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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ultimate Geek Fu

"Hokey Religions and Ancient Weapons..."

As promised, this week's topic is Harrison Ford. Is he some kind of national treasure? If you've seen American Graffiti, Witness, Blade Runner, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, or any Indiana Jones film except the Crystal Numbskull, probably yes. If you've seen Force Ten From Navarone, Sabrina, or Six Days Seven Nights, perhaps not, but then again that last one may be Anne Heche's fault.

And then there's the big kahuna: Star Wars.

It is my contention that Han Solo is the hero of Star Wars, not Luke Skywalker. Okay, so the script mostly follows the farmboy—but Luke has no choice in the matter. It's Fate; it's Destiny; he's The Chosen One; he's The Only Son of The One Who Was Previously Thought To Be The Chosen One; he's got the magic sword, the super powers, and the little green muppet sensei. Luke can't help but to become the Great Hero in the last reel.

But Han Solo: he has a choice. He's snarky; he's cynical; he's capable of chaos and cowardice; he has a sense of self-interest and self-preservation that seems to elude Luke. He can make mistakes, and sometimes they're doozies; he can get hurt, and when he gets hurt, sometimes he gets pissed-off. He's the guy who's fully capable of blowing away a bounty hunter with a gun hidden under the cantina table—

And let's make no mistake about that one: Han shot first. That is the defining moment for his character, as definitive as when Bogey plugs Major Strosser in Casablanca or John Wayne snipes Lee Marvin in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and for Lucas to have changed that scene in the reissue just proves that Lucas didn't really know what he was doing.

—but as I said, Han has a choice. He has to choose to act against his own self-interests and come back to help Luke in the final battle. That scene when Luke is in the trench, trying to hang on for just a few more seconds, and Vader is hot on his tail and moving in for the kill—and suddenly Vader's wingmen get blown apart as the Millennium Falcon comes diving in out of the sun, with Han Solo at the controls, a-whoopin' and a-hollerin' like Harry Luck in The Magnificent Seven—that is the single most exciting moment in the entire damn Star Wars octology, and the fact that there is no comparable character in the first (second?) three movies and no comparable moment mostly proves that Lucas didn't really have a clue what he was doing.

At least, that's my contention.

Let the arguments begin.

ULTIMAGE GEEK FU runs every Wednesday. Have a question that's just bugging the heck out of you about Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate, Battlestar Gallactica, Farscape, Firefly, Fringe, Heroes, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Smallville, The X-Files, X-Men, The Man From Atlantis, or pretty much any other SF-flavored media property? Send it to slushpile@thefridaychallenge.com with the subject line, "Geek Fu," and we'll stuff it in the queue.
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