Note: If it’s not clear already, this post is going to have some heavy-duty SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If you haven’t seen it yet and want to go in clean, read ahead at your own risk.
Seriously, though, we’re pretty much gonna dive right into it.
Now that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is finally in theaters, we can move from the never-ending hype and thinkpieces on whether it will be any good and onto debating whether the movie was actually any good and thinkpieces about why you’re wrong if you disagree with the conclusion of the thinkpiece. Ah – the circle of life.
Central to those debates have been the fates of various original trilogy characters when they appear in the new flick. Central to that has been the death of Han Solo at the hands of his son, Ben – aka Kylo Ren aka Nu-Vader – in the film’s final act. Is it a powerful passing-of-the-baton to the newbies, or is it a craven sacrifice perpetrated only for shock value? Writer and director J.J. Abrams, obviously, has his own ideas on that, and he was pretty open about it with the Writers Guild of America.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Abrams said the major death was integral to the film at a guild event over the weekend. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is still on a journey to figure out exactly who he is and where he stands in the universe, Abrams said, and offing his pops is a big component in that – as well as beefing up his bona fides as the newest baddie in this phase of the franchise. Indeed, Ren’s apparent conflict over his actions (and his seeming relief once it’s done) is central to the scene.
“We knew we had to do something fucking bold,” Abrams said. “The only reason why Kylo Ren has any hope of being a worthy successor is because we lose one of the most beloved characters … Long before we had this title, the idea of The Force Awakens was that this would become the evolution of not just a hero, but a villain. And not a villain who was the finished, ready-made villain, but someone who was in process.”
Also factoring into the decision, Abrams said, was to darken the universe again after the relative calm and optimism in place by the end of Return of the Jedi. Having a new, monstrous villain shoving a lightsaber through the torso of one of film’s most beloved characters while he’s hunting down another goes a long way in accomplishing that, and Abrams said the scene was pretty hard to shoot.
“To see Harrison [Ford] reach out and touch Adam,” Abrams said. “I know this sounds stupid, but literally watching it, I forgot — I forgot that he wasn’t his son. He did it so beautifully.”
As interesting as it is to hear it from the horse’s mouth, Abrams’ reasoning isn’t terribly surprising. Killing off Han Solo helps The Force Awakens strike its mark on the franchise, and helps up the stakes of the new trilogy while also forwarding the stories of a handful of new characters. And though Abrams doesn’t state this outright, one can also infer that this was a sacrifice demanded by the narrative themes The Force Awakens is drawing on. This newest Star Wars film riffs pretty heavily on the structure and themes of A New Hope (which in turn was heavily influenced by the Hero’s Journey myth) – whether or not you think that’s a positive or not. Looking at Force from that lens, Han is playing a version of the “wizened mentor” Obi-Wan Kenobi did in the original, and the rules say the old dude has to bite it so the hero – or heroes, in this case – can take their place in the universe. Of course, that’s a lot of armchair analysis and speculation you didn’t come here to read – but deal with it, you got it anyway.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is currently in theaters, and also stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Carrie Fisher and Peter Mayhew.
[via Entertainment Weekly]