Han Solo’s character journey! In light of Solo coming out, we dig deeper into Han Solo’s life story. Daryl and Jay are joined by Paul F. Verhoeven (who joined us for Luke Skywalker’s character journey as well!) to dig deeper into the scruffy-looking nerf herder we all know and love… HAN SOLO!Unlock this content on Patreon!
First of all, let’s talk about the Wookie in the room. What did you think of “Solo: A Star Wars Story”?
I really liked it! Although it doesn’t have the same epic scope as the main Star Wars “episodes” and I found “Rogue One” to be a more compelling film overall, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is still a lot of fun. I thought Ron Howard did a good job taking over the project. With the director shake-up, major reshoots, and other problems going on behind the scenes, I was worried the film would turn out to be a bit of a dumpster fire. Howard deserves a lot of credit for the fact it’s actually a pretty entertaining and coherent film. I think there’s plenty of room in the new Disney Star Wars canon for bigger event films like the main episodes, and smaller-scale stories like “Solo.”
Walking through Han’s journey movie by movie, how would you sum up the guiding theme(s) for Han Solo in…
“Star Wars: A New Hope”
One of my favorite pastimes is sorting fictional characters from other cinematic universes into Harry Potter houses — and I think Han Solo is totally a Hufflepuff. Han is fiercely loyal to the people he cares about, and he never leaves a friend behind. We don’t necessarily see this at first in “A New Hope,” because Han does a great job projecting this “too cool for the room” attitude. He loves to think of himself as this dashing loner and roguish scoundrel. But the fact he comes back to help Luke blow up the Death Star, when he really doesn’t have to, speaks to how much he values friendship and loyalty.
“Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back”
The themes of friendship and loyalty carry over into “The Empire Strikes Back,” because despite what he may say, Han can’t quite leave the Rebellion; he cares about Leia and Luke too much to just abandon them. We see him repeatedly taking risks for his friends, like going out into the snow and freezing temperatures on Hoth to search for the missing Luke.
“Star Wars: Return of the Jedi”
I really liked the line in “Solo,” when Qi’ra tells Han she knows what he really is and that’s “the good guy.” He fully becomes that in “Return of the Jedi,” continuing to aid the Rebellion and helping them make a final stand against the Empire.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
It’s fascinating to see what has happened to Han in “The Force Awakens,” because for a while it seems like maybe he’s actually backsliding into some of his old habits and patterns of behavior. He and Leia’s relationship has fallen apart, and one could argue that his new smuggling misadventures with Chewie are really just him hiding/running from his problems. That’s why it’s so poignant when he comes back at the end of the film to face his son, Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. You can tell by the look in Han’s eyes as he starts walking towards Kylo that he knows he’s going to die, but he does it anyway because it’s the right thing to do. He’s taking responsibility for his past mistakes with his son, and the scene enforces the theme that Han ALWAYS comes back for the people he loves. I also think that sacrifice will pave the way for Kylo’s ultimate redemption.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story”
The Han we meet in “Solo” is more optimistic, idealistic, and confident than original trilogy Han. He hasn’t acquired all those layers of cynicism, and the galaxy still seems like a (mostly) hopeful place to him. Although Han is a little rougher around the edges in the later movies, the young Han in “Solo” is definitely still there: willing to stick by his friends, no matter what.
Many people will call Han Solo their favorite Star Wars character. What’s so appealing about him?
I think a lot of people have connected with Han because it’s such a great performance from Harrison Ford. Ford IS Han Solo, and this just seems like a role he was born to play. He adds some great humor to the franchise and makes it feels authentic; plus, he brings along Chewbacca as an awesome sidekick!
Looking at the character itself, I think Han is just this really charming person, despite his flaws and rough edges. People can see that deep down, he really is “a good man” and even though he fancies himself an outlaw, he’s definitely one of the heroes. It’s also cool to see a character who grows and matures throughout the franchise.
What are the pivotal points in Han’s character journey, and how does he grow (or get worse) as he faces those moments?
Perhaps the most pivotal moment — though none of the characters probably realize it at the time — is that moment in the cantina on Tatooine when Han agrees to help Luke and Obi-Wan. Sure, at the moment he’s desperate to earn some money, but that seemingly chance encounter forever alters the course of his life — and the fate of the galaxy. It helps set him on a better path and pushes him closer to being the Han we see in “Solo”: the kind of (secretly) idealistic guy who still believes there’s good in the galaxy and who finds friends worth fighting for.
As mentioned before, Han has reverted to some of his bad habits when we meet up with him again in “The Force Awakens,” but in his final moment — where he faces his son and tries to redeem him — he dies as the hero fans always believed him to be.
Han’s journey is a lot like many people’s real-life journeys; we all make mistakes and do things we regret, but we can take comfort in the fact that change is possible and that we can do better in the future. Our mistakes don’t have to keep us locked on the wrong path forever.
Why do Han and Chewie work so well together?
Han and Chewie’s friendship is one of my favorite things in the Star Wars universe. I love how even though we can’t understand what Chewie is saying, we can see how these two communicate with and relate to each other. It’s clear how much they value each other’s friendship. They’ve bailed each other out of a lot of difficult situations, and they know they can trust each other. Having a loyal friend like that definitely comes in handy in a business where it’s hard to trust anyone but yourself. After all their experiences, they’re pretty much like family, and it hurts to see how painful Han’s death is for Chewie in “The Force Awakens.”
Compare and contrast Han’s relationship with Qi’ra to his relationship with Leia. What stands out? Which one is healthier? Why?
Han’s relationship with Qi’ra is based on a childhood bond that doesn’t necessarily hold up over time. He’s so excited to see her again after so many years that he doesn’t realize how much she’s changed and that in the end she’s planning to betray him. In some ways, Qi’ra is not completely to blame; she grew up in a difficult environment and did what she had to in order to survive, even if some of the decisions she made were wrong.
I think Han’s relationship with Leia develops into something much stronger and healthier. There’s a lot of bickering at first, and Han pesters Leia more than he should. But over time, the two develop a sense of mutual respect and trust, and Leia helps Han grow as a person. In the movies, we don’t get to see the life they shared in between “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens,” but some of the new canon books show how much they come to rely on each other and care for each other. Leia helps Han become the best version of himself.
Who are the other most impactful people in Han’s journey and what does he learn from them?
Aside from Leia and Chewie, I would say Luke had the most profound impact on Han’s life. Luke is a dreamer and idealist, and despite his apparent cynicism, Han is, I think, inspired by Luke’s enthusiasm for life. Han overcomes his skepticism regarding the Force and ends up joining the Rebellion, thanks to Luke’s influence. It’s interesting that in “The Last Jedi,” we see that Luke is now the one who’s become jaded and cynical. We probably won’t get this in Episode IX, but it would be really interesting to see a flashback scene with Han and Luke, around the time of Kylo’s fall, to see how their friendship may have changed.
How does Han’s personality change in the years we don’t see him (between “Solo” and “A New Hope,” and between “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens”)?
I think the biggest change occurs between “Solo” and “A New Hope”; his life experiences during this time have obviously made him a lot more cynical. Although the core of his personality has remained the same, I think he’s become a lot less trusting of people. Still, with some new friends like Luke and Leia, he goes back to being a “good guy.” I don’t really think he ever stops being a good guy after that, but in “The Force Awakens” he is running from his problems. He and Leia deal with the fallout of their son’s decisions in different ways, and I think Han finds some comfort in reverting to his old habits. Yet as mentioned previously, that “good guy” never goes away, and he agrees to help the Resistance, just like he helped the Rebellion.
Do you think Han’s demise in “The Force Awakens” was a worthy death? Was it a satisfying end to his story?
As cool as it would have been to see more of Harrison Ford in the sequel trilogy, I think that was a good way to wrap up his story arc. He dies helping the Resistance and trying to save someone he cares about, which is a pretty fitting end for his character. I also appreciated how much heart Ford put into that final performance. Whenever I watch “Return of the Jedi,” it always feels like Ford’s not *quite* as invested in the character in that film, and I’ve heard that Ford actually wanted the character to die. I’d like to think that Ford is pleased with Han’s overall story arc, once you factor in the sequel trilogy. Like real life often is, Han’s story is a mixture of love, failure, loss, and, through it all, hope.
After seeing “Solo,” do you want more Han in future Star Wars movies? What would you like to see?
I would like to see a sequel to “Solo,” especially after that unexpected Darth Maul cameo! I’d also like to see what Ron Howard could do with a Star Wars film with complete creative control from the beginning, instead of being brought in at the last minute to manage reshoots. Although we don’t strictly need anymore Han Solo movies, I had a lot of fun watching this one and wouldn’t mind them bringing the cast back together for more adventures.