Han Solo didn’t really need to die in order for his character to have meaning to Star Wars fans. George Lucas knew that better than the rest of us.
I re-watched Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy, the other night with both of my boys and was surprised to find that the main conversation starter was not the incredible journey of all involved in the making of the original three Star Wars films, but rather something that George Lucas decided against despite the advice of his best actor and screen writer.
Empire of Dreams is the kind of documentary that raises gooseflesh, a vision come to life. A dream literally come true. It’s inspiring.
More from Editorial
- How animation changed Star Wars: Ewoks and Droids
- The Acolyte might change Star Wars storytelling
- No Star Wars for Feige, and I’m ok with that.
- 3 major ways the Star Wars Holiday Special changed canon
- If Jon Favreau remakes the Holiday Special, it needs to star Peli Motto
But the kiddos were struck most by the fact that Harrison Ford and Lawrence Kasdan both wanted to kill off Han Solo. Ford felt that the character had run its course and that a sacrifice for his friends and allies would give more meaning to our favorite swashbuckler.
Kasdan wanted to ensure the audience felt no one was safe and that there were no sacred cows, which I can understand after having lived through the sequel trilogy in which Rey and friends never seem to be truly in danger of anything more than being fake-killed or maybe Finn might get nicked by Kylo’s Ren’s jank-saber. There is no doubt Rey will survive and win.
As a matter of fact, there is very little worry at all for the viewers of the newest installments of the Skywalker story.
With that in mind, I could understand Kasdan and Ford’s point of view, given that the vulnerability of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewy, and our favorite droids was a significant part of what made the triumph of Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and eventually Return of the Jedi so compelling. Aside from Luke’s fledgling force powers, none of them were perfect, none of them were all that powerful, and any one of them could kick the bucket at any moment and it would be understandable.
My teenaged youngsters, however, did not agree. Here’s a snippet of the conversation that unfolded.
Oldest boy (15 years old): I would never have watched another Star Wars movie if they’d killed Han in Jedi.
Younger boy (13 years old): I would have sold all my gear. Seriously. Bye, bye, Millennium Falcon Lego set and all the video games.
Me: Why for?
Oldest: Han’s like the best part of Star Wars.
Youngest: He’s the reason that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is so good compared to the last two movies.
Me: But wouldn’t you have appreciated the drama of guessing whether somebody else might die?
Both: No way.
Me: But you were okay with it in Force Awakens?
Oldest: Kind of…
Youngest: They should have made Force Awakens be the last movie. That part where Han dies is so epic. Nothing after it was even close to as cool… and sad.
Oldest: They should have had Han survive all the way through.
Youngest: He could have helped Rey.
Me: Rey didn’t need help. Heck, she didn’t even need training.
Oldest: George Lucas was right to keep him alive.
Youngest: Sometimes you just need a good guy to make it through, you know?
Me: What about the new good guys?
Oldest: I like Rey, but she’s kinda boring.
Youngest: I like Finn, but he’s just another Han but not as cool. And they don’t do any cool stuff with him. And Chewy deserves to have his best friend. Chewy is my favorite.
Oldest: Last week Kylo Ren was your favorite.
Youngest: He is.
Me: So what you’re saying is…?
Both just looked at me without saying anything, shook their heads, and then set about arguing over how it’s possible or impossible to have two favorite characters. I attempted to shut off the argument, to ignore the lack of logic, and instead focused on the rest of the movie. As the documentary played out how epic scenes were made, I couldn’t help but smile over Han’s interaction with the Ewoks, his chemistry with Leia, his love for his ship.
And I realized the boys were right. The Force Awakens really was the best of the new three, and most of that had to do with a single, magnetic, and wildly charismatic character who never seemed to have it together while always getting it right. George Lucas really did know better all along.
What do you think of Lucas’ choice not to kill Han Solo in the original trilogy?