*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the original Stars Wars trilogy. Read at your own risk if you are just now discovering the original trilogy.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from the original Star Wars trilogy to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
Two weeks ago, I examined the character of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Last week I examined the character of Luke’s twin sister, Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan (the late Carrie Fisher). This week I will be talking about Han Solo (Harrison Ford).
The bad boy or girl. The pirate. The lone wolf who appears to be only be out for themselves. The character who is as quick with a charming smile as he or she is with their weapon of choice. This character has been adapted time and again over the centuries. Standing in contrast to their counterparts that are more innocent and less world weary, this character has seen quite a lot in their life.
In the 1930’s and 1940’s, this character was played the likes of such actors such as Errol Flynn and Tyrone Powers. In the Star Wars universe, the pirate is Han Solo.
The audience is introduced to Han in the bar scene in Episode 4. Han and his co-pilot, Chewbacca the Wookiee need a lot of money fast. His business relationship with intergalactic mob boss Jabba the Hutt has soured and Han has a bounty on his head. He agrees to help Obi-Wan (Alec Guiness) and Luke rescue Princess Leia for a handsome financial reward. What starts out as a job will change Han.
As a result of helping to rescue Leia and destroy the death star, Han becomes far more than the space pirate. He becomes part of the rebellion. In the Empire Strikes Back, not only does Han fall for Leia (and she falls for him), but the audience also learn more about Han’s back story. In meeting Han’s old friend Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), we learn a little more about Han’s life before A New Hope. Lando betrays our heroes and Han is frozen in carbonite. In Return Of The Jedi, Han is freed by his friends and leads the final battle on the planet of Endor, which finally destroys the Empire.
Like his predecessors, Han Solo is and will forever be the bad boy. But over the course of the three films, Han becomes so much more. He is not only bound to himself and Chewie. In joining the rebellion, he finds love, family and something greater than himself.
To sum it up: Characters need to grow. Without growth, their story is implausible. Han’s growth from rogue space pirate to rebellion general reflects life and circumstances change. Without change and growth, the audience may find it hard to grasp onto a character and follow them on the journey.
P.S. I don’t know about anyone else, but the exchange between Han and Leia “I love you/I know” just before Han is frozen in the carbonite is one of sexiest romantic exchanges I’ve ever seen on film.