Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

Meanwhile, on the Death Star, the Grand Moff Tarkin is told that Princess Leia lied about the location of the Rebel forces' base. Vader suspected that the Princess would be deceitful: "I told you she would never consciously betray the Rebellion." Surprised and angered, Tarkin orders: "Terminate her immediately!"

To de-accelerate and resume normal speed when approaching Alderaan's location, the Millennium Falcon comes out of hyperspace. The ship enters into an unchartered meteor shower or asteroid collision: "It's not on any of the charts." Han is startled that Alderaan no longer exists while they dodge asteroids: "Our position's correct except no Alderaan...It ain't there. It's been totally blown away." Ben knows the cause of Alderaan's fate, realizing that the meteor shower is all that is left of Alderaan: " the Empire." When a short-range Imperial fighter roars past and away from them toward a distant planet/moon, the Falcon pursues after it. As both ships near the planetoid, Ben gasps at the sight of the "moon": "That's no moon...It's a space station." Han disagrees: "It's too big to be a space station."

When Luke views it for the first time, he is dismayed: "I have a very bad feeling about this." The "moon" is a space station - the giant Death Star battle station, the size of a small planet. Although Han attempts to turn them around with auxiliary power, they are drawn, pulled, and helplessly sucked into the huge Death Star by its tractor beam, as Han persists: "They're not going to get me without a fight." Wise Ben suggests another way: "Can't win, but there are alternatives to fighting."

Tarkin is notified that the markings of the freighter match the ship that had escaped from Mos Eisley toward the remains of the Alderaan system. Vader guesses what their motives were: "They must be trying to return the stolen plans to the Princess. She may yet be of some use to us." Imperial troopers who have boarded the Millennium Falcon cannot locate any crew on board. (Han recorded in the log that they had jettisoned in escape pods shortly after takeoff from Mos Eisely.) Vader orders a scan to check the entire ship. He is suspicious when he perceives the presence of his old master and the Force, thinking to himself: "I sense something, a presence I've not felt since..." Darth Vader turns and walks away.

Inside the ship, Han has cleverly avoided detection by hiding everyone in the secret smuggling holds. The doors of the hold are lifted up and out pops Han: "I never thought I'd be smuggling myself in them. This is ridiculous. Even if I could take off, I'd never get past the tractor beam." Ben promises that he has a plan to disengage the beam: "Leave that to me." Two stormtrooper guards and a scanning crew who enter the ship with scanning equipment are ambushed and overpowered (off-screen). Han and Luke disguise themselves by wearing the uniforms of the Imperial troopers. In the command station's control room, an Imperial security officer receives no answer when he summons the soldiers guarding the spaceship. While looking down from the control room's window toward the craft, he sees one of the white-armored Imperial guards (Han in disguise) exiting down the craft's ramp, complaining about a malfunctioning helmet. The officer opens the door of the command area to investigate what he believes is one stormtrooper's bad transmitter and is knocked cold by Chewbacca's fist.

After taking charge of the command station control room, R2-D2 plugs into the Death Star's computer terminal to gain access to the entire Imperial network. When the schematics of the main controls to the power beam that holds their ship are located, Ben knows that he must deactivate them: "I don't think you boys can help. I must go alone." Although Luke wants to join him, Ben wants to seek out his former protege, now arch-enemy Darth Vader, leaving Luke to look after the safe delivery of the droids who have the Death Star design plans, instructing:

Your destiny lies along a different path from mine. The Force will be with you, always.

Still plugged into the Death Star's main computer system, R2-D2 locates the precise area of the Princess' detention block where she is held. Luke uses a monetary incentive to encourage the mercenary Solo to join him in rescuing the Princess from termination: "She's, powerful. Listen, if you were to rescue her, the reward would be...more than you can imagine." Han smirks: "I don't know. I can imagine quite a bit." Although Chewbacca objects, Luke has a plan: they will pretend to be stormtroopers who are taking Chewbacca as a captive bound prisoner on a prisoner transfer through the halls of the Death Star to the incarceration levels. The droids are left behind in the control room.

The two, dressed in Imperial white-armor with Chewbacca in between as their prisoner, walk down a number of hallways, along the way confronting a small, rodent-like robot on the floor. Chewbacca roars gently, causing it to scurry away. When they reach the cell block detention center by elevator, the Imperial jailer insults their captive: "Where are you taking this thing?" When one of the other guards approaches, an angry and insulted Chewbacca snaps the binders on his wrists and grabs a laser rifle, and they all blast the jailers in a fierce gun battle at the detention block entrance. The monitors and controls of the guard desk are also blown away.

After gaining entrance to the cells, Luke rushes down a corridor to the Princess' cell. Han fails to deceive other security officers over the intercom system, frustratingly blowing apart the entire system. When Princess Leia sees Luke in her cell disguised as an imperial stormtrooper, she asks: "Aren't you a little short for a storm trooper?" He removes his helmet to identify and introduce himself: "I'm Luke Skywalker. I'm here to rescue you." She believes his story when he tells her he has come with her R2 unit and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

In the Death Star's command center, Darth Vader, with his superior powers of ESP, now senses and understands the sensation he had felt earlier - the presence of Kenobi: "He (Obi-Wan Kenobi) is here...A tremor in the Force. The last time I felt it was in the presence of my old master...Don't underestimate the Force..." Vader and Tarkin are informed of the cell block disturbance involving the Princess's escape. Tarkin orders his officers to: "Put all sections on alert!" Vader's sensations are confirmed: "Obi-Wan is here. The Force is with him." When Tarkin assures him that Kenobi will never be able to escape, Vader replies: "Escape is not his plan. I must face him. Alone."

Squads of Imperial stormtrooper forces pursue Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie down a smoke-filled corridor filled with laser fire. The Princess isn't impressed by her saviors, disgusted that they didn't have a clear escape plan or route: "This is some rescue!...You came in here. Do you have a plan for getting out?" During their escape, Han snaps back: "These are the breaks, sweetheart!" Princess Leia blasts a hole with Luke's blaster in the ventilation shaft and suggests an escape route: "Into the garbage chute, flyboy!" After holding off the troops as long as possible, they all dive into the hole, landing in a locked room filled with garbage and slimy water. A laser blast directed at the door dangerously richocets off all the walls, nearly killing them.

Suddenly, a loud, low roar is heard under the water beneath them. Fearing that something is alive in there, they see a snake-like creature swimming through the water. It pops its single eye out of the water like a periscope. Luke finds a thick tentacle wrapping itself around his legs before he is pulled under the muck, and then threatened by the jaws of an all-consuming monster. Luke splashes to the surface, narrowly avoiding drowning and then is pulled under a second time. After being released, Luke surfaces again just as the compressing walls of the garbage crusher move threateningly closer. Han paraphrases Luke's earlier words: "I got a bad feeling about this." They prop metal pipes and beams between the walls to prevent them from moving toward them, but they snap and fail. Han light-heartedly jokes: "One thing's for sure. We're all going to be a lot thinner."

Communicating remotely with C-3PO and R2-D2 through a communications device, Luke is able to command R2-D2 to plug into the main computer through a socket located on the landing near the Millenium. Luke commands them to shut down all the garbage smashers on the detention level. Hearing shouts and shrieks of joy when the garbage compactors are turned off, C-3PO mistakenly thinks they have been crushed to death: "Listen to them! They're dying R2. Curse my metal body. I wasn't fast enough. It's all my fault. My poor master." Then, when told they are safe, the garbage maintenance hatches on their level are opened to release them.

Calmly moving through the corridors of the Death Star, Ben silently reaches the tractor beam controls, situated over a deep trench. He sabotages the controls by shutting down the power beam and deactivating the tractor beam which holds their ship. Luke and Han remove their stormtrooper disguises. A chauvinistic Han is unhappy with the Princess's assertion of control and advice:

Han: If we just avoid any more female advice, we ought to be able to get out of here.
Princess: ...I don't know who you are or where you came from, but from now on, you do as I tell you. OK?
Han: Look! Your Worshipfulness! Let's get one thing straight. I take orders from just one person. Me.
Princess: It's a wonder you're still alive. Will somebody get this big walking carpet (Chewbacca) out of my way?
Han: No reward is worth this.

When the Princess first views the Falcon spaceship, she marvels at the contraption: "You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought." When they turn a corner, they confront another squad of stormtroopers. Han charges into them with Chewbacca behind him, blasting away with their laser guns. Luke and the Princess go in a different direction, fleeing down another hallway where Luke nearly falls off the dead-end ledge of the floor down into a deep shaft, exclaiming: "I think we took a wrong turn." They are trapped at the dead end, pursued from behind by troopers. Luke blasts the door's controls so that the door is stuck in a shut position. With a grappling hook and a cable from his belt, he secures the line on a metal beam high above. As she wraps her arms around his waist and kisses him "for luck" on the cheek, they both successfully swing across the void.

In one of the Death Star's abandoned hallways, Vader steps from the dark shadows to confront Obi-Wan, his former master. The two mortal enemies face each other with laser lightsabers/swords after Vader has greeted his foe. During a fantastic dueling scene with Kenobi's blue and Vader's red laser beams humming and hissing as they strike, the opponents taunt each other:

Vader: I've been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master.
Obi-Wan: Only a master of evil, Darth.
Vader: Your powers are weak, old man.
Obi-Wan: You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine...
Vader: You should not have come back.

During their confrontational laser duel to the death, Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, and the droids all reach the Millennium Falcon. Luke notices Ben locked in a dueling combat and cries out: "Ben?" A smile crosses the wise old Jedi's face, he lowers his sword, holds it straight up as if in prayer, while Vader is allowed to strike him in half. His brown robe crumples onto the floor as his body vanishes from inside. Luke cries out in anguish when the death blow is struck. Sacrificing himself for his escaping comrades, Ben diverts attention from the rest of the Falcon group and everyone (except Luke) successfully reaches the safety of the ship. Ben's death also releases the Force from his body and it travels to his companions. Moments later, Luke hears Ben's voice, telling him to leave the fight and join his comrades on the ship: "Run Luke, run."

Solo pilots their ship, starts the engines, and makes their escape from the Death Star in his beat-up space ship, unlocked from the tractor beam. Luke is deeply saddened and grieved by Ben's death: "Can't believe he's gone." The droids and Princess Leia comfort him: "There wasn't anything you could have done." But they have no time to mourn - they must defend themselves, engaging in a vicious dogfight with pursuing Imperial spacefighters. Han alerts everyone: "We're not out of this yet." Han and Luke take the freighter's turret guns to prepare to fight. During the vicious battle scene, R2-D2 extinguishes a fire which has started on board. Solo congratulates but cautions Luke after he successfully shoots down the first Imperial fighter: "Great kid. Don't get cocky." Han then hits a second fighter, and finally, they evade and shoot down two other fighters, causing them to burst into balls of white flames.

As Tarkin and Vader watch the Millennium Falcon escape into hyperspace, they divulge their plan. Tarkin asks Vader: "You're sure the homing beacon is secure aboard their ship? I'm taking an awful risk, Vader. This had better work." Han boasts about their escape by congratulating himself. Princess Leia senses their escape was easy because they were deliberately let go. She thinks they are being tracked, but Han doesn't believe her. Princess Leia hopes that R2's technical readouts of the Death Star battle station will provide them with key information about its flaws. The mercenary-minded Han announces to the Princess that his job is finished. Jokingly, Han asks Luke if there is any chance that the Princess would fall for someone like him:

Han: Not a bad bit of rescuing, huh? You know, sometimes I amaze even myself.
Leia: That doesn't sound too hard. They let us go. It's the only explanation for the ease of our escape.
Han: Easy, you call that easy?!
Leia: They're tracking us.
Han: Not this ship, sister.
Leia: At least the information in R2 is still intact.
Han: What's so important? What's he carrying?
Leia: The technical read-outs of that battle station. I only hope that when the data's analyzed, a weakness can be found. It's not over yet.
Han: It is (over) for me, sister. Look, I ain't in this for your revolution and I'm not in it for you, Princess. I expect to be well paid. I'm in it for the money.
Princess: You needn't worry about your reward. If money is all that you love, then that's what you'll receive. (To Luke) Your friend is quite a mercenary. I wonder if he really cares about anything - or anybody. (She turns and leaves.)
Luke: I care. (To Han, as he slips in the seat next to him.) So, what do you think of her, Han?
Han: I'm tryin' not to, kid.
Luke: Good.
Han: Still, she's got a lot of spirit. I don't know. What do you think? You think a Princess and a guy like me...
Luke: (interrupting with a quick response) NO!

They are guided to land on the secret Rebel base on the far side of the 4th moon of a small planet named Yavin. There, the base is hidden in an ancient temple protected by a thick green jungle. After they land inside the Rebel base, the Alliance leaders in the Rebel War Room extract and study the Death Star technical readouts and blueprint data from R2-D2's computer data banks, discovering all the inner workings of the battle station. In their plan of attack explained by the Rebel commander to a small group of Rebel fighters which includes Luke, the pilots are briefed on the one vulnerable Achilles' heel "weakness" - a long, narrow shaft at the center. If penetrated, entered by a small one-man fighter after a difficult approach, and struck in a direct hit with a proton torpedo, it will explode the entire leviathan in a lethal chain reaction. The squadron fliers are told by General Dodonna (Alex McCrindle):

The approach will not be easy. You're required to maneuver straight down this trench, and skim the surface to this point. The target area is only 2 meters wide. It's a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system. A precise hit will start a chain reaction which should destroy the station. Only a precise hit will set up a chain reaction. The shaft is ray-shielded, so you'll have to use proton torpedoes.

Although most of the pilots look at each other in disbelief, Luke is confident that it is not impossible: "I used to bull's-eye womp rats in my T-16 back home. They're not much bigger than 2 meters." The squad of fighter pilots is told: "Then man your ships, and may the Force be with you." Meanwhile, the Death Star approaches and soon will be within firing range of the planet - Vader contemplates the final end to the Rebels: "It'll be a day long remembered. It's seen the end of Ben Kenobi. It'll soon see the end of the rebellion."

In the hangar after collecting rewards, Han and Chewie load crates onto the Falcon to prepare to leave. Han refuses to be a part of what he considers a foolish and suicidal mission: "What good is a reward if you ain't around to use it? Besides, attacking that battle station ain't my idea of courage. It's more like suicide." But as he departs, Han Solo says goodbye to Luke with: "May the Force be with you." Chewie growls softly at Han as Luke walks away. Han talks back: "What're you lookin' at? I know what I'm doing."

Now that Han has decided to desert him and Ben is dead, Luke, who is willing to sacrifice his life to save the Rebels, is upset about his chances of success. Princess Leia tenderly kisses him on the cheek to encourage him. Luke slips into his X-wing fighter's cockpit as part of the Red Group squadron, refusing a replacement droid for R2: "Not on your life. That little droid and I have been through a lot together." C-3PO expresses his concern for his pal as well: "Hang in tight. You've got to come back. You wouldn't want my life to be boring, would you?"

When the fighter planes and pilots are ready for take off, Luke hears Ben's spirit speaking to him: "Luke, the Force will be with you." The Death Star approaches within 15 minutes range of the Rebel base after the rebel squadron has left.

Pilots in the Red and Gold Groups report in to their wing commanders, who then guide their fighters into attack formation at attack speed against the Death Star. Luke signals his approach: "This is Red Five. I'm going in." As he attacks a target, a large plume of explosive gas almost envelopes his fighter, but he escapes a fiery death and reports back: "I got a little cooked, but I'm ok." Because the fighters are small and quick-moving, they are difficult and evasive targets for the Imperial turbolaser defenses and blaster cannons. Vader orders Imperial crews to their enemy fighters: "We'll have to destroy them ship to ship. Get the crews to their fighters."

Now there are only seven minutes until the Rebel ships are within firing range of the Death Star, and time is running out before the rebel planet is destroyed by Vader's Death Ray. As the Rebel fighters plunge toward the Death Star's surface to enter the trench and reach the target area, Luke hears Ben's advice inside his helmet: "Luke, trust your feeling." The engines of the Imperial fighters screech into range as they enter into the impressively choreographed space battle/attack. Most of the Rebel fighters are shot out of the sky by Imperial fighters, but Vader is concerned about a few of the most daring fighters who appear to be attacking into the trench.

Vader takes two soldiers away with him and personally joins the fight in his own fighter: "Several fighters have broken off from the main group. Come with me." Luke is attacked from behind, but saved when another Rebel fighter comes to his aid. The Rebel fighters of the Gold Group attack down the open trench corridor, the canyon-like, sub-level entrance way to their vulnerable target. But one by one, as they rely on their computerized targeting units, Darth Vader and his Imperial fighters drop in behind them and destroy them. There are only five minutes until the Death Star will be in range of the Rebel base.

During the heated battle, Tarkin is warned by one of his officers of the potential danger of the Rebel attack pattern: "We've analyzed their attack, sir, and there is a danger. Should I have your ship standing by?" Tarkin believes an escape plan is unnecessary: "Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances!" "Three minutes and closing" is heard from the computer graphic showing the emergence of the planet. More of the Rebel fighters of the Red Group (Luke's group) enter the Dogfight Alley trench, but two fighters are blown up like the others before them. When the third commander views the target in his computer, he reports: "Almost there." But when he fires his torpedos at the target, they explode harmlessly on the surface, not entering into the exhaust port to do the ultimate damage. Vader destroys the courageous commander's fighter as it pulls away.

After two unsuccessful attempts to reach their objective, Luke is the last hope of the Rebels. With only one minute remaining, Darth Vader has eliminated his other two wingmen in their trench approaches. Luke "the leader" is the only hope left. He enters the deadly trench guiding the last of the Rebel ships in an attack run, telling his support: "It'll be just like Beggar's Canyon back home." Just as he too is about to be eliminated by Vader while speeding down the narrow corridor, he hears Ben's familiar voice re-assuring him:

Use the Force, Luke. Let go... Luke, trust me.

Vader senses the strength of Luke's Force: "The Force is strong with this one." Relying on the Force, Luke switches off his targeting computer, using his own intuition instead. Vader approaches closer and shoots a blast, hitting R2-D2 and knocking him out of commission. At that same moment, the Death Star views the Rebel planet within striking distance and commences firing ignition. Darth Vader eagerly views his target, with Luke's fighter in his sights: "I have you now!"

Providing surprise backup support in their battered freighter, roguish Han Solo and Chewbacca unexpectedly reappear to defend Luke just as Darth Vader is preparing to destroy his Rebel fighter. Solo screams: "Yahoo!" and blasts away at the Imperial fighters from behind. Vader's fighter craft is clipped by one of his own fighters, causing him to hurtle wildly out of control into deep space. Han assures him to continue: "You're all clear, kid. Now let's blow this thing and go home."

In the exciting conclusion, Luke moves toward the target area and fires his two proton torpedoes at exactly the right instant with a well-placed shot into the shaft. Han, Luke, and the remaining Rebel fighters swiftly fly away from the Death Star. Instead of the Rebel planet exploding, the Death Star flashes and explodes in a destructive shower of white, killing the evil forces. Han praises him over his speaker: "Great shot, kid. That was one in a million." Ben makes a final spiritual appearance to Luke, telling him:

Remember, the Force will be with you, always.

Luke in his Red Five and Han and Chewie in their Falcon, among the few remaining Rebel fighters to survive, return to the safety of the Rebel base. There in front of a cheering crowd, Luke hugs the Princess and spins her around. Han arrives and explains his turnabout: "Well, I wasn't gonna let you get all the credit and take all the rewards." She acknowledges his good deed: "I knew it was more to you than money." R2-D2, damaged during the final trench assault, is badly in need of repair and C-3PO is desperately concerned to help: "If any of my circuits or gears will help, I'd gladly donate them."

During an elaborate and triumphant celebration held later in the main temple, hundreds of Rebel troops are lined up to mark the victory. [This final sequence recalls both The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Triumph of the Will (1935, Germ.).] At the far end is the white-robed beautiful Princess Leia on a stage. The heroes march down the aisle and are each decorated and honored with golden medallions for their bravery by the Princess, for the triumph of good over evil - and the birth of New Hope. Then, the heroes turn and face the assembled troops who bow before them.

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