By Bruce Gibson
A big controversy within Star Wars fandom is how the Special Edition changed the anti-hero portrayal of Han Solo. Before George Lucas made his 1997 alterations, Han shot Greedo before the Rodian even pulled the trigger. In the Special Edition, Greedo shoots Han first, which actually improves Greedo’s characterization as a more ruthless bounty hunter who isn’t hesitant to shoot in public. But I contend that this scene alteration may also improve both Han and Greedo’s portrayal in “A New Hope” and fits in better with “The Empire Strikes Back.” You heard me; this scene works for Han.
Before we can examine Han, we must first ponder a big change made to Greedo. He shoots and misses Han. Now how can anyone possibly miss shooting someone sitting a few feet in front of him? Was Greedo a former stormtrooper since only they can be “so precise”? If Greedo is that bad of a shot, he should be thrown out of the “Bounty Hunters Members Only Club,” and Jabba should reevaluate his associates. Jabba the Hutt would never associate with a bounty hunter who wasn’t worth his salt.
Arguably, I doubt that George Lucas’ intentions were to weaken these two characters in the Special Edition. So let’s look at this scene with the best of intentions that both Han and Greedo are indeed ruthless scoundrels who are at the top of their game.
In the cantina scene, Greedo points his weapon at Han and mentions there is a bounty on his head from Jabba. He makes idle threats to Han that he will kill him, but Greedo must know that financially Han’s only real value is to be brought to Jabba alive. The crime lord must want to taunt and torture Han if he can’t collect the monies owed to him. So, we must conclude that Greedo has no plans to kill Han since his corpse is of no value to Jabba.
You sent Greedo to blast me.
Han, why you’re the best smuggler in
the business. You’re too valuable to
fry. He was only relaying my concern
at your delays. He wasn’t going to
Although Han tells Jabba otherwise, I think he does believe that Greedo would not kill him. Han is a smart cookie and a shrewd scoundrel, so he must know that Jabba would want him alive. He knows that Greedo would never kill him if he wants to be paid handsomely.
This theory is also supported in “The Empire Strikes Back” when Boba Fett, working in sync with Darth Vader, is on a quest for that same bounty to capture Han Solo. Fett tells Vader in Cloud City, “He’s no good to me dead.” That’s a key phrase in the saga’s continuity because it means Jabba’s price on Han’s head is based on being captured alive. Yes, Han must be delivered to Jabba as live goods.
In “A New Hope,” Han is cunning and would rather kill Greedo before being captured. So instead of shooting first, Han slowly pulls out his blaster and waits for the right opportunity to make his move. Try to understand that Han could be perceived as being more calculating in this film version. He’s using his keen eyesight to notice that the barrel of Greedo’s gun is not pointed directly at his head. Look at this scene again, and you’ll see that Greedo’s aim looks a little off within those long fingers. Han would notice this too.
Han Solo slowly reaches for his gun under the table.
You can tell that to Jabba. He may
only take your ship.
Over my dead body.
That’s the idea. I’ve been looking
forward to killing you for a long
Yes, I’ll bet you have.
Han knows Greedo is toying with him and will not kill him. He’s prepared to see Greedo make his dummy shot as a bold threat to get Han to comply. It’s like in the old westerns when a cowboy shoots at someone’s feet to get them to comply or foolishly dance. Han will have a justified reason to retaliate in broad daylight thus giving the public perception that his shot was a defensive maneuver. No questions asked from the peanut gallery.
Greedo shoots the wall beside Han’s head. And, in a blink of an eye, Greedo falls forward dead on the table. Because of Greedo’s foolish threatening action, Han sentenced him to death and shot him down. Greedo gave him reason and didn’t see the shot coming from Han’s hidden blaster.
So Han is still a cold-blooded killer in the Special Edition because when he shoots, he knows that if and when Greedo shoots, he is not going to kill Han. This is in opposition to the 1977 version where we originally perceived Greedo’s mission was to kill Han. But both film versions, no matter how this scene plays out, Han is determined to shoot and kill Greedo. It wasn’t in self-defense or to avoid a missed shot. It was to take him down once and for all.
Personally, I don’t think this scene in the Special Edition is any better than the original version. I also don’t think it strips Han of his cunning ruthlessness. The Special Edition is here to stay, and I’m presenting “a certain point of view” that may help people to view this scene less negatively and make it more palatable. Han’s character portrayal in the beginning of this story still remains rebellious, and he still has a journey to become a moral hero.
by: Joseph Tavano
Wedge Antilles is a beloved ancillary character in the Star Wars universe. He appears in all three movies in the original trilogy and in numerous Legends works. He is honored in cosplay, fandom, and pop culture.
Everyone loves Wedge. I love Wedge, too! He’s the everyman of Star Wars. The rebel soldier you wanted to be. The pilot in Red squadron you could see as yourself. The ultimate wingman, literally. He rolled deep with Luke Skywalker. He may not be able to use the Force, but he could whip the Empire with the best of him. He’s the friend you’d want with you in the trenches.
But, it wasn’t always that way.
Stay with me through this. There’s a happy ending. I promise.
If you think about the events of A New Hope from Wedge’s perspective, he wasn’t exactly the greatest hero the Rebel Alliance could have. There’s a reason he didn’t get a medal, even though he was one of only three rebel fighters that came home that day (excluding Han and Chewie).
Part I: The Battle of Yavin
Let’s walk through that fateful day and get into the head of Wedge Antilles.
You wake up early. The atmosphere at Yavin Base is tense. The top brass is talking confident, but you can tell they’re worried. The Alliance just won their very first victory just a few days ago, and just barely escaped. It was a tough battle, but you made it through, even when others did not.
You’ve been training for this for a long time, and even though you’ve seen action, it’s all been in vain until now. The Rebels finally won one—a big one, for that matter. The Empire’s plans for their secret weapon were stolen! There may be a chance for victory yet. But in a stroke of terrible luck, Princess Leia’s ship was captured!
You didn’t know Leia personally, but you knew she was one of the leaders of the rebellion. As a member of congress, her top-secret missions for the rebels were important to the success of the entire effort. But now she is captured, and just yesterday Alderaan was destroyed. Things are NOT looking good. Leia is presumed dead, and the plans never made it back to Yavin. Your future and the future of the Rebel Alliance is in serious jeopardy.
Then, like a prayer answered, Leia returns to Yavin later that day, accompanied by a naive Outer Rim farmboy, two droids that look older than your parents, a wookiee with a crazy look in his eye, and a dirtbag who owns one of the ugliest ships you’ve ever seen.
She has the secret plans, but what happened to her?! This is getting weirder by the second. Oh, and the Empire is on their way to kill us all, so hopefully those plans will give us something we can use to fight back!
In the briefing, you sit next to that dopey farmboy. Why was he in here with the pilots? There’s no way he’s ever flown an X-Wing before. If that kid’s going into battle, the situation must be serious. But, he did help rescue the princess, so maybe he’s got something up his sleeve.
Then you hear the plan. It’s insane. You’re supposed to attack a huge battle station and hit an insanely small target with proton torpedoes? Only two meters wide?! In the middle of the entire room, you exclaim, “That’s impossible, even for a computer!”
The farmboy quips that he can hit womprats back home. You bite your tongue at the ridiculous comparison. Space battles and womprats don’t have much in common. It’s time to focus on the mission, not argue with a know-nothing kid who just showed up on base. You’re a soldier, and you’ve got a job to do.
A little while afterwards, Red Squadron is assembled. It’s funny; once you’re in your X-Wing, you feel like an entirely different person. An entirely different person. You’re Red Two now, and you’re flying to victory, because defeat is not an option this time. The entire rebellion rests upon the edge of a knife, and if you fail, you and all your friends will be destroyed.
Unfortunately, things don’t go well. Rebel fighters are getting picked off like flies. Death is all around you. The rebellion is getting crushed at an alarming rate. Even Red Leader, the best pilot you know, couldn’t make the shot. There’s no way you’re going to make it through.
That farmboy is a liability. You’ve bailed him out already, taking out a TIE fighter for him because he couldn’t even shake it. And now he’s attempting a trench run with Darth Vader at his tail! He has to be nuts.
And, what’s he doing giving you orders?
This kid has been in an X-Wing cockpit for literally only a few minutes—you’ve been training for years! You had better help him out. This is crazy, crazy, crazy. You call him boss with hopes of giving him a confidence boost. If he doesn’t get blown up, it will be up to you and Biggs to finish the job.
Skeptical to the end, you still can’t pick up the exhaust port on your scanners. There’s no way a computer is going to hit this. Plus there’s that tower firing on us! This whole plan is shot! It will never work.
The kid’s fighter is busted up. He’s got a broken stabilizer. He’s a goner.
Now Vader’s on my tail. Screw this. If I’m gonna die, it’s not going to be on a fool’s errand like this.
Whoops! I got a little hit! Ship’s flying just fine, but it’s a great excuse to bail. The kid will never know otherwise. He’s even telling me there’s nothing more I can do.
Biggs gets killed seconds after Wedge leaves the fight and Han Solo, a smuggler who has no business fighting this fight, bails out Luke, leaving him clear to make the deciding shot in the battle.
Let’s get a few things clear:
- All of Red Squadron gave their lives to give Luke his opportunity to make that shot. All except Wedge.
- Biggs acted as a decoy and a shield, sacrificing himself to buy Luke the time needed to get to the exhaust port.
- Luke almost gets killed himself from a shot that takes out Artoo, but he doesn’t give up.
- The only thing that bought Luke the time he needed was the Millennium Falcon saving the day.
- Wedge’s ship shows absolutely no sign of damage or malfunction at all. In fact, Luke’s ship clearly takes more damage.
- Wedge was a pessimist from the very start. Nearly every line he says in A New Hope is negative.
Wedge should not have left the trench run. Biggs didn’t fire another single shot, but he didn’t abandon the mission. Wedge could have bought Luke much more time than he had. He could have provided much needed interference between Vader and Luke. Artoo wouldn’t have been fried. Perhaps if Wedge didn’t bail, both he and Biggs would have made it out.
What kind of wingman bails at the last minute?!
This was a win-or-die battle. All the cards were on the table. And Wedge bailed because of a minor hit, and because a teenage boy told him to?! He could have at least doubled back. He was a seasoned pilot and a veteran rebel fighter. Wedge Antilles should have known better.
Part II: The Battle of Hoth
I mentioned it at the beginning of the article: I like Wedge Antilles. And here’s why.
The Wedge Antilles that we meet three years after the Battle of Yavin is not the same soldier. He is confident, strong, and positive, almost to a fault. He’s right there leading the charge with Luke as the Rogue Squadron snowspeeders take on those AT-ATs. You see and hear a pilot ready for action.
Ready to prove himself.
The energy is palpable in his every line.
“Cables out; LET HER GO!”
“Nice shot, Jansen!”
Wedge Antilles is not only one of the most heroic fighters in the Battle of Hoth, he is also one of the great morale boosters for the Rebel Alliance. It is here that we see Wedge at his best; the true wingman we know and love.
Something clearly happened to the character between the films. Wedge must have deeply regretted how little he did at the Yavin. He must have doubted his decision to leave Luke in the trench. I can envision a scenario where Wedge Antilles realizes he has a lot to learn about being a hero, and over the course of the Star Wars saga, we see him grow and change into a true leader.
Wedge Antilles is on his own hero’s journey.
Wedge is anything but a static character. He grows and develops in the background and off-screen. He is always changing, always developing, and always rising to the challenge. The films may not be chronicling Wedge’s story, but his is no less a classic tale of heroism than Luke’s.
Not convinced yet? There’s more.
Part III: The Battle of Endor
By the time of Return of the Jedi, Wedge has fought alongside Luke Skywalker for four years. He is a true believer and a leader of Rogue Squadron. As a veteran freedom fighter, he is looked upon as a hero of the Rebel Alliance. They’ve never stopped talking about his bravery and ingenuity at Hoth.
But, there is a lingering doubt still with Wedge. His personal failure all those years ago at the first Death Star is still in the back of his mind. But, there is one thing that he feels can redeem him, and it looms in the distance half completed but fully operational.
And there is Wedge Antilles, barreling through the superstructure with the Millennium Falcon literally flying into the belly of the beast, the heart of darkness, the most dangerous of missions. He was there when it exploded. He was right there racing out against the firestorm. Wedge would be right there till the end with Lando and Nien Numb, and this time, he saw it all the way through.
As the party raged on Endor all through the night, Wedge was finally able to greet his compatriots as equals—finally, a fearless and heroic wingman. He’s the perfect example of a dynamic character that has his own trajectory through the films: a complex, flawed man that goes on his own hero’s journey to achieve a status far greater than where he started.
And it’s done almost entirely in the background. Wedge’s story is told through his actions. His very little dialogue is only the cherry on top, so to speak. It only adds extra flavor to his character. If you were to watch all of Wedge’s scenes on mute, you’d see the same story. That is Lucas storytelling done right.
There’s a reason Wedge’s character was a pessimist at the beginning. Lucas saw an opportunity to develop one Rebel pilot to represent the entire rebellion. He started flawed and, by the end, came out of the fires of battle to be immortalized as a hero. Why else would it be Wedge who emerged as a hero of Hoth? Why else would he be right there in the middle of the second Death Star? The story doesn’t necessitate his fighter be there—Wedge was there to fulfill his own destiny, as laid out by the story.
But, don’t take my word for it. Watch the original trilogy again, and pay attention to Wedge’s trajectory through the films, from chump to hero. It’s all there, and it is truly amazing.
Nice shot, indeed.
See, I told you it would be a happy ending!
Before & After the Special Editions:
Han and Greedo (Part 2)
Last week, I proposed that the exchanged blaster shots between Han and Greedo as seen in the Special Edition essentially changed the lovable smuggler from a “man trying to make his way in the universe” to a relatively shallow character who was inevitably poised to become a hero of the galaxy. This alteration has continued repercussions on his character development throughout the original trilogy as well as affecting the storyline of the Rebellion as a whole.
Before the change, Han Solo progressed from loner to leader. He made a deal to carry two men and two ‘droids to Alderaan for a hefty sum of money, not for a noble cause, and certainly not to rescue a princess. He was coerced into marching into the detention area for an even heftier sum of money. There is no evidence of altruism or heroism in him at all; he is, as the princess states, a mercenary. He made the trip to Yavin IV to collect his promised credits for passage to Alderaan plus the expected reward for rescuing the princess. As Y-Wings and X-Wings were being prepared for the battle ahead of them, Han was filling his hold with credits and cargo. When Luke confronts him about “turning [his] back on them,” Han encourages the youth to join him and Chewie because Luke was “pretty good in a fight”. As the younger man walks off, dejected, Han explains himself to his copilot — fighting against the Death Star was suicide. Still true to his character, Han Solo is in it for himself, hurrying to pay off old debts before he pays with his life.
But in that moment when Darth Vader has Luke’s X-Wing in his sights and his wingmen unexpectedly crash and careen into his TIE, Han Solo’s journey is complete (at least for this first installation in the saga). Although he claimed that he came back so Luke wouldn’t “get all the credit and take all the reward,” when he playfully shoves Luke at the base of his X-Wing, we all realize that there is more to him than money. He returned to fight alongside his friend, to come to the rescue when the call came his way. Han becomes heroic in the footsteps of Luke, who had immediately responded to Princess Leia’s holorecording by making it his mission to deliver the ‘droids to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Han’s motivation seems to stem from personal relationships, however, while Luke’s emphasis is on right and wrong. Therefore Han isn’t committed to the Rebellion, but loyal to his friends. Continue reading