100 Greatest Scenes Number 19: Han Shoots First

Views from the Sofa’s 100 Greatest Scenes is a list of the 100 greatest moments in the movies. This could be long introductions, moments of action or great dialogue between characters. The scenes are in no particular order and come from many different types of movies.

It has sparked one of the biggest debates in movie history. When George Lucas decided to revisit his original Star Wars Trilogy and make changes he believed helped the story, one change he made was to have Han Solo acting in self-defense when he met up with bounty hunter Greedo in the Mos Eisley Cantina. You can understand why he would want to change this scene but in doing so he takes something away from the character of Han Solo which made him so appealing and the runaway star of the film and the whole series.

Greatest Scene Number 19: Star Wars – Han Shoots First

The whole sequences which this scene ends in great. Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker and Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan Kenobi enter the Mos Eisley Cantina and find themselves in a hive of smugglers, bounty hunters and criminals and luckily they meet one with a heart. From the moment he appears on-screen, Harrison Ford brings Han Solo to life in pure, casual but cool style. He has a cockiness in every line and feels like a criminal with a past in just a small conversation with our “main characters.”

As good as this scene is, it doesn’t quite reach the success of the final scene in the Cantina. The scene where Greedo confronts Han Solo is an example of how good George Lucas’ writing and story-telling really was. The conversation, to anyone watching A New Hope for the first time, means nothing. We are entering the end of the conversation, with Greedo and Han talking as if the audience knows the context.

The conversation the pair have has unknown but monumental consequences for the future

The conversation is about smuggling goods, being boarded by Imperials and Han owing someone called “Jabba” some money. What is clever about the scene is that it doesn’t matter what the real context of the conversation is, it’s purpose is to show that Han Solo is a criminal with a troubled past and a difficult situation. It is supposed to make you wonder what our heroes have got themselves into by travelling with this man.

This isn’t enough of course and Lucas makes Han Solo even deadlier, colder and more bad-ass. The scene constantly shows Solo un-clipping his gun, bringing it into place under the table and getting ready to shoot. The whole time Solo doesn’t quiver in his voice and Ford’s delivery of the lines is nothing but confident.

Solo prepares to shoot… first

As the conversation starts to get more heated, eventually it turns to Han Solo to shoot Greedo – unprovoked. It is in cold-blood and it has to be in cold blood! In shooting Greedo in cold-blood it demonstrates how much of a criminal Han Solo is, as well as an opportunist, a smuggler and a fugitive, he is also a killer when he has to be.

The problem with this scene is that it is a contradiction. The conversation about Jabba the Hutt wanting Han Solo because of lost cargo is a storyline with a huge pay-off in the next two movies of the original trilogy, making it seem like Lucas had planned this from the very beginning. His desire to go back and change the scene so Solo shoots in self-defense, rather than cold-blood, seems to suggest that Lucas was not aware that Solo would be such a strong character, who would get a story-arc that would be “resolved” in the recent film, The Force Awakens.

Overall, the scene in which Han Solo shoots Greedo is necessary for setting-up the kind of man Han Solo is when he meets Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. He is a smuggler, criminal and ruthless murderer and it is the journey with our heroes that changes that. When Lucas changed that he changed something key to the original interpretation of Solo and made things worse. At Views from the Sofa – Han shoots first!

If you change this scene you change a key character
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2 comments

  1. yeah, he was a Clint Easwood in space. You wouldn´t ask that to the blonde stranger with poncho and no name 🙂

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