“When you have to shoot, shoot!”
I hate myself. I try not to hate Lucas, but I sure do hate myself for once again being drawn into his egomaniacal web of not-quite-truths and self-congratulatory crap.
So Lucas exclaimed in an interview a couple of days ago that really, the fan-brouhaha over the ‘Han shot first’ change to the special edition back in 1997 was in fact one big misunderstanding, and that in actual fact…
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.
Which sounds surprising, and for a moment made me question just what I’d been seeing all those times I’ve watched the original Star Wars over the years. Was I that blind? Did Greedo actually shoot first?
No, of course not. Lucas has an unbridled penchant, not for lying, but for not telling the full story (see elsewhere), so just to thwart this notion in its cradle, here’s how that scene looks today on the recently released blu-ray, with both of them shooting at the same time:
Notice how ILM had to not just make Han move his head, but also added smoke to Greedo’s gun. If the original intention was for him to also shoot, you’d think that it would have been done practically on-set; you know… like Han’s gun smoke.
Here’s the original, in which Han is the only one to shoot, and afterwards the special edition, in which Greedo shoots first:
So even if he did have an original intention for Greedo to shoot first, why was it changed twice? Appeasement of the fans perhaps? I’ll call that one a misfire.
So maybe the original was simply cut wrong, leaving what seems like it would be a pretty important shot on the cutting room floor?
Wait, let’s have a look at the workprint, famous for having been rejected because of its slow and meandering editing. Surely if this was simply a kerfluffle over a missing wide shot, it should be in here? Skip to 6m30s.
Alright, alright, I know what to do. Let’s go to the fourth draft screenplay–the shooting draft–that surely will reveal the original intention:
Han: Over my dead body.
Greedo: That’s the idea. I’ve been looking forward to killing you for a long time.
Han: Yes, I’ll bet you have.
Suddenly the slimy alien disappears in a blinding flash of light. Han pulls his smoking gun from beneath the table as the other patrons look on in bemused amazement. Han gets up and starts out of the cantina, flipping the bartender some coins as he leaves.
How about that.
Lucas doesn’t seem to give enough credit to movie goers, believing that they think of Han as a cold-blodded killer, when in reality they clearly understand that this is a now-or-never moment, and that Han is in the line of business where if you have to shoot, shoot! Don’t talk.
In either case, there’s no denying that the Han of the original Star Wars doesn’t quite gel with the character portrayed by Harrison Ford in Return of the Jedi, and perhaps that’s really what Lucas has a problem with; not to get too cynical here, but there’s no denying that Lucas turned Lucasfilm into a merchandising company, and that the difference between the two versions of the same character is remarkable. One is a scoundral, the other is not.
Either way, can we just have the goddamn theatrical release back already?