Now the emperor dismisses this, saying that they are safe from the attack (how would Luke even know if he’s telling the truth here?), commands an attack from a button on his large chair that can spin (did Vader’s chair even do this in Empire?), and the DS II starts blowing up… a few large ships. Not everyone, just a few large ships. Wait, the rebels are in a trap with the Empire’s fleet. So, the emperor says that ALL THE REBELS will die. However, from what I remember, the rebels could actually leave, but they were staying around to wait for the rebels to break down the shield barrier on Endor “We’ve gotta give them more time!- Lando”. So, they really weren’t being destroyed entirely- they could just leave (with some casualties) if push came to shove.
This is a good point.
So, Luke decides to defend himself, but the emperor causes him to doubt and says that it’s inevitable, which causes Luke to finally cave in, despite initially having the confidence that ANYTHING that they did here was pointless because THEY WERE ALL going to die.
Why is this inconsistent? He believed that the rebels were going to win but Palpatine has revealed that it was all a trap and the rebels have no chance, so Luke’s confident mindset has been destroyed.
Also, it’s weird that Luke doesn’t believe that the emperor’s lying to him and that he’s witnessing that destruction happening quickly in outer space. Luke’s usually skeptical of other claims- Luke’s destiny being with Vader and the revelation scene with Vader. While he denies that the emperor would convert him, I am surprised that an emotional conflict [death of the rebels] doesn’t come with more doubt or skepticism from Luke.
Palpatine correctly reveals that he knows the rebels plan and shows Luke that the Death Star is operational, how could this be a lie?
Then, Luke tries to kill the emperor [the smart thing because the Emperor sent a command to kill the rebels, in doing so, he is preventing more deaths from occurring], and this is blocked by Vader because the fight is pre-arranged. Apparently, according to The Making of ROTJ book, the emperor would have struck Luke down if Vader hadn’t moved. This begs the question though, how is Luke even a threat to the Emperor (which is why the Emperor was afraid of him in Empire and wanted him as an ally- to prevent himself from being destroyed by Luke) if the Emperor would have struck him down, anyway? And then, the Emperor would have been angry with Vader.
It is not made clear in this film or in ESB whether Palpatine sees Luke as a threat in the here-and-now or if he fears that Luke will become more powerful later on. Perhaps this is a problem but it never really bothered me.
Then, we have Luke going into his stoic (insane) mode where he proclaims his view [or delusion, since his desire to save Vader is only present in Return. He gave no indication of it in Empire, and he didn’t have a conflict over killing his father or not.] that Vader is good still, which is besides the point; Vader can be both incredibly bad AND good. The horror lies in what Vader has already accomplished (killing most of the Jedi, some of the rebels, Biggs, torturing Han and Leia, etc.).
Luke did not know that Vader was his father until the end of Empire (when he was in no position to kill or save him) and this isn’t confirmed by Yoda until this film. It seems pretty obvious to me that Luke, having been conflicted since the end of ESB, decides in this film to save his father. It’s called character development. As for Vader, yes he’s done horrible things but Luke senses in him a potential for redemption.
Then, Vader and Luke try to seek each other out. Luke trying to keep his emotions in check is ridiculous, if I must be the first person to say this. In Empire, he didn’t care about his feelings, besides avoiding to hate, and he did so maturely by focusing on the right thing- defending his friends. Honestly, it makes Luke look juvenile when he’s supposed to be a man in this film to have him hiding in the background trying to suppress his feelings. Who cares, honestly?
Then Vader gives Luke a reason to hate, except that this reason is actually poor- it’s Leia may somehow turn to the dark side. Not- “I killed your best friend. I killed the rebels. I tortured Han and Leia. I indirectly killed your aunt and uncle. I killed Obi-wan.”. It’s a vague reason, and the only reason that Luke cares is because he believed that Leia was the only hope for the rebels, even though they could have found someone else who was force-sensitive or else to connect with the force. Even in Final Fantasy XII, where there’s a similar scene, it’s revealing that a death occurred from a specific person.
The point here is that Vader is using Luke’s loyalty to his friends against him.
So, Luke looses it, complete with hell imagery from the red lights on the elevator shaft. Luke’s going dark? Okay. I guess we go all in with this, even though Luke threw himself off of a pillar in Empire to prevent himself from joining Vader and the dark side.
These are two different situations so Luke reacts differently to each one.
Also, Luke tosses his lightsaber away, instead of keeping it, because… he was warned by Yoda to beware of the Emperor’s abilities? Also, did Luke not realize that the Emperor could use/sense the force by knowing his emotions?
In addition, Luke’s tense breathing here indicates danger, so Luke KNOWS that he is doing something risky. Why not keep the lightsaber for safety? Is Luke intending to die here? What is going on?
As you yourself pointed out, Luke went into this confrontation prepared to die as long as he could save his father. Safety it not his concern and his lightsaber, at this point, represents a temptation to strike out in anger.
Then, the Emperor shocks Luke because Luke is a punk (young fool), apparently, and young fools who defy the Emperor must die. If Luke isn’t that powerful (by rejecting the dark side) why kill Luke, though? Couldn’t you just leave the guy alone? If he’s of not much help by not being of the dark side according to your perspective, why even kill him? If you were confident in DS II destroying ALL OF THE REBEL ALLIANCE, why is Luke even a concern to you?
I think the Emperor is just being sadistic at this point and, again, I assume that he view Luke as a potential future threat.
Then, Luke begs for Vader to save him (ala begging Obi-wan to save him in Empire). Luke, you made your stand to defy the Emperor, you threw away your lightsaber, did you not expect the Emperor to retaliate or at least send in some guards to hurt you? Why even make your stand (to die) if you’re going to beg Vader to save you?
Luke’s whole motivation in this scene is to save his fathers soul. It’s why he gave himself up in the first place.
The general lack of emotion from Hamill in the bridge scene (with a questionable reliance on head nodding and shaking to convey non-verbal meaning) is hard for the audience to emphasize with. When David Prowse is doing a better job emoting in the Darth Vader suit than Hamill, something is off.
The lack of emotion is intentional because Luke is trying to suppress his emotions. The dark side is all about giving in to your emotions so it makes sense that Vader is more expressive.
Luke acting actively by challenging Vader through generally emotionless gestures and cold, indifferent words likely to “punish” Vader (“Then, my father is truly dead.”) is rather inconsistent with Empire’s ending where Luke was scared by Vader nearly killing him and his emotions at the end- denial- fear, horror, acknowledgement of Vader’s relationship with him. Luke was trying to get away from Vader at the end, when Vader cut off his hand, since he was a threat, now Luke is threatening Vader.
Luke has clearly grown and changed since ESB as has Vader.
When Vader has the opportunity to destroy the Emperor early on when Luke decides to full-on attack the Emperor, he chickens out, even though “Luke’s skills are complete?” Luke is now the foreseen threat to the Emperor, and if we are to take the Emperor seriously at his declaration that Luke will complete his training to the dark side; he was only an act away from the dark side (doesn’t make sense, but if it’s true, then Luke is extremely powerful). Vader: “You don’t know the power of the dark side!” Sometimes the comments are leaning towards favoring the Emperor “It is pointless to resist, my son.” [i.e. The emperor’s offer to the dark side] “The emperor is your master now”.
Vader no longer wants to rule the galaxy with Luke and/or he doesn’t believe they can other-throw the Emperor any more. It seems likely that finding his son, along with Luke’s continual refusal to join him, has rekindled Anakin’s humanity in some way. The fact that the emperor foresaw (seemingly) the events which brought he and Luke to this juncture seems to preclude the possibility that he can be defeated, at least at this moment.