Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Battle of Hoth

Wired has a series of articles on Star Wars including a detailed look at the Battle of Hoth which takes place in the first part of the second movie (officially labeled the 5th movie) The Empire Strikes Back. Wired has lots of criticism about every facet of the battle. A lot of it is unjustified if you make one assumption - Darth Vader was not there to destroy the Rebel Alliance, he was there to capture Luke.

Before I look at Vader's side I want to spend a moment defending the Alliance. Wired comes down hard on them but they were poorly-equipped. They had to make do with whatever they could get their hands on. So their first line of defense was to hide on an obscure planet. Their only backup was a force field that would give them enough time to evacuate if discovered. even then the, force field had to be dropped long enough for ships to get through so they had to accompany this with fire from an ion cannon. Sub-optimal but it actually worked.

On to Vader.

Wired's first complaint is that the Imperial fleet came out of hyperspace too far away to surprise the rebels. Maybe, or maybe they didn't have any choice. There is a good chance that gravity wells (planets) disrupt travel through hyperspace so they had to keep their distance. Han alluded to that in the first (4th?) movie.

Once there, Vader's forces found the force field waiting for them so they landed a ground force to take care of it. This force suffered heavy losses - 2 walkers lost out of four or five but accomplished its mission. Given Vader's disregard for his own men, this is in character.

While the ground assault was going on, Vader seemed uninterested in the rebel fleet passing by him. Why? Because he could sense that Luke was still on the planet and Luke was the real objective. That is why Vader led the assault personally instead of blasting everything from space.

As it turned out, Luke was one of the last off of the planet but he was also in a tiny, hard-to-detect ship.

So Vader turned his interest on the Millennium Falcon. Why? There are two possibilities. One is that he sensed Leia. She was his daughter. He might have mistaken her for Luke, at least for a while.

More likely is that he had a vision in which the occupants of the Falcon would lead him to Luke. Luke had a similar vision of Han and Leia.

At some point between the first and second movies Vader realized that Luke was his son. It was mentioned in one of the prequels that there are only two Siths at a time so Vader must have been planning to turn Luke and overthrow the Emperor. At the same time, the Emperor must have been planning the same for Vader. Maybe it was the Emperor who realized who Luke was and sent Vader after Luke. Regardless, the driving point of the movie was Vader's pursuit of Han and Leia which he knew would bring Luke to him. If you keep this in mind then the battle of Hoth seems quite reasonable.

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