With the release of The Phantom Menace in 3D today, Star Wars is in the limelight once again. This should be a good thing. However, lately it seems whenever Star Wars is in the news, controversy is soon to follow. This week was no exception. Fanboys set the Internet ablaze when—during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter—George Lucas tried to explain his changes to the now infamous cantina scene from the Star Wars Special Edition released in 1997.
“Well, it’s not a religious event. I hate to tell people that. It’s a movie, just a movie. The controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo, in Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo [who seemed to be the one who shot first in the original] to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t. It had been done in all close-ups and it was confusing about who did what to whom. I put a little wider shot in there that made it clear that Greedo is the one who shot first, but everyone wanted to think that Han shot first, because they wanted to think that he actually just gunned him down.”
He makes his case, however some people aren’t buying it. They believe this to be a classic case of retcon, where Lucas is attempting to justify his changes after the fact. Perhaps he softened his stance on scoundrel bad-assery when he had kids, and/or maybe he just wanted to sell more Han Solo toys. In contrast, there are those who simply take Lucas at his word.
Either way—in order to be fair—let’s further analyze the scene in question.
If American Graffiti was George Lucas’s tribute to his teenage life in the early 60s, then the first Star Wars film was likely a tribute to the movies he loved and studied while in film school. Episode IV references everything from Kurosawa, to aerial dogfights from World War II movies, to even spaghetti westerns.
In fact, the cantina scene in question was itself a reference to the 1966 film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. A character called Angel Eyes, played by Lee Van Cleef, is hired to track down and interrogate a man, who he then kills by shooting him from under a table. This callous murder sets Angel Eyes as the “bad” character referenced in the title of the film. Many believe the shooting in the cantina was an homage to this classic scene, with Han Solo being established as a “bad” character by acting in a similarly callous fashion.
However, a closer examination of both scenes may reveal something else. Greedo, being a bounty hunter, was actually playing the Angel Eyes mercenary role. Han Solo was the one being interrogated—but instead of being a stammering nervous wreck, he played it calm and stayed under control. That was the twist. By having Han Solo successfully defend himself and get the last word in, Lucas makes the Cantina scene not a straight homage, but actually an answer to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
However, the giant hole in this theory begs the question: How could a professional bounty hunter not hit a still target literally sitting only about two or three feet in front of him? Unfortunately, if we take Lucas at his word, this scene tells us less about Han Solo’s character, and more about what a bad shot Greedo was.
Regardless of the intent, the way the scene played out in the original cut of the movie was what people loved about one of its main characters. If people misunderstood the intent, so what? Just chalk it up to a happy accident. Go with it. Why go out of your way to tell people about how they really just misunderstood how cool it was?
When Lucas talks about Star Wars now, it just reminds me of the show Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry David would always offend someone by saying something ironic, then when trying to explain his real intentions, he would just dig himself into a deeper and deeper hole. I would find myself yelling at the TV screen, “Stop! Stop talking.” And so, Mr. Lucas, if have new projects going on, we would all love to hear about them. Really, we would. But when it comes to Star Wars, please stop talking.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter