Now the argument that has plagued Star Wars fans for years has been whether Han Solo should have shot Greedo first. There has been a lot said on both sides of this argument (and a lot added by a third party of people who don’t care and wish we would just shut up about it) but I’ve slowly realised why the whole thing bugs me so much. It’s not just the fact that it changes the dynamic of the character but more what it represents in relation to a disturbing trend I’ve noticed in modern cinema today.
The story of “Who Shot first?”
Firstly it’s probably best to get a few things out of the way and explain why it happened in the first place. George Lucas has gone on record as saying he felt Harrison Ford’s Han shooting first was too cold blooded and that was why he changed that scene. He’s also stated that the originals are now defunct and that the special editions are the story he always wanted to tell. Because the stories he wanted to tell involved obvious CGI, the ruining of a major character’s story arc and now apparently, 3D……..That guy really thought ahead!
Now I’m going to go off topic for just a little bit and have a bit of a go at every nerd’s favourite punching bag. I have to point out that going back on something so universally known and loved and then telling the people who enjoyed it that they’d made a mistake in liking it because it was wrong really isn’t something a good artist should do.
Not only does it make you seem a bit of a dickhead but you’re essentially calling your fan base a bunch of morons who didn’t understand your vision and basically saying that their opinions don’t matter. It would be like Michelangelo going back to his statue David and saying, “Well, I know this is a beloved historically relevant art piece but because people keep making fun of the size of its knob, I’ve decided to recast it using a plaster cast of Dirk Diggler’s cock from Boogie Nights and if you don’t like it, then you obviously don’t appreciate Art.”
What! This isn’t considered a massive penis? Hmmm, that would explain all those women pointing and laughing. I thought it was because one of my testicles was bigger than the other two.
Why this one insignificant change has become more culturally relevant than you might think.
Now Han shooting first is really a slightly trivial matter. Honestly, the first time I saw it I had no idea about moral ambiguity or its implications on the character or scene. I was just happy to see a cool looking alien being shot by a laser gun and was also wondering what my snot tasted like. This is probably how most of us remember it because we were young. It’s only as I’ve gotten older that I have come to embrace my love of morally ambiguous characters and in hindsight realised that one of the heroes from my childhood fitted brilliantly into that mould. Han Solo strays very close to crossing the line between good and evil and is one of the most memorable anti-heroes around. Sure there’s never any doubt that he’s going to do the right thing but at least he goes through something to get there. Taking that away by having Greedo fire first just means that he’s a guy who will defend himself from a bounty hunter with bad aim.
Firstly, this is an actual screenshot and those are meant to be lasers. Secondly, this might still count as morally ambiguous. If Greedo missed from that close, then Han’s clearly shooting a blind Alien.
My main reason for hating how this has affected the moral compass of the character is, from my recent noting, that heroes are slowly becoming more audience friendly and less likely to do anything that may stir up negative reactions. Now even I can think of many movies where the main character kills a whole bunch of guys so this isn’t a fool proof theory, it’s just a pattern I’ve noticed is becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s movies, especially Blockbusters.
Sanitized heroes for a new generation.
Sure this maybe isn’t something everyone cares about or has even noticed but to me the whole thing marks a slow and steady decline of the action heroes I want to see. Some movies like the Transporter can’t even decide which kind of hero they have. He goes through most of the film beating people up and letting them recover only to come back at him a few hours later but every so often picks up a gun and kills people with no explanation as to why some deserve to die whilst others only need a sound kicking. The same can be said of Bourne but as his storyline progressively becomes about him finding out (and ultimately regretting) that he has these skills, this isn’t so bad.
Statham waits to see if it’s OK with the audience before pulling the trigger.
Even worse than this is that existing characters have been hit with this new found philosophy. Perfect examples of this are Indiana Jones not killing a single person in “The Raiders of a Beloved Franchise” (I mean, “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”) when he mowed down Nazis with wanton abandon in the originals. In fact he murders 3 to 4 Nazis as the punch line to a “Don’t call me junior” joke in The Last Crusade.
Ethan Hunt’s latest offering in the M:I series also fits the bill. Now unlike “Kingdom of the CGI Gopher” I enjoyed this film but couldn’t help but think “When did a man who had no trouble jumping onto a bike and blasting cold hard death at all comers become a man who barely even looks at a gun in this movie?”
Even John McClane (who still murdered a few people in Die Hard 4 but with none of the brutality seen in the earlier films) wussed out on his catchphrase by having his “Yippee ki yay motherfucker” covered by a gun shot.
Hell, it was even announced today that Chuck Norris wants The Expendables 2 to be a film kids could see. This doesn’t even make sense! The first movie ,whilst a bit shit, was made as a throwback to the 80/90′s actioners we grew up on.There’s no reason to make it family friendly, why would kids want to see aging action heroes pretend they’re not obsolete dinosaurs in today’s movie industry? The appeal of the movie was the nostalgia at seeing your old heroes make one last hoorah before finally accepting they’re too old for that kind of nonsense anymore. It was a last stand against the bland heroes we see today, and now it’s only gone and joined their ranks! Is nothing sacred?
Han Solo’s inclusion into this new standard is a step too far for this nerd. Fair enough, most of today’s character are written with this newfound moral centre in mind and even toning established characters down is a creative choice I can live with (even if I don’t like it) as it’s usually decided before production. What annoys me so much about Han firing second is the simple fact that it’s a retroactive decision that doesn’t need to have been added and in fact takes away a vital part of who the character is. The new scene isn’t part of some grand plan George Lucas had for Han Solo. It’s just a scene that uses some dodgy CGI twitching from Han and an extra CGI shot coming out of Greedo’s gun to warrant Han’s return fire. In one swift and poorly implemented move it redefines a beloved character in a way that was never part of the original story and seems to have only been added now that Lucas has embraced this newfound love of characters who intentions are always good and with which there can be no space for any controversy. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a bigger crime than the prequels.
This scene will be added in the next time George decides to tinker with the originals. Not content with having him shoot Greedo in self defense, he’ll now spend 10 minutes crying and coming to terms with the fact that he’s a murderer before finding God and repenting for his smuggling ways.
Why this is this happening and where will it end?
I feel that one reason for that this new moral centre and the rules that heroes must now follow is down to the creators wanting to make their characters as appealing as possible and not have them do anything that may be viewed negatively by fans. More depressingly I feel the main reason is down to the films receiving that coveted 12A/PG13 rating that most movies feature these days. In a 12A/PG13 you can fit in some decent enough violence (though nowhere near the proportions of murderous mayhem fans of 80/90′s action films remember fondly) and at least 1 (maybe 2 depending on the situation) uses of the word “Fuck”. Now obviously the point of a movie is for it to make money so widening your audience base is always going to be the priority but when did having characters who will kill, swear and who can leave you feeling a little uneasy about their actions become such a horrendous concept?
Get used to these certifications on movies posters. There’s gonna be a lot of them!
How long before we’re having characters who’s actions are always predetermined because they must follow these rules? How soon before seeing an action hero kill people becomes a big deal? (This has already happened with the shock and awe people experienced when they saw Taken, though that may also have been down to seeing Oskar Schindler murder his way through France). At what point are we going to find that we no longer have to make our own decisions on how we feel about characters? Will our own intelligence and feelings on the matter not need to be explored because film-makers have removed anything that may cause us to question or, shock horror, dislike their creations?
In the end, I’m just a guy who likes action movies, morally dubious heroes and characters who swear (whether it’s down to shock, to emphasise a point or even out of realism, people swear all the fucking time with no rhyme or reason to it). Now I don’t know about you but I’m getting slightly sick of seeing not only the new heroes that have started gracing our screens but even ones who have already established themselves (and their personalities) slowly becoming part of this growing trend for heroes who are written with “audience likeability” in mind. And surely I can’t be alone in this. Can I?
Also, in case this point got lost in my ramblings:
Han Solo shot first. That is all.Tags: boogie nights, chuck norris, die hard, Ethan Hunt, expendables, george lucas, greedo, han solo, harrison ford, indiana jones, john mcClane, star wars, transporter