WARNING! This post contains a major spoiler. The biggest spoiler of all the The Force Awakens spoilers.
Are you still here? Seriously, get going! Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
So, Han Solo dies in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Impaled through the chest by his own son and dumped into one of Star Wars‘ trademark bottomless chasms. It’s a gut-punch of a scene, and my immediate reaction was “Jeez, was that really necessary? Can’t the heroes from the original trilogy just live and be happy?”
Unsurprisingly, fans are deeply divided on the scene, and J.J. Abrams and his writers Michael Arndt and Lawrence Kasdan also wrestled long and hard with it. Ultimately, though, they decided to off poor Han for two main reasons. First off, they knew Adam Driver’s Millennial Darth Vader was going to have to do something seriously bad if he was going to measure up to the original…
“Long before we had this title, the idea of The Force Awakens was that this would become the evolution of not just a hero, but a villain. Star Wars had the greatest villain in cinema history. So, how you bring a new villain into that world is a very tricky thing. We knew we needed to do something f*cking bold. The only reason why Kylo Ren has any hope of being a worthy successor is because we lose one of the most beloved characters.”
Interestingly, original The Force Awakens writer Michael Arndt had a much more upbeat arc in mind for Han Solo, but was ultimately talked out of it by Abrams.
“I had thought Han story and Leia’s story was just about them coming back together. At the end of the movie they would have reconciled and gotten over their differences. And you would have said, ‘Okay, bad stuff happened, but at least they’re back together again. J.J. rightly asked, ‘What is Han doing in this movie?’ If we’re not going to have something important and irreversible happen to him, then he kind of feels like luggage. He feels like this great, sexy piece of luggage you have in your movie. But he’s not really evolving. He’s not really pushing the story forward.”
Of course, the fact that Harrison Ford got paid 50 times as much as his young cast mates probably also played a role in Han getting the axe.
I can’t necessarily find fault with Abrams or his writers’ justifications for killing Han. His death probably did make the story they were telling better. That said, in my ideal world The Force Awakens might have been a happier, more positive movie where our old friends didn’t have to die or be sad old men hiding on top of mountains.