Han Solo is the secret sauce of Star Wars. Support ScreenPrism on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=7792695
The Harrison Ford character’s natural vitality, moral ambiguity and enduring humanity make it all the more compelling when he takes us by surprise and acts like a hero.
Transcript provided by Youtube:
“What are you going to do?”
“Same thing I always do — talk my way out of it.”
“Yes I do, every time!”
Han Solo is the “secret sauce” of the original Star Wars trilogy.
He’s that extra ingredient that, on paper,
might not seem as necessary to the story as Luke or Leia.
But without Han, Star Wars wouldn’t be Star Wars.
Harrison Ford’s roguish performance leaps off the screen,
even when he’s delivering what could have been unforgivably cheesy lines.
“Don’t everybody thank me at once.”
“He is my friend.”
“I hope she’s alright.”
We’re drawn in by Han’s swagger, free wheeling personality, and off the cuff lines.
“Come on, lets keep a little optimism here.”
The way that he acts tough and uncaring but always does the brave, generous thing.
Unlike the other main characters, Han isn’t a paragon of virtue.
I like the sound of that.”
He’s not royalty or specially “chosen.”
He doesn’t have a special connection to the Force.
But above all, he’s viscerally human.
“Your tauntaun will freeze before you reach the first marker!
Then I’ll see you in Hell!”
And his natural vitality, moral ambiguity and enduring humanity
make it all the more compelling when he takes us by surprise and acts like a hero.
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When we first meet Han the smuggler in a New Hope,
his last name, Solo, says it all.
This is a guy who’s used to going it alone.
“Look, Your Worshipfulness, let’s get one thing straight.
I take orders from just one person: me.”
Han’s main concern is saving his own skin.
He only helps Luke and Obi-Wan Kenobi
because he has to pay off the debt he owes Jabba the Hutt.
“This could really save my neck.”
And the fact that he works for Jabba at all makes him morally questionable.
“Jabba, you’re a wonderful human being.”
Han’s behavior is totally practical and survival-oriented.
“Take care of yourself, Han.
I guess that’s what you’re best at, isn’t it?”
The “Han shot first” scene with Greedo paints Han like a classic cowboy out of a
He’s uncivilized, brave, and lives by his own rules in a wild society
that has very little organized law enforcement.
His clothes are a mix of black and white in a story
where the bad characters start out wearing black and the good ones wearing white.
So visually we’re told Han is could go either way.
Like us, he has both good and bad in him.
“Of course I have to replace it.
He does not like to be wrong or admit mistakes.
“I think we better replace the negative power coupling.”
But we come to admire his plucky ability to keep getting by
when his luck seems to have completely run out,
or to take risks when most people would give up.
“Never tell me the odds.”
There’s something inspiring about how the self-made Han
determines his own fate.
But from the start of the story,
Han does have two relationships that hint at his true character:
with his first mate Chewbacca — and with his ship, the Millennium Falcon.
“You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?”
“Should I have?”
“It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.”
Chewbacca is essentially his soulmate and life partner.
He represents Han’s inner nature —
big, hairy and intimidating at first,
but deeply loving, loyal and protective when you break through that outer shell.
And the Millennium Falcon also represents who Han is.
It might look a little ramshackle and not so special at first.
But it’s capable of a lot more than first meets the eye.
Han’s faith in the Falcon teaches us that while it might seem like
we should always be upgrading to fancier versions of everything in our lives,
we can be most powerful and effective by staying true
to who we are and what we love.
And that’s how we find the diamonds in the rough.
“You look strong enough to pull the ears off a gundark.”
“Thanks to you.”
At first Han seems to be there to be a classic foil character for Luke —
someone who emphasizes certain qualities in the protagonist by being the opposite.
Luke is naive, selfless and optimistic, motivated by a noble cause.
Han is worldly, arrogant and rough around the edges,
and he won’t do good deeds for free.
“Listen if you were to rescue her, the reward would be…”
“More wealth than you can imagine.”
“I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit.”
After following earnest Luke around, we get a dose of cynical realism from Han.
“Watch your mouth, kid, or you’re going to find yourself floating home.”
So Han doesn’t just challenges Luke’s dreamy outlook —
he challenges our romantic view of the Star Wars universe as a place
where people only think about the light and dark side of the Force.
In these characters’ reality, like in ours,
most regular people have to think more often
about how to make a living and get by,
while the Force is an abstract thing that seems removed from their everyday lives.
We might not all have Luke’s or Rey’s greatness ahead of us,
but we can aspire to be brave, ballsy and roll with the punches like Han.
Meanwhile, after the story has set up Han as the man who always goes it “solo,”
his journey becomes about letting others in as he gains a new family.
Over time, Luke starts to rub off on Han —
Han gets friendlier and less dismissive.
“So you got your reward and you’re just leaving then?”
“That’s right, yeah.”
But he fully transitions from antihero to hero when he decides to return
and help the rebels destroy the Death Star.
“You’re all clear, kid.
Now let’s blow this thing and go home.”
He’s admitted how much he genuinely cares.
He starts to earn a new reputation as someone
who goes to great lengths to protect his friends.
“Han, we need you.”
“Well, what about you need me?”
She’s a princess and he’s the bad boy —
but they meet their match in each other.
“You think a princess and a guy like me–”
They’re both so stubborn and strong minded that every interaction
is a battle over who supposedly hates the other person more.
This is what makes their flirtation so fun to watch.
And we’re using the term “flirtation” loosely here.
“Half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf-herder!”
But we know that Han’s grouchiness comes from
his confusion over his attraction to Leia
and his trouble expressing his new feelings.
“I’m going to kill her or I’m beginning to like her.”
It’s satisfying that he and Leia never give us the mushy romance
we’d expect from a space opera.
“I love you.”
The two are always testing and challenging each other.
“I love you.”
Han needs a partner who really challenges him.
He’s not just a mindless space cowboy,
but someone who’s stimulated by intellect and strong spirit.
Sometimes Han’s defensive side gets the best of him.
“I can’t tell you.”
“What, could you tell Luke?
Is that who you could tell?”
But he keeps making the effort to better himself, trust and open up.
“Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other.
I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe
there’s one all-powerful force controlling everything.”
Unlike the other main characters in the original trilogy,
Han is openly skeptical of the Force.
“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.”
It’s telling that he refers to it as a hokey religion.
In his view the Force is abstract, fanciful, and hypothetical —
Han is a Force atheist.
At the time of A New Hope, the Jedi are supposedly extinct.
“Now the Jedi are all but extinct.”
So Han’s view shows us that the majority of people in this time are skeptics
who think more about their material world than a spiritual one.
And it also represents the skepticism many viewers of Star Wars might have
about faith and religion in our world.
But Han comes to rethink his view of the Force.
He says goodbye to Luke with a send-off that might have once made him gag.
May the Force be with you”
And by the time we get to The Force Awakens,
it’s Han who schools someone else in the ways of the Force.
“Solo, we’ll figure it out.
We’ll use the Force.”
“That’s not how the Force works!”
In this scene, Finn thinks that by just acknowledging the Force,
he’ll be able to wing it.
But Han knows that the Force isn’t just some Santa-Claus helper
that makes things work out if we blindly trust.
The Force is complex and mysterious,
and it has to be used in tandem with our own concrete skills, resources and efforts.
If Han’s skepticism of the Force initially makes us question it too,
his coming around reaffirms its existence.
Because Han’s a hard sell — and if he can be won over, so can we.
“Okay, you guys got yourselves a ship.”
“My son is alive.”
The Supreme Leader is wise.”
In The Force Awakens, all of the original Star Wars characters
have taken a hit in some way.
But Han’s situation is maybe the most heartbreaking.
We’ve thought of him as someone who always lands on his feet
and has a witty comeback ready.
“Is that even possible?”
“I never ask that question ’till after I’ve done it.”
But his life hasn’t worked out the way we thought it would
after the original trilogy.
Han’s special power has always been his humanity,
and we see this in the way he reaches out to his son.
“Luke’s a Jedi.
You’re his father.”
He confronts Kylo as a father, not as some kind of powerful Jedi.
“Will you help me?”
And the betrayal that follows is especially devastating
because Kylo uses his father’s humanity against him.
Humanity is the key to why we love about the original Star Wars —
the droids C3-PO and R2-D2, and the newer BB8, all feel lovably humanized to us.
While the Storm Troopers (until we meet Finn) we can dismiss
because they seem like only machines,
without any humanity at all.
So what we root for throughout Star Wars is for the human
to triumph over mindless, destructive machines.
And nobody in Star Wars is more human than Han.
“Take off that mask!
You don’t need it.”
“What do you think you’ll see if I do?”
“The face of my son.”
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This post was previously published on Youtube.
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