Han Solo’s immersion into the carbon freeze chamber in The Empire Strikes Back is a classic moment from the original Star Wars trilogy, a beloved and moving scene that retains its impact almost 40 years after it first played in theaters. But it’s also symbolic, and takes on many classic archetypal patterns. In a matter of minutes, this scene provides implicit insight into the Corellian smuggler turned hero of the Rebellion. Solo in carbonite suggests many things about his internal struggle and, while it certainly appears tragic, there is also hope for rebirth and renewal.
Water is often associated with a number of key storytelling ideas that reflect a great deal about where a character is in his or her journey. It can be a mirror that provides insight into the character’s emotional state. As water flows, so to do the character’s range of emotions; the more calm the water, the more relaxed the character feels. Conversely, rough waters indicate turmoil and angst. However, when the water freezes, the symbolism turns dire. The carbon freeze chamber emphasizes this with dramatic precision.