If you ask most people what they love about Star Wars, then invariably you will get to the lovable rogue Han Solo, the smuggler with the heart of gold who definitely shot Greedo first. However, if you ask most people about the scenes that they loved Solo in, then the discussion will pretty much stop with his carbonite would-be grave in Empire Strikes Back.
Harrison Ford himself was all for the character dying in Empire. After a bit of review, Ford was absolutely correct, for more reasons than he himself would ever realize.
Han Solo’s Death May Have Meant More Indiana Jones
Han Solo is a great supporting character in a science fiction franchise. Henry “Indiana” Jones Jr. is great lead character in an action franchise.
Raiders of the Lost Ark came out a year after Empire Strikes Back. Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom came out a year after Return of the Jedi. Ford’s continued involvement with Star Wars was actually a delay to a Jones sequel.
Granted, Temple of Doom was a huge hit in 1984. Without Ford’s dual involvement though, Lucasfilm could have kept on track with both franchises at the same time. After Spielberg was not able to direct Jedi due to Lucas’ problems with the Director’s Guild, Ford’s exit from the Star Wars franchise would have led to full energy being devoted to a Jones sequel sooner.
Timing is critical in sequel releases. Generally, two years will retain the level of gross better than three. Temple of Doom was a huge hit, but it still lost nearly $60 million off of the gross of Raiders. If Doom had been released in 1983 and grossed over $200 million domestically like Raiders did, do you really think that it would take another five years to release Last Crusade? That would seem entirely unlikely. With a potential half billion domestic gross in 1983, Lucasfilm alone would have been the dominant film company of the 1980’s. That could have potentially meant more Indiana Jones AND more Star Wars.
His Death Would Have Inspired the Rebellion to Arms
As Batman once pointed out to Superman, “The last thing that you did to really inspire people, was die.” Rebellions need rallying points. The Boston Massacre needed “Crispus Attucks – the first man to die for freedom.” Which headline do you think would pump up the populace more: “Aging War Hero Barely Survives Valiant Battle Against Hutt” or “Hero of Death Star Assault Tortured and Killed by Merciless Monster?” At that point, you can put Solo’s face on a poster. Solo’s death would become a “Remember the Alamo” moment. Solo the Smuggler would not have been nearly as important to the Rebellion as Solo The Martyr.
Losing Han Solo Made Everyone Better
What happened after it was thought that Han was lost? Everyone became a better person. Chewbacca had a renewed sense of purpose to protect the Princess. Luke realized that he truly did need to complete his training. Lando stopped being such a self-absorbed ass. Leia now had the image of a lost noble love to inspire her. Even the droids had managed to find their courage. In A New Hope, these were a bunch of beings essentially forced to work together, and it luckily turned out alright. By the end of Empire, they had truly become a family. As we will see very shortly, that family feeling only lasts as long as Han stays away.
Episode VII will be Little More than a Glorified Cameo
Most of the casting news about Episode VII focuses on people who were not even born when Jedi came out. Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill might not even have firm contracts for Episode VII yet. They are not going to be the focus of the new trilogy, especially Ford.
If the plan was always for later chapters to not focus much on Solo anyway, then why not let his death become one of the more unforgettable moments in the trilogy? Hell, what if Harrison Ford is not even in the next trilogy? How lame would it be if you have to come up with a death for Solo that isn’t even on film? Even worse, what if you are left with a situation where Solo does re-appear, but they can’t sign Ford and have to re-cast the character? All this could have been easily avoided by committing carbonite murder when the opportunity arose.
Harrison Ford’s Heart isn’t in the Character
In the 1980’s, Harrison Ford appeared on the Tonight Show and made a statement which shocked millions. He said that he had absolutely no interest in ever playing Han Solo again. This was absolutely incomprehensible to many — how could anyone not want to be in Star Wars? As it turns out, Solo’s carbonite situation was the result of Ford having only signed a two-picture deal, rather than a three-picture deal like everyone else. Ford was actually all for killing off the character in Empire, feeling that it did in fact give the character more gravitas.
And you do not want to force Harrison Ford into doing something he hates. Have you seen Ford scowl his way through movies that he clearly does not want to be in? Statistically, you did not watch Cowboys and Aliens, but Ford looked like he was being cattle-prodded through the entire experience. Harrison Ford has become, in many respects, like Marlon Brando in his later year. Sure, he continued to star in movies, but how many times did Brando actually “act” towards the end? Exactly.
Han Solo had Become a Detriment to the Mission
One of the truly important facets of leading a successful rebellion against the Empire was the ability to remain somewhat inconspicuous. This is increasingly difficult when people are looking for one of your generals for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with said rebellion.
Han Solo himself realized this very fact at the beginning of Empire, and at some point, he should have been allowed to just settle his debts with Jabba the Hutt and move on. The fact that Solo increasingly hung out with the upper echelons of the Rebels made him even more of a liability should Solo have ever gotten caught. Which is exactly what happened, obviously. The higher that Solo rose in the Rebel hierarchy, the more dangerous and precarious his position became, not only to himself but also to the cause that he came to believe in. No one around him would admit it, but for the purposes of continued secrecy, Solo’s death would have been a great help. What can you say? It’s war and in war, people die.
Kept Getting Caught
Han Solo got boarded by the Imperials and had to dump his cargo. He got caught in a tractor beam on the first Death Star. He got caught in Cloud City. Let’s face it; this guy is terrible at avoiding capture. It was only Greedo’s incompetence (and Solo shooting first) that he wasn’t caught before he ever started the mission.
Even after Solo is unfrozen, he gets caught twice more in the same movie. First, the cannibalistic furballs we know and tolerate as “Ewoks” trap him and put him on a stick. After that, Solo gets caught again by the Imperials running the shield station. Has no one else noticed what a big theme “rescuing Han” seems to become throughout these movies? Without the Ewoks, Han’s tactical leadership of that commando unit would have managed to get the whole unit captured without ever firing a shot. This failure nearly cost the Rebels their entire cause. It’s cruel to say but, had Han died, a more competent leader would have probably been appointed for the mission. And by “more competent leader,” we mean “anyone.”
Life Threatened the Rebellion
Han Solo’s detrimental effects thanks to his own continued existence did not stop once he was frozen. As a matter of fact, that particular fact led to the greatest danger to the Rebellion yet. Rescuing Solo from carbonite served absolutely no tactical purpose to the Rebellion.
As a matter of fact, the entire mission nearly doomed them without the Empire actually firing a shot. In a move that we can only surmise was the intense desire of a horny princess, her boyfriend’s rescue took precedence over the mission to destroy the Death Star. The rescue mission itself was foolhardy enough, putting their best resources (such as your only Jedi,) for the purpose of saving a smuggler whose greatest contribution thus far has been a ship that they know how to fly.
Also, Solo was not in any actual danger. He was frozen in carbonite and would have remained there for years. Jabba did not try and feed Solo to the Sarlaac Pit until after he was unfrozen in the rescue attempt. Most everyone who was actually important in destroying the second Death Star could have been killed at Jabba’s Palace. Why on Tattooine would you not wait until after the Death Star was destroyed before focusing on the release of a single hostage who wasn’t in any real danger?
Han and Leia were Terrible Parents
Pop quiz. What do you get when you combine all the Force-sensitive power in the universe with the DNA of a lying smuggler who happens to have a shoot-first mentality? Simple: you get Jacen Solo, AKA Darth Caedus. Extended Universe or no, the Solos wound up being proud parents of a Sith Lord, who both killed extended family and plotted against the galaxy.
Luke had it right when he immediately said “no” to a princess like Leia and a guy like him. Every generation of the Skywalker family faces temptation from the Dark Side. Knowing this, Leia still managed to reproduce multiple times with a known criminal. At the very least, there should have been a lot more care by Han and Leia in their children’s development. From the beginning, they seemed more intent on shipping them off to Uncle Luke to be trained in the Jedi arts than raising them. Solo himself seems to fade in later years to a remorseful background character. After a Universe-shattering tragedy that was his son Anakin’s death, Solo himself might have wondered if he (and everyone else) would have been better off with him dead.
Indiana Jones V
There is a rumor going around that Harrison Ford is attempting to tie his participation in Episode VII into a green light for Indiana Jones V. But why not just make the damn thing, Han or not? There were a lot of negatives about Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but the profit margin was not one of them. Skull grossed over $300 million, and that is not even taking into account the international grosses.
Remember what we said about the Temple of Doom delay? Imagine if you had to have Episode VII in the can before you ever even started on Indy V. That would mean that we are talking at least 2016, and then waiting for Spielberg’s schedule to clear. By this time, Harrison Ford would literally be the 100-year-old Indy from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, complete with eye patch. Do we really need a glorified cameo that badly?