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2016-01-06 1:21 PM
I'm a Luke guy...
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I've been so delinquent in putting my thoughts on The Force Awakens to paper (or monitor, as the case may be), I'm hoping to bypass doing a traditional "review" of the movie and instead just jump into discussing the movie with my fully armed and operational geekitude. This will most certainly be one of many posts about the movie.
Han fan vs Luke fan
I don't remember where I saw it, but I remember reading a review of The Force Awakens where someone said "there are two types of Star Wars fans out there; there are 'Han guys' and there are 'Luke guys.' And that how one enjoys the Star Wars movies is going to depend more on how you relate to those two characters."
I'd like to clean that up a bit by replacing "guy" for "fan" and adding "Leia fan" to the mix. It's kind of a riff on that classic deleted scene from Pulp Fiction where Mia Wallace asks Vincent Vega if he's a "Beatles man or an Elvis man." She goes on to clarify, "My theory is that when it comes to important subjects, there are only two ways a person can answer. Which way they choose, tells you who that person is. For instance, there are only two kinds of people in the world, Beatles people and Elvis people. Now Beatles people can like Elvis and Elvis people can like the Beatles, but nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere you have to make a choice. And that choice, tells you who you are."
I've always loved that bit. I think that debate most certainly applies to the original Star Wars movies and to The Force Awakens. How you weigh in on the Han-Luke-Leia equation probably says a lot about your Star Wars fandom.
By my estimation, the Star Wars movies break down as such:
A New Hope
Definitely a Han and Leia movie. Luke is the main character, but Han and Leia are the brick and mortar of that movie. They get the best lines. They dominate the screen better and they feel more lived in and established as characters. Luke's arc was about discovering his inner potential, but Han's arc was about taking him from one person at the beginning of the movie to a new person at the end. Luke is Diet Coke. Han and Leia are shots of whiskey. And if we're being completely honest, Han coming out of nowhere to save Luke in A New Hope is a better overall moment than Luke's actual blowing up of the Death Star itself.
The Empire Strikes Back
Luke movie. While Han and Leia were better in The Empire Strikes Back than they were in A New Hope, this movie is squarely on Luke's shoulders. He's a richer character. His story is more fleshed out. He's the one you're thinking about when he's not on screen. Where they were kind of "all for one, one for all" in A New Hope, you know on exactly whose shoulders the fate of the galaxy rests.
Return of the Jedi
Mostly Luke, a little Leia, hardly any Han. Some of the best lines in the movie come from Han's mouth, but Harrison Ford's remarks that Han is kind of wasted in Return of the Jedi are completely accurate. He's there as a legacy player, but not because he really has all that much to add to the story. A similar fate in being fairly inconsequential to the action on screen is given to Leia, but she at the very least has the "there is another" tag thrown around her neck. She's a Skywalker kid and the movie gives her a couple weighty moments. But at the end of the day, this is about a young man out to face his father and his destiny.
The Force Awakens
Almost exclusively a Han movie. I mean, it's a Rey-Poe-Finn-Ren movie, but for the sake of these legacy players, it's a Han movie. Luke kind of hovers over the proceedings and is there in spirit but he's not in this movie in any true capacity. Leia is in the movie some, but outside of sitting around a monitor as a battle rages elsewhere, she's not given a whole ton to do.
The Force Awakens is really a Han story through and through, though. And since I'm not typically a "Han guy," and since the Star Wars movies haven't really been centered around Han almost exclusively, my initial impression of The Force Awakens was not a strong one. I enjoy the cowboy shooting his pistol while riding a horse side of Star Wars, but my preferred Star Wars is the one of knights and wizards and mystical energy forces.
Now, I like what they did with Han in The Force Awakens, so although I had some initial misgivings, they weren't mortal wounds. But it did leave me with the sense that something felt off about The Force Awakens. I've since seen the movie again and with my expectations a little more calibrated into what I was seeing, I was able to more fully enjoy the movie. I was able to see that the Knights-Wizards thing was transferred to Rey and Kylo Ren. But initially, I was a little... mixed.
I was thinking the other day about Luke and Han and how they're kind of two sides of a similar coin; they're both loners. They both have friends and acquaintances, but their interactions with said friends reveal a lot about how they are as characters.
Han is a loner (his name is Solo for a reason), but he's a lot more extroverted than introverted. He has no real issue having discussions with the Jabbas and Greedos of the SW galaxy, but at the end of the day, he'd rather play space checkers with his furry traveling companion. When he's at that table with Obi Wan and Luke, he steers the conversation exactly where he wants (and needs) it to go. He's a loner, but he's a loner by choice.
Luke on the other hand is a loner, but he's kind of a loner in the way geniuses and creative types are loners. He's introverted and in his head a lot. Always imagining what's on the horizon, instead of where he was. *hmmph* What he was doing. *hmmph* He's more awkward with people, which is why he's always being shut down by his Uncle and then later Han.
Luke pushes people away to some extent because everyone who ever gets close to him ends up meeting a grisly fate. He spends the first part of his life not knowing his father and mother. His uncle and aunt = BBQed. Obi Wan = one(ized) with the Force. Biggs (his one friend from Tattooine) = disintegrated in a fiery explosion in his X-Wing. Dax (his gunner on Hoth) = squished on the bottom of some AT-AT's foot. Han and Leia = meant to suffer because of Luke. Yoda = force ghosted. His father = dead. Even the Emperor dies not long after meeting Luke. The dude is a death magnet.
George Lucas got a LOT of things wrong with the prequel trilogy, but I've always found that Yoda's "fear is the path to the dark side" spiel is in some ways the most profound (certainly the most underrated) thing he said in the entire Star Wars saga.
When it comes to Luke, his fears are what ultimately drive him to push people away. The dude has a lot on his plate. On top of being afraid of what his enemies are capable of, he also is afraid of what he's capable of. So for much of the original saga and then this new movie, he pushes people away. "I must face him... alone." Always by himself.
One of my biggest fears with the new Star Wars movies was that they'd kind of butt heads with how I've grown to understand these characters. I've given more thought into these characters than I should probably admit. They're more than just movies for me. Having lived with these characters in my head for 30+ years, I can live with a lot of things differing from how I've imagined or interpreted them. My imagination and fan ownership of these characters isn't 100% rigid. But I wouldn't be able to look past gross re-imaginings of these core characters. I couldn't take, say, Han or Luke becoming villains or Leia becoming a wallflower.
While I sometimes found them distracting to the more engaging younger crew, JJ Abrams and crew completely nailed the older characters. Leia was a fighter and it makes sense she'd still be in the fight. Han is a rogue who always lets his mouth get him in trouble, so it's good seeing him continue with that. But those feel like superficial character traits and "nailing those" is kind of easy. Nothing pleases me more about The Force Awakens than seeing how Abrams and crew nailed the deeper, more interesting stuff about their personalities.
So Han isn't just a rogue, but he's now a world weary guy who fully understands and lives with all the stuff he's seen over his life. Leia isn't just a general, but she's a general who has sacrificed a lot for the betterment of her cause. And Luke... there's still a lot to be determined and seen, but it makes sense, because of reasons I stated above, that he'd distance himself from everyone. The hermit life, kind of suits him. Everyone he loves or has been close meets a grisly fate.
What's interesting going forward is that for the first time, his absence and pushing people away, in a weird sense, is what causes the harm in the first place. Before, his closeness to people is what hurt them. Now, it's his absence that puts his friends in harm's way.
While it was sad to see Han go out the way he did, I do think his death was necessary both for the story they set up (the ascension of a villain by extinguishing the good he felt within himself), and the story going forward (pulling Luke back into the void, Jedi training, etc.). Han would only be a distraction. And I look forward to seeing how Luke comes to grips with the notion that his absence helped facilitate his best friend's death. My friend Derrick Weston joked that The Force Awakens should have been two hours of Luke and Leia going through psychological counseling after all the stuff they went through in IV-VI. Knowing that Luke will likely have some guilt over not being there when Leia and Han needed him most only adds fuel to that fire.
I can't wait to see where the good folks at Lucasfilm take this story.
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