The new Star Wars movie, a delicate piece of my childhood identity hanging in the balance, far exceeded my expectations. I liked the storyline, enjoyed the epic space battles and appreciated the new
characters while cherishing the old ones. The film features plenty of subtle nods to lifelong fan boys like me while also opening the franchise up to a whole new generation.
Still, I hated it.
To explain why, I need to reveal a great big spoiler so if you are one of the seven people left on the planet who haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to know anything about it, stop reading now. I avoided social media for three days while I waited to see the film and, as a result, may or not have cried in a theatre for the first time since E.T. phoned home.
Han Solo dies.
I won’t go into all the nitty-gritty details as to how and why because while they are certainly important to the movie’s narrative arc – and the franchises’ – they don’t really matter. All I know is that Star Wars has stuck a red light sabre through the most important icon of my action-figure days.
As a kid, I wanted to be Han Solo. While Darth Vader is certainly the most iconic figure of the original trilogy – and the one that I’ve adopted as I’ve moved into fatherhood – Solo was swashbuckling personification of everything that I longed to be: ruggedly handsome, stupidly brave, smooth with the ladies. Luke may have been the hero but Han was just so cool.
The Empire Strikes Back is universally considered to be the best of the first three movies and yet it’s the one I like the least. Why? Because I can’t stand to watch Han Solo get encased in carbonite. The fact that I had to wait years to find out what happened to him required patience the eight-year-old me didn’t have: I worried about it every day.
Now I’ve got something else to fret over: how does the next Star Wars movie succeed as well as The Force Awakens without Han to hold it together? He was the bridge between the old characters I loved and the new ones I was getting to know. It looks like Luke will play a bigger role in the next film and that’s not encouraging: Harrison Ford went on from Han to become a legit movie star while Mark Hammil has been… doing other things?
Star Wars has always been about imagination. I spent endless hours as a kid playing with action figures, recreating the existing stories, sure, but also coming up with new ones. Vader was always the villain and Solo always saved the day. In my own version of events, Solo and Leia lived happily every after (with Chewy living in the in-law suite.)
Now I’m forced to live with a different version of events than the one I created.
Han Solo is dead. Long live Han Solo.