Tuesday, August 7, 2007

"Han shot first."

While reading "Betrayal," the first book in the "Star Wars: Legacy of the Force" series, I came across a wonderful line of dialogue on Page 232 today. To appreciate it, you must be familiar with some background.

Many fans of the original, pre-prequel "Star Wars" were upset with some of George Lucas' changes for the 1990s Special Edition re-releases and the 2004 DVD release. Hayden Christensen replaced Sebastian Shaw as Anakin Skywalker in "Return of the Jedi." Jabba the Hutt was added to "Star Wars" and then upgraded. Boba Fett and the emperor changed voices.

The change that grates the most on the nerves of a "Star Wars" fan is undoubtedly the re-cut of Han Solo's famous cantina scene with the bounty hunter Greedo. Luke and Ben have left, on their way to sell Luke's speeder so they can get Han the 2,000 they owe up-front for their trip to Alderaan. Chewbacca has left to get the Millenium Falcon ready for space. And as Han gets up to leave, Greedo points a blaster at him and forces him back into his booth. The bounty hunter points out that Han owes Jabba a substantial amount of money and that he ought to hand it over to Greedo. Han protests: He doesn't have the money with him.

Greedo: You can tell that to Jabba. He may only take your ship.
Han Solo: Over my dead body.
Greedo: That's the idea… I've been looking forward to this for a long time.
Han Solo: Yes, I'll bet you have.

Han -- who has quietly drawn his blaster -- shoots Greedo, who falls forward, a smoking wreck.

That's Han Solo: A hard-nosed smuggler who won't hesitate to shoot dead a bounty hunter after his hide. And yet ...

George Lucas re-cut the scene for the 1997 re-release to show Greedo shooting and Han firing back. The hard-nosed smuggler is rendered soft, in much the same way as the politically correct move of Lucas' friend Steve Spielberg to replace federal agents' guns with walkie-talkies in a re-release of "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial." That's not Han Solo.

And so fans say "Han shot first! Han shot first!" At "Star Wars" Celebration III in Indianapolis in 2005 and again at Celebration IV in Los Angeles in 2007, fans booed the scene at movie screenings.

Which brings me to "Betrayal," published in 2006. On Page 232, author Aaron Allston continues describing the aftermath of an assassination attempt on Jedi, Corellian and Galactic Alliance envoys. Frantic survivors, still clad in night-clothes, assess the damage. Han is nowhere in sight. Gen. Tycho Celchu of the GA turns to Leia Organa Solo.

Tycho asked, "Is Han --"
"He's fine," Leia said. "Han shot first."

Mr. Allston, that deserves a free drink. Thank you!