THE FOLLOWING THINK-PIECE IS FULL OF SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. YOU REALLY SHOULD HAVE GONE TO SEE IT BY NOW. READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL. OR, BETTER YET, JUST TRY WALKING ACROSS A BRIDGE TOWARDS A MAN IN A BLACK MASK AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT…
If you are an architect on Bespin or the Starkiller Base or the original Death Star or, really, anywhere in the galactic leftovers of George Lucas’ imagination, I have a small request: install some frickin’ railings already! Those cavernous abysses you seem so fond of really are not safe for rebel or imperial alike. Someone could get hurt out there! In fact, someone did. Someone plunged to his demise… although, I suppose the lightsaber had already done its dastardly work.
But still, Chewie at least would have had a body to take home to Leia if you draftsmen had just done your health and safety check properly and made Supreme Lord Snoke or Sheev Palpatine or the Grand Moff or whothehellcares pay just a little bit more for a bit of bannister. There was no funeral at the end of The Force Awakens: no burning pyre or vanishing corpse. Just a body falling, falling, falling, with no handy garbage slide for someone to fall into, even if he had just lost his hand.
They killed my childhood boyfriend: Han Solo is dead. Merry Christmas.
To be entirely truthful, I spoiled myself a few days in advance of seeing The Force Awakens. I couldn’t help it – some evil thing got hold of me even though I’d tried to avoid all the spoilers, and then I typed “Star Wars who dies” into Google on December 19th.
And, honestly, I wasn’t that surprised. Haven’t we all known for the better part of thirty-plus years that Harrison Ford had a Star Wars death wish – and that Lawrence Kasden always backed him up in feeling that “someone had to go”???
Since seeing the film on Tuesday night, I’ve scoured the reviews looking to see how others – in their spoiler summaries – reacted to that scene. The consensus seems to be that the scene was necessary, if not entirely earned. J. J. Abrams knew that bringing Han back carried a hefty price, but it was one he was more than willing to pay. One of my favourite lines referred to Han as “sexy luggage” that really had no point being in the film unless something bad happened.
So, something bad happened.
Appropriately enough, I was listening the other day to a re-run of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour that dealt with the death of beloved characters. Most of their discussion seemed to focus on Mr Hooper and how well Sesame Street handled that one back in the early 1980s. Somehow, that very realistic summation of death doesn’t help much with my current grief.
You see, Han Solo was my first love. I have an elder brother born in 1977, so Star Wars pretty much defined our mutual childhood – and I was fine with that. Andrew was blondish and loved lightsabers and I always thought (as a highly discerning four year-old) that if my brother was basically Luke Skywalker, that made me Princess Leia, which meant I got Han Solo. Perfection.
Looking back at the Harrison Ford canon, it actually makes much more sense for me to have adored Indiana Jones – a globetrotting, adventurous PhD (with or without tenure) with a love of history and the occult and an affinity for sassy brunettes.
But it was Han I adored. He introduced me to the concept of sarcasm. He flew the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy. He was tall and sardonic. He had great trousers.
Christmas has always been a Star Wars holiday for me. Back before the flood, at least one of the major tv stations always showed either Empire or A New Hope or Jedi or maybe Caravan of Courage (which is a truly dreadful tv movie. The Star Wars Minute guys agree with me. Still, there’s something about it that makes for compulsive viewing that I can’t explain). I know this because on our old VHS recording, all of the commercials in between scenes on Dagobah or Hoth or Tatooine involved Christmas music and either De Beers diamonds, Canadian Tire, or Fisher-Price roller-skates.
Han Solo was (was! past tense!) cool because he didn’t give a damn: the Rhett Butler of a galaxy far, far away. As I’ve said before in other posts on this blog, he even used Rhett’s pick-up lines.
Because I saw the movies completely out of order – Jedi, A New Hope, and then Empire – for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out how they hell they got him into the carbonite. The first time I watched all of Empire without having to go to bed half-way through was a major triumph, if only because I finally saw the bowels of Cloud City and the hellish freezing pit that they contained. It was fairly Dante-esque, now that I think about it.
Nearly twenty years later, I got to write a term paper about Han’s heroism at the University of Toronto for the brilliant Professor Anne Lancashire. I need to dig that one up from the depths of my parents’ basement, if only so I can blush and then hide it again since I’m sure it’s a complete mash-note of fan-girl angst as I attempt to justify why Han is a more compelling hero than Luke and his namby-pamby Joseph Campbell heroic journey quest obsession.
And now Han is dead.
For those of you who have seen the scene, you’ll know that feeling of dread as soon as you saw the bridge. As soon as he called out, “Ben!” it was all over. I’ll never watch Girls the same way again. I’ll never see Adam Driver’s face again without wanting to punch it and yell, “You killed Han!” (Actually, I think Driver might be the best addition to the series since Yoda. He’s really good, especially with the temper tantrums.) With one flick of a saber switch, Kylo Ren made every “Han Shot First” t-shirt moot.
And if they end up doing some sort of wacky Kylo-Rey-Finn love triangle over the next two films, I’ll always have to doubt Rey’s sanity, if only because that bastard killed Han Solo. Of course, anything in Episodes VIII or IX can’t look as bad as this:
And so, my first love is gone. I shall miss him dreadfully. But, I suppose, we’ll always have Empire.
Merry Christmas, everybody! All the best for the new year, and I’ll see you in 2016!