I know what you’re thinking: the Death Star does not seem like the kind of progressive touchy-feely workplace where employees would be encouraged to indulge their inner children by zipping down a slide on the way to the organic smoothie station. But I can assure you, this slide is not there for the amusement of off-duty stormtroopers. It is a highly functional and businesslike slide, designed for carrying trash away from populated areas. And yet, the fact that this terrible battle station might be positively teeming with super-fun twisty slides delights me to no end.
I honestly think that in George Lucas’s mind, there was some kind of distance to traverse between the cell block and the garbage crusher (that word “chute” is a giveaway). Maybe the way they intended to shoot the chute was too expensive or impractical, so they just decided to yada yada over it. That’s too bad, because it could have been one of the all-time great slide scenes, right up there with Goonies, Romancing the Stone, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
I too have thought about why the Stormtroopers don’t find them quicker or follow them down the chute. My guess is they did not initially realize how our heroes got away. There was a lot of laser smoke in that hallway. Even after realizing no one was firing back the Stormtroopers were probably careful about proceeding down the hall. They probably checked each cell to ensure no one was hiding. Maybe they overlooked the open chute the first time. Once they figured out how the rebels escaped they chose not to follow because it was dangerous. Once in the compactor they would be ambushed immediately by our heroes. A safer bet would be to just send a squad to the access point to the compactor, which is what happens.
Our heroes run into this squad shortly after leaving the compactor. One trooper even managers to say “It’s them” before being shot by Han.
This trooper seems to be surprised. Probably because they expected the Rebels to be dead. I am guessing the compactor turning on at that exact moment was not a coincidence. There was a lot of un-crushed items in there suggesting it was not regularly turned on. My guessing once they realized where the Rebels went someone ordered the compactor turned on to kill them rather than risk sending a team into that danger room that allows blaster beams to ricochet a lot.
Because they assumed everyone was dead or at least locked in the compactor, the squad probably took their sweet time getting down to the compactor and was then astonished to run into the escapees halfway there.
If only they had check to see if an R2 unit had shut off the garbage masher and opened the sealed door. That of course leads to questions about computer security.