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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The characters of Star Wars: Han Solo

It's not often discussed, but this scene between Han Solo and Luke Skywalker is one of the big moments in Star Wars

In the second of my occasional series of posts about the characters of Star Wars, I look at the space pirate we boys all wanted to be – Han Solo.

It was one of the most thrilling moments in Star Wars for this ten-year-old viewer – and yet it's not often remarked upon.

I'm talking about the line Han Solo delivers to Luke Skywalker as he and Chewbacca pack up their reward and prepare to fly off from the Rebel base.
The Han Solo pencil case – 
essential for the
young space pirate 

"Why don't you come with us? You're pretty good in a fight. We could use you."

I don't suppose anyone really expected Luke to think about that offer for very long. If he had said yes and got on board the Millennium Falcon – pausing only to bid the other Rebel pilots goodbye and good luck against the approaching Death Star – it would have taken the movie in a distinctly surprising direction. But the exciting thing was that Han Solo now considered Luke useful to have around.

If Luke Skywalker represented us in the movie, Han Solo was the cool character we all secretly aspire to be. In this moment, the us character – the dutiful farm boy who might well have stayed on the farm and missed the adventure if his adoptive parents hadn't been conveniently incinerated – had just won acceptance by the coolest kid in the galaxy.

The role of Han Solo was always going to be the star-making part in the film. He was a rugged individual, a jaded gunslinger, living by his own rules. In many respects, he was straight out of a western, even dressing like a cowboy minus the hat. Yet he also piloted a spaceship – not a gleaming silver rocket-shaped one, but a big, battered crate capable of extraordinary speed. This made him a lot like the coolest older brother on your street, the one who had his own car or motorcycle and a rebellious attitude, but who was fundamentally okay.

What's more, Solo clearly had more to him than met the eye. His name said he was a loner, but he had a travelling companion 
 a wookiee, whose language he could understand, and with whom he must have been in countless scrapes. It was tempting to think that he had a heroic past – like Rick Blaine in Casablanca – and could be persuaded to rejoin the ranks of the idealists. Which, of course, was what he did. It was a star-making role partly because Solo is the only character to undergo a serious change of heart during the film.

Solo derides Luke and Obi-Wan for their devotion to the Force, and generally he's proved wrong, but nonetheless he provides a nice counterbalance to the earnestness of the Jedi 

Knight and his disciple. For those of us who are not much into the New Age mysticism epitomised by the Force, but who accept it as a plot device to allow magical things to happen, it's refreshing to have a sceptic among the principals. And even though it is the Force that helps Luke destroy the Death Star, it's only the last-minute intervention of the materialistic Solo that saves Luke’s behind and leaves him clear to take that shot. 

Han Solo leaves the bar: Do you often
find yourself wanting to do this? 

Solo is a vital part of Star Wars's character mix. Without him, it wouldn't be half the story it is. If, like me, you still can't leave a bar or coffee shop 36 years later without wanting to toss some coins in the direction of the bartender and say "Sorry about the mess", then I think you know what I'm talking about.

1 comment:

John White said...

Insightful post Darren.
Interesting the point that make about what Star Wars would be like without a character like Solo.
Much has been written of course - following the SE re-jig of the Greedo scene - about how Solo was originally a morally ambivalent character but redeems himself by the end of the film. It's true.

As you said, Luke represents the viewer - but Solo also stands for whatever cynicsm that we might still feel about 'The Force' etc. Through Solo, I suppose we are won over, and made into believers too!

Well done on your AMAZING STORIES blog post by the way :)

Best of luck with it!