I was a reasonable man.
I offered an out. An honorable compromise. There had been too much violence, too much pain. None here were without sin.
We awaited your answer. And you gave us this:
“The controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo, in Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo [who seemed to be the one who shot first in the original] to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t. It had been done in all close-ups and it was confusing about who did what to whom. I put a little wider shot in there that made it clear that Greedo is the one who shot first, but everyone wanted to think that Han shot first, because they wanted to think that he actually just gunned him down.”
And you know, although it’s fun to quote The Humungus, I’m not kidding when I say I’m a reasonable man. There’s a lot of things I just plain don’t take sides on, or am willing to live and let live about. Many of my friends seem to have extensive blacklists of people whose mere involvement in a film is a deal-breaker. For instance, I’m perfectly happy to go and see Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Life Aquatic on their own merits, despite the director at the helm being filed under ‘D’ for ‘Douchebag’ by my peers. Want to worship a God? If it makes you happy and you’re not harming anyone with your beliefs, go right ahead. Republican? People are more than the sum of their politics– I’m not going to drop you off my friends list, and won’t confront you unless you’re really getting in my face about certain issues. I don’t argue with Jehovah’s Witnesses, or insult them, I just politely but firmly thank them for their time and close the door.
But this. THIS.
Lucas IS fucking with us. It’s the only explanation other than onrushing senility for stating that, even back in 1977, everyone in the production knew that Greedo was supposed to have fired first. Where are all these people? Why didn’t they speak up when the Special Edition premiered and the fanboys and girls gave a collective “Wait, what?” to George’s unnecessary edit? If it was merely a result of bad cinematography, why is there absolutely no indication of Greedo firing first in the shooting (heh) script? Most damningly of all, why are there no blaster marks visible anywhere on the wall behind Han?
I swear, I had actually stopped caring about this. I admit I was one of the people who bought a ‘HAN SHOT FIRST’ t-shirt several years ago, but I’d stopped wearing it in public. I just wrote it off. I have my copies of the original trilogy and have ceased my involvement with anything Star Wars related not published by Bioware. I want to walk away… but now Lucas has moved beyond meddling with “his” movies, to meddling with time and space itself. And childhoods. Let’s not use the rape analogy, because apologists love to use that as an excuse to dismiss our cries of pain. I’ll just quote the Satellite Show’s Mr. Bradfield here:
“I have existed in a relative vacuum since I was dragged to the third (sixth) movie – a world where George Lucas never made three lousy films that demonstrate his contempt for me, and other people who literally grew up with Star Wars. I’ve got my old figures, and much of the adorably goofy Marvel Comics series. Bliss by omission, if you will. Don’t ask me – I’m still living in 1978.
But he won’t just let me live in this world. He has to keep fucking with the originals, endlessly pinching and prodding the thing that made us love him in the first place – even to the point that some will defend the prequels as “good movies,” or at least look the other way. He won’t be happy until he conforms the good movies to the crappy ones. Let’s take out Sebastian Shaw (Anakin) from the original print of “Jedi” and replace him with Hayden Christiansen. Okay, then why don’t you replace Alec Guiness with Ewan MacGregor, dipshit? Further – he just can’t shut up with the justifications for making terrible choices that fundamentally alter the originals.”
Bradfield goes on to give a perfect example of why Lucas’s insistence on rewriting Han into a white knight is a fundamental change. I mean, leaving aside the fact that this means Lucas believes you can be a morally upstanding person and still be willing to transport dangerous and illegal drugs for a soulless crimelord…
“…From a liturgical point of view, isn’t a character who evolves from a cold mercenary to a man who values friendship and love more interesting than a guy who’s fundamentally good to begin with…?”
And there’s the crux, isn’t it? Han is the Yin to Luke’s Yang, the cynical “Screw the politics, where’s my credits?” counterpart to his wide-eyed idealism. This is the core dynamic that makes their relationship interesting, particularly as it evolves over the course of the three movies.
Han, to me, is no more a “cold-blooded killer” than any of the John Wayne or Toshiro Mifune characters who cut down some bad guy with the gall to draw on them and make death threats. But that’s the old debate. And the new one isn’t even a debate, it’s just a full on bang-your-head-against-the-wall insult to the intelligence. Does Lucas just still rankle over Harrison Ford criticizing his writing, and his revenge is to go back and castrate Han Solo, orchestrating ridiculous scene alterations now that Ford can’t personally object?
I mean, I’m actually still willing to give Lucas a bit of benefit of the doubt here (reasonable man, remember?). Because I can see Greedo firing first perhaps existing in an early draft of the script, one that no longer exists except in Lucas’s memories. I’ll allow for that draft’s existence, just as there were early drafts where Luke was a 65 year old man with a robot head. That’s what drafts are for, to vomit a bunch of ideas and then get rid of the ones that don’t work. Perhaps this particular draft even got so far as an on-set rehearsal, at which point this conversation would have taken place:
Ford: George, about this scene where Greedo shoots at me and then I shoot him…
Lucas: Yeah! It’s really important that the audience not see you as a cold-blooded killer, so he shoots and then you act in righteous self-defense…
Ford: You’ve seen the table we’re sitting at, right? He’s two feet away from Han, and he’s got his blaster trained on him.
Lucas: Sure, but he misses, and…
Ford: George, that’s fucking stupid. No one’s going to miss a covered, stationary target at that range. Look, Greedo’s got a gun on Han and he’s making obvious death threats. I think it’s pretty damn reasonable for Han to shoot him without waiting for him to fire first.
Greedo: Yeah, seriously, I’m supposed to be a professional bounty hunter. If I miss a shot like this, why would he even bother shooting me? I’m not a threat to anybody. He might as well just tuck me under his arm and give me noogies. The way you have it now, I’m totally incompetent and Han looks even more like a cold-blooded killer for taking me out. He just casually flips a coin to the bartender and leaves.
Rest of crew: These are good storytelling points, George, can we try it the other way?
<new draft is made, scene is filmed, looks awesome>
Everyone but George: YAY!!!!
Lucas: You win this time, Ford… but one day, the advantage will be mine!!
With this change, Han goes from a hard-luck guy just trying to keep his skin intact for one more day, to an outright villain akin to Jack Palance in Shane baiting poor ol’ sodbustin’ Torrey. Bravo, George.
It’s kind of amazing how effectively this ongoing War on Han not only undercuts several character dynamics but alienates male and female Han fans alike. Trying to make Han out as some goody-two-shoes from the start, despite all evidence to the contrary, does two more things: for the boys, we lose the cool, badass anti-hero fantasy we all wanted to believe we could live out if we just had a ship, a good blaster, quick wits and a loyal buddy at our side. For the ladies, they lose the ultimate “I can change him” fantasy (which they lived vicariously through Princess Leia), taming that handsome bad boy of a scoundrel and making him care again.
Seriously, what’s the point of trying to take that away from us, and along the way breaking a lot of story elements that didn’t need fixing to begin with? It doesn’t even change what Lucas already barfed up on screen, it’s just poking everyone who called him on it in the silliest way possible, like we’re in the midst of a 15 year piece of Borat performance art.
I’m not even sure who shot first in this war. But at this moment, I do feel pretty cold-blooded about it.
(P.S., MadTV’s old spoof portraying Lucas as a petulant egomaniac seems awfully prophetic now, doesn’t it?)