Star Wars Icons: The Imperial Star Destroyer
A Guest Blog by Amy Richau
If you ask a Star Wars fan what their favorite vehicle is the vast majority of people would probably answer the Millennium Falcon. How could you not choose Han Solo’s bucket of bolts that can do the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs even while it’s falling apart in the process? Luke Skywalker’s X-wing fighter or Boba Fett’s Slave 1 ship would surely also get a few votes, but it’s the Imperial Star Destroyer that stole the show in the second teaser for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. And in one instance, it’s not even operational.
To understand why the image of a downed Star Destroyer makes a Star Wars fan’s heart skip a beat you have to go back to the original trilogy. In Episodes IV, V, and VI the Star Destroyer was awe-inspiring, a source of humor, and the sign of a falling giant. The Star Destroyer was also the symbol of Imperial dominance and arrogance which explains why seeing remnants of one buried in the desert is a delight for every fan of the Rebellion.
In the very first sequence in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, viewers see a small Alderaanian cruiser being slowly pursued by an Imperial Star Destroyer. While this scene would be nothing special in a movie released today, the enormity of the Star Destroyer on the big screen was unprecedented at that time. Audiences had never seen anything as spectacular as a closeup of the underside of this Star Destroyer that appeared to go on forever. That slow speed pursuit was also the perfect visual representation of the Rebels uphill battle against a much larger foe.
The Star Destroyer managed to provide a bit of humor in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, the darkest of the original films. The Empire had the Rebels on the run throughout the whole film, but the Star Destroyers enormous size was more of a liability than an asset. The Star Destroyers were still intimidating, but overall impotent against the Rebellion.
In the opening Hoth section of The Empire Strikes Back, a few rebel fighters fly right by the Star Destroyers after a few measly shots from the Hoth ion cannon appear to stun them. Later on, a few quick evasive moves from Han Solo piloting the Millennium Falcon is all it takes to get three Star Destroyers to almost run into one another. The Star Destroyers are not very helpful navigating an asteroid field, and there is a notable lack of job security piloting one of these bad boys.
The Star Destroyers play the role of the sleeping giant in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. There are more Star Destroyers at the Emperor’s disposal than ever before in the space battle over Endor, but they are again all bark with no bite. After the Rebels discover the Death Star’s shield is still up, they change course only to find a wall of Star Destroyers behind them. However, instead of opening fire on the Rebels, which might have destroyed the small fleet in a matter of minutes, the Star Destroyers take no action. The ships assume the role of bully on the playground, keeping the rebel fleet from going anywhere while the Death Star starts picking off rebel ships.
This show of arrogance from the Empire helps lead to their demise after the shield is finally taken down by the rebels on Endor. As Lando and Wedge fly into the Death Star, Admiral Ackbar tells his fellow Rebels to concentrate all of their firepower on the Super Star Destroyer. When the largest of the Destroyers falls no one looks more surprised (and relieved) than Admiral Ackbar himself. The giant is actually falling. Seeing the Star Destroyer crash is almost as satisfying to viewers as the destruction of the Death Star a few minutes later.
All of this leads back to the second teaser for The Force Awakens which includes a shot of a downed Star Destroyer in the desert. The ship, which is such a visual source of dominance in space, looks more like a ruin of a lost civilization when buried in the ground. Later on in the same teaser we see a brief shot of what looks to be a functioning Star Destroyer in space. The change in the new films is that there is now a history of defeating the giant, where before the Star Destroyers appeared virtually indestructible. It’s impossible to say what role these ships will play in The Force Awakens, but it sure will be fun finding out.
You can contact Amy on Twitter @amyrichau.