The inimitable smuggler and rakish hero Han Solo pops up some halfway through A New Hope when young Luke Skywalker and his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi walk into the seedy joint and run into a whole host of shady characters.
And there's this guy in the black vest and a blaster gun hung casually across his waist. Leather boots, lopsided grin. The guy had everything going for him.
Ever since I first saw Star Wars way back when, or more precisely in the misty-mythical years of my late seventies/early eighties childhood when A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi all together were the hottest show in town, I have returned to that scene over and over again.
The more I thought about it the more it seemed to me that the meeting between Han Solo and Luke Skywalker was one of those magical on-screen moments when anything can happen. A piece of mystery made visible by the elusive art of movie making.
I don't know why, but somehow those two instantly clicked together in my mind. Like two pieces of the whole. They were what you might call perfect complementary opposites.
Han Solo, the charming rogue with a sharp wit and tongue to match, provides the necessary reality check to Luke Skywalker's bubbling idealism. A little bit like the combination of Paul McCartney's mellifluous gushy voice counterpoised with John Lennon's textured singing which brings in darker and edgier overtones.
How about these lines:
"You don't believe in the Force, do you?"
"Kid, I've flown from this side of the galaxy to the other, I've seen strange stuff. But I've never seen anything to make me believe there's one all-powerful force controlling everything. There's no mystical energy field that controls my destiny. It's all simple tricks and nonsense."
He is a realist. He is more likely to rely on a blaster gun at his side than what he believe to be the religious mumbo-jumbo. He is also a luckless drifter with a bounty on his head.
That might not sound like the best role model for a six or seven-year-old kid that I was but then again what is a perfect role model in an imperfect world?
Naturally, all this rationalization came much later. All I knew at that time was that Luke Skywalker was somehow special and Han Solo was just dashing, pure and simple.
I mean, he had Chewbacca for his first mate! From the point of view of a seven or so-year-old, a man whom a wookiee befriends has to be somehow special. Between Chewbacca's growls and Han Solo's quips they make one of the most charming double acts ever.
I have to confess that I secretly shared in Chewie's disapproval of all the undertow mushiness that went on between Solo and Princess Lea. Why does there always have to be a girl to put an end to a perfectly carefree lifestyle of small-time smuggling and dodging Imperial ships?
He pilots the Millenium Falcon, the fast spaceship and a cranky piece of hardware at that. If ever there was a ship to match its captain that would have to be the Millenium Falcon. "A piece of junk", as the young Skywalker puts it, it has more to it than meets the eye and proves its worth when things get tough.
When we meet Han Solo in A New Hope he is in quite a bit of trouble. But that sounds like him, doesn't it? He had to dump a certain cargo on account of an encounter with an Empire cruiser. That set off a whole chain of events whose ramifications would haunt Han Solo throughout the series.
When he picks up the four passengers, two humans and two droids, he is looking to make a killing and pay off his debt to a local kingpin Jabba the Hutt. It was Jabba the Hutt's cargo that he had to jettison.
Sneaking the passengers under the Empire's nose sounds like piece of cake for a seasoned smuggler. But things don't quite work out as he expected.
Finally when the battle comes down and the odds seem the longest he simply up and leaves.
I could not believe my eyes. Nothing could have prepared me for that. You just don't do that! That ran counter to everything I had been taught, everything I had figured out myself with all the precociousness of a nipper.
You just don't bail out on your buddies! The kid thought to himself in the semi-dark of the movie theater. And Solo's rationale was absolutely outrageous.
"Come on. Why don't you take a look around? You know what's going
to happen, what they're up against. They could use a good pilot like
you. You're turning your back on them.
"What's a good reward if you ain't around to use it. Besides, attacking that battle station ain't my idea of courage. It's more like...suicide."
We all know how the story ends.
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