The camera cuts to a bunch of Imperial Star Destroyers floating around in space. There's one that looks especially sleek (Nerd alert: This sucker is called the Super Star Destroyer).
We enter this ship and are shown the back of someone's shiny, black, metallic head—this is Darth Vader, kiddos.
Nearby, a group of British-sounding military officers discuss their recent probe reports from Hoth, which they seem ready to dismiss as meaningless noise.
Darth Vader strolls up and tells them to go to Hoth, despite the officers' hesitations. He seems ticked off, too.
At the Rebel base, Han and Chewie are still working on their ship. Luke, who has recovered from his ordeal, has just suited up into his flight gear.
Meanwhile, the general has just learned that the Star Destroyers have entered the system. That will force them to stage a ground battle in order to buy time for the evacuation.
This is confirmed when we return to space to see Darth Vader being informed of their arrival in Hoth's space. Vader is annoyed at the officer (from before) for allowing the Rebels to become aware of their assault: He wanted to avoid a ground battle.
Vader pulls up the officer (an admiral) on the telescreen and straight up chokes him out using his telekinetic powers. It would be cool if it weren't so evil.
At the Rebel base, Leia is giving the pilots their mission. They'll be escorting civilian carriers out of the system—protected by massive ion cannons located on the planet's surface—after which they'll meet up at a rendezvous point.
It works! As the Rebels celebrate the first carrier's successful departure, Luke loads into his ship with his co-pilot and prepares to enter the ground battle.
Meanwhile, the Rebel ground troops stationed outside the base have just spotted the first of the Imperial forces, and it's a scary sight. They spot three massive Imperial walkers, which are basically massive tanks with four skyscraper-sized legs.
Boy do these things wreak havoc. Luke and his fellow pilots have just entered the fray, but we don't see how they're going to have a chance.
Realizing this, Luke suggests that they use their tow cables to trip up the Walkers' legs. Before he can do this, however, his co-pilot is killed, which means that there's no one to control the cable.
Luckily, another ship in Luke's squad (piloted by his old bud Wedge Antilles) manages to take down one of the Walkers using the tow cable method. Score one for the good guys.
At Rebel HQ, Leia tells the general that they're going to need to evacuate earlier than planned. Han and Chewie, meanwhile, are still struggling to fix the Falcon.
Back on the battlefield, Luke is attempting another attack run when he gets shot down. Luckily, he manages to get out of the ship before it's stomped by one of the walker's giant feet.
Things are looking bad: The base is now in shambles and Han is desperately trying to convince Leia to leave. Finally, she gives in and tells the troops to begin their retreat.
Luke, on the other hand, isn't done fighting. After using a grappling hook to climb up to the belly of the walker, he slices it open with his lightsaber and brings it down with a single grenade.
That's not enough, however, and the Imperial troops finally manage to destroy the power generator, which is fueling the Rebel's shields. It's all over.
The Imperials have reached the base, so Han brings Leia and C-3PO to the Falcon. It's good timing too, especially because a certain helmet-clad villain has just entered the scene.
It's still in pretty rough shape, but the Falcon manages to escape.
This escape is witnessed by Luke, who is loading into an X-Wing (his trademark ship) to make his own escape. R2-D2 is already loaded in to provide navigational assistance and the like.
To R2's surprise, Luke announces that they're not going to meet at the rendezvous point—they're going to the Dagobah system. Oh, this is getting juicy.