Han vs. Greedo revisited: Han Solo
Originally Posted by Chris Lang on March 28, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Has it really been over a year since I posted my first blog entry on Manic Expression? My, how time flies.

Anyway, I’d like to revisit the subject of my first blog entry, the Star Wars Special Edition changes to the confrontration between Han Solo and Greedo the bounty hunter. If you’d like to read that entry again, feel free to read my discussion of why having Greedo shoot first just doesn’t work.

I stand by what I say in that entry. Greedo’s shooting first only makes him less of a believable adversary and more of an incompetent idiot who had no real chance of killing Han anyway.

In the original version, where Han shot first (in fact, it’s more accurate to say that Han was the only one to actually fire a shot, because Greedo was in no condition to shoot anything afterwards), we can believe that Han is in real danger from a ruthless (and possibly overzealous) bounty hunter who was likely to shoot him at any moment. Han’s keeping Greedo talking kept Greedo from shooting and killing him.

And then the Special Edition came along and told us that no, Dick Dastardly actually had a better chance of winning a Wacky Race (or catching that pigeon in his spinoff show) than Greedo had of shooting Han.

However, many people who discuss this scene don’t discuss it from the angle of what it does to Greedo’s character, but from the angle of what it does to the character of Han Solo. I think I should address that here.

Some say the change in the Special Edition was done because it made Han seem less heroic and more of a ‘killer’. Some say that Han is actually less of a scoundrel if Greedo shoots first, and that hurts his character in their eyes.

(As for George Lucas, I’ve noted before that he’s changed his story on why the change was made several times. At one point, he claimed it was to keep the Special Edition from being rated PG-13. At another point, he claimed that Greedo shooting first was his original intention. But that’s a digression).

To those who say that ‘Han is a cold-blooded killer in the original’, I must say that no, he is not. As I already said above and in my original blog entry, Han is still acting in self defense even if Greedo didn’t have the opportunity to actually fire. Greedo’s mistake in the original is that he talks too much and gives Han the opportunity to shoot. There’s no doubt in my mind at least that if Han hadn’t kept him talking, he wouldn’t have been able to surprise Greedo and shoot him. Greedo probably would have shot first … and killed Han.

Han was being smart in that situation. He waited for the right moment and shot a dangerous bounty hunter in self-defense. When it was clear talking Greedo out of it wasn’t going to work, Han had to act quickly to defend himself.

Now, with that out of the way, what does the Special Edition change about that scene in regards to Han? Well, I’d say in the Special Edition, not the original, he’s more of a cold-blooded killer, as since Greedo missed him from just three feet away, Greedo wasn’t a real threat anyway. Han might as well have just got up and walked away and left Greedo without shooting.

(Of course, this impression comes from the really unconvincing editing done in that scene. Seriously, the video producers of Channel Awesome put out better edits than that on a regular basis, and they don’t make the kind of money Industrial Light and Magic and other such professional effects producers make. Then again, Lucas was putting the editors of the Special Edition in the uncomfortable position of making two and two equal five).

Anyway, is Han less of a jerk and a scoundrel in one version because in one, he shot first, and the other, he didn’t?

To be honest, I don’t think so. Han is still a jerk, regardless of what happened in the confrontation with Greedo. He’s still mostly thinking of himself. He only assists Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in hopes of making enough money to pay off Jabba the Hutt so that Jabba will stop sending bounty hunters after him.

And when C-3P0 discovers that Princess Leia is scheduled to be executed soon, and Luke wants to rescue her, Han doesn’t want to get involved. He says “Better her than me.” It’s only when Luke tells Han that she’s rich and powerful, and the reward for rescuing her could be more wealth than Han could imagine, that he agrees to help in the rescue.

He and Leia argue quite a bit over the course of the movie, though Han eventually starts to warm up to her. After they escape from the Death Star, Han tells Leia that he’s not in it for her revolution, he’s in it for the money. Leia wonders if money is all he cares about.

And of course, when it’s clear the Death Star is on its way to destroy the Rebel base, he decides to leave instead of staying around to get killed. However, he does have a moment where he shows some humanity here. He wishes Luke well in the battle, saying ‘May the Force be with you’ even though earlier he stated he didn’t really believe in the Force and thought the achievements Obi-Wan attributed to the Force were just a matter of luck.

And then, of course, he returns in the Death Star battle to be Luke Skywalker’s backup at the crucial moment and keep Darth Vader from unknowingly offing his own son. (Oops, did I spoil the next movie? Sorry. ).

So yes, Han is a jerk. But he ends up growing to like Luke and Leia, and helps them out even at risk to himself. He ends up being a hero even though he does not seem all that heroic at first.

And in my view, that’s true in both versions. One scene might be a bit different, but it does not really change Han’s character much, if at all. In both, Han Solo is a Jerk With a Heart of Gold. His redeeming moment is still a very powerful one, as it shows that he has a softer, less self-centered side to him after all.

Anyway, that’s my thoughts on the matter. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave your comments. Included below are some fun comments from when this was first posted.

BigBlackHatMan
11:44 AM on March 28, 2013 I am totally with you. It was self-defense regardless of who shot first. Greedo just needed to shot rather than talk to someone he knew to be dangerous. Good work and congrats on the year.


 

Les
07:07 PM on March 28, 2013 Hi Chris Lang. Couldn’t agree with you more. It also makes Han’s decision to come back and save Luke in the Death Star Trench more of a heroic decision. I like the fact that Han Solo starts out as a self-centered scoundrel who’s smart enough to get the drop on a villain in the middle of a monologue, my friend. Peace.



Chris Lang

09:44 AM on March 29, 2013 Les says…
Hi Chris Lang. Couldn’t agree with you more. It also makes Han’s decision to come back and save Luke in the Death Star Trench more of a heroic decision. I like the fact that Han Solo starts out as a self-centered scoundrel who’s smart enough to get the drop on a villain in the middle of a monologue, my friend. Peace.

Well, I think Han fired because he realized it was soon getting to the ‘now or never’ phase. Greedo was gloating about how he’d been looking forward to it for a long time, so Han had to fire the shot at that point.

I’ve heard some people say that if the Star Wars movies had been made back in the 1940’s, Humphrey Bogart would have played Han Solo. I can see that. Han Solo does have a few things in common with characters Humphrey Bogart has played.


Les
11:42 PM on March 30, 2013

Chris Lang says…
Well, I think Han fired because he realized it was soon getting to the ‘now or never’ phase. Greedo was gloating about how he’d been looking forward to it for a long time, so Han had to fire the shot at that point.

I’ve heard some people say that if the Star Wars movies had been made back in the 1940’s, Humphrey Bogart would have played Han Solo. I can see that. Han Solo does have a few things in common with characters Humphrey Bogart has played.

I can see that.

Han Solo: “Maybe the problems of a smuggler and a princess don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy Galaxy far far away, but if you don’t get on that shuttle, you’ll regret it soon, and for the rest of your life. I ain’t good at being noble, sweetheart……

Leia: “I love you!”

Han Solo: “I Know….Here’s Looking at you, Kid!”

Han walks away with Chewbacca by his side.

“You know, Chewie, I think this is the start of a beautiful life debt!”

 


 

 

 

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