeders in the battle, exclaims the obvious early in the battle: the armor on the Walkers is too strong for blasters. Some other tactic must be used to slow the advance of these mechanical beasts.

Well, another tactic does work when the Airspeeder flown by Wedge Antilles and  his gunner Wes Janson, trip a Walker with a tow cable. However, it is also the ONLY time this particular tactic will work. Surely, other Airspeeder pilots and gunners followed suit and attempted to destroy the Walkers with tow cables, but it is clear that none were successful. And so, the Walkers continue their march towards the Rebel position, and in the process even knock Skywalker out of the fight when his Airspeeder is hit and crashes. It certainly is telling that the hero of the Rebellion, the pilot who destroyed the Death Star, is shot down during the Battle of Hoth, a clear indication that even he cannot defeat the Empire alone.

What his crash also signifies, though, is the turning point in the Battle of Hoth. Even if his crash is not the¬†tactical turning point, the collapse of Rebel defenses, in the film at least, begins after Luke is knocked out of the fight. We witness¬†this collapse first-hand as the Rebel infantry, whom we earlier watched preparing for battle, now flee their trenches, shouts of “retreat” and “fall back” echoing down the line.¬†In what I would consider to be one of the most iconic shots in all of Star Wars, we see the Imperial Walkers in the background towering over the panicked Rebel soldiers who are in the foreground (the picture is below). The image¬†helps to give us a clear understanding of just how massive these Walkers are compared to the average human, another visual reminder of the size and power of the Empire, and a clear sign that the Rebellion is much¬†smaller and far weaker than its enemy. In a sense, we already know this to be true, but it is fascinating, and chilling, to see it expressed so poignantly in this particular scene.

Battle_of_Hoth
An iconic Star Wars image: Imperial Walkers tower over the retreating Rebel infantry. Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Interestingly, immediately¬†following this iconic scene, Luke Skywalker reappears and uses some creative heroics to destroy another Imperial Walker. While his¬†action is not enough to stem the tide of the Imperial assault, we can certainly assume¬†that some of the retreating Rebels would have been emboldened by the sudden destruction of an AT-AT. Still, the deed is far too little, too late. Only after Luke’s small victory, General Veers, commanding the attack from his own Walker, will destroy the shield generator that protects the Rebel base, and the Battle of Hoth comes to an end.

Thoughts on the (One-Armed) Wampa

My Star Warsie preferences more often than not boil down to one thing: my childhood love of the franchise. This is why, for example, I am a die-hard fan of the infamous Grand Admiral Thrawn. Since I read The Thrawn Trilogy over and over as a kid, I naturally became obsessed with the strategically gifted Chiss. And, since I watched The Empire Strikes Back (ESB) far more than the other two Original Trilogy films, the characters, places, events, and creatures from ESB stuck with me. Which leads me to the wampa.

Something¬†¬†I have always appreciated about The Empire Strikes Back is how the initial tension in the film is unexpected, coming from a natural cause – an indigenous creature. With little warning other than the agitation of Luke’s tauntaun, ¬†a wampa – Hoth’s apex predator – suddenly appears, launching itself at Luke and his mount. The last time we saw Luke, at the end of A New Hope, he was receiving a medal for heroically destroying the Death Star, but within the first few minutes of The Empire Strikes Back, our hero is incapacitated and being dragged away by a massive snow beast. Absolutely brilliant!!! ¬†The use of the wampa at the outset of ESB is a perfect reminder that the galaxy far, far away, while exotic and exciting, is also exceedingly dangerous. Not even our heroes can prepare for every eventuality and danger that may be lurking, and Luke was certainly unprepared for this ambush.

Wampa 2
The wampa attacks, knocking Luke off of his tauntaun.

Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

But the¬†wampa deserves a lot of credit. Luke may have been caught unaware, but so was¬†his tauntaun, which doesn’t see or smell the predator¬†until it’s already too late.¬†Sneaking up on Luke is one thing but the tauntaun is a different matter. Remember, the tauntaun is¬†native to the ice planet, and are natural prey for wampas. Certainly these snowlizards have evolved¬†defensive mechanisms such as their sense of smell to warn ¬†them of danger, especially¬†important since the wampa’s pristine, white coat camouflages it in the snow.¬†The fact that the tauntaun is caught unaware is proof that the wampa is not to be trifled with, a clear testament to the keen hunting skills of these monstrous beasts.¬†

I can imagine the wampa¬†stalking the tauntaun, and the strange¬†“thing” on top of it,¬†with incredible stealth, moving closer and closer to its prey. As it moves closer, the wampa observes the body language of the tauntaun and listens the sounds it’s making,¬†gauging whether the snowlizard is aware of impending danger.¬†Realizing that its prey¬†has not caught wind of danger, the wampa sets itself up for a strike, attacking while the¬†tauntaun and the “thing” idle¬†on the open tundra.¬†The ambush complete, the wampa drags the spoils of its victory through the snow, back to its cave.

The Wampa Cave

Wampa
The Wampa hears Luke and moves towards him.

Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

When we see Luke again, after being dragged away, he is hanging upside down inside the cave the wampa calls home. At the same time, off in the distance, we can also hear the wampa and the tauntaun, the former letting out a bloodcurdling howl while the latter cries out in terror and pain. But¬†we don’t just hear the wampa, we also see it feasting, ripping into the limb of (I presume) Luke’s still living tauntaun. Disturbing but pretty cool, especially since we see blood and drool dripping down its pristine white fur. Plus, watching¬†the wampa eat – which was not added until the Special Edition of ESB was released in the 90s – also provides¬†perspective, allowing us to witness¬†how massive and deadly this creature truly is. When the wampa becomes aware that its other captured prey is attempting to escape, and it begins moving to intervene,¬†this new perspective on the wampas size should make us thankful that Luke has his father’s old lightsaber. Or let me say it like this: I’m not entirely sure a blaster would have helped Luke survive.

Yet, survive the encounter Luke does. Freeing himself in the nick of time, Luke is able to awkwardly wield the lightsaber and slice off the wampa’s right arm, causing it to let out a cry of pain and agony. Honestly, I have always felt a feeling of remorse for the wampa in that moment. Its capture of Luke was nothing personal, just survival,¬†a matter of securing a meal. The wampa would hardly starve if it allowed Luke to escape, but why WOULD it let him escape? When it attacks Luke the second time, it certainly isn’t thinking this “thing” will fight back – does anything, other than another wampa, ever fight back? Of course not, but in this case its prey happens to do just that, and as a result the wampa suffers.

Wampa in Pain
The wampa cries out in pain after it is wounded.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

It’s easy to forget that as Luke flees the cave, scrambling his way into the windswept¬†tundra of Hoth, the now one-armed wampa remains behind. At that point, the wampa simply falls out of our minds as the events of the film unfold. However, I can’t help but¬†wonder what happened to it after Luke fled, and I bet I’m not the only one. To be fair, the Expanded Universe novel¬†Darksaber, set many years after ESB, involves Luke heading back to Hoth where he re-encounters the wampa¬†he maimed years before. I won’t go into all the details about this particular meeting, but will say that I never really cared for Darksaber. Still, you should check out the book if you’re curious about Luke’s (non-canonical) second run-in with the beast.

Of course, I do think it reasonable to believe the wampa survived its vicious wound. Chances are it would have needed to change its hunting techniques, but I think our one-armed friend could handle the task. Granted, if the wound did cause its eventual downfall, it would probably be due to a run in with another wampa or perhaps poachers. Still, until I find out otherwise, until some new and official story establishes the death of the one-armed wampa, I’m just gonna keep believing¬†it’s still out there, roaming the cold, windswept plains of Hoth.


This post is part of the Star Wars ComLINKS series. Check out more Star Wars ComLINKS over at Anakin and His Angel.

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