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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Han Shot First: A Star Wars Special Edition

Various
Published Thursday December 10, 05:43 pm
George Lucas is wrong: Han Solo blasted Greedo, and a galaxy far, far away is better for it.

You might not know it but there’s a huge contingent of Star Wars fans working on this newspaper. Too many of us are in our mid-late 40s, which means we were highly impressionable children when Star Wars hit theatres almost, um, 40 years ago.

Really, we didn’t have a chance. It was like old Ben Kenobi said “you WILL love this movie” and we were suckered by his Jedi mind trick.

Not that we’re complaining.

Besides the arrival of a decent-looking new Star Wars movie on Dec. 18, the inspiration for this feature is the most controversial scene in nerd-movie history: Greedo taking a (missed) shot at Han Solo in the 1997 Star Wars Special Edition.

See, in the original Star Wars (screw this “A New Hope” ret-conned subtitle crap), Greedo the bounty hunter was going to murder Han, and Han, being a cunning space pirate who likes life, shot him under the table before he had a chance. The scene made sense, it established Solo as a badass and it made his slow transformation into a hero meaningful. A lot more meaningful than Luke Skywalker’s journey, that’s for sure.

But at some point (Ewoks?) George Lucas turned into an imbecile and changed the scene digitally. In 1997, audiences saw Greedo shoot first. Because, said Lucas, Han’s the good guy and good guys don’t shoot first.

Lame.

But We’ve fixed it. Look at the cover. Han shot first. It says so right on the front of this newspaper.

Han Shot first. Welcome back, Star Wars./Stephen Whitworth


Greedo’s Brains

Despite George Lucas’ protests, we all know that Han shot first. But trying to figure out how to create Greedo’s brains for the cover diorama presented an interesting challenge.

What do Rodian brains look like? I assume green, but what texture? And what shade of green?

In Star Wars, Han put a small, smoking hole into Greedo. But we wanted to exult in Greedo’s demise by piling on the gore. It was tricky, but a combination of putty and glue achieved a nice gooey brain splatter on the wall behind Greedo.

But would an alien's brains be green? Greedo is humanoid, so logically it could red blood with nice, soft, delicious gray brain. But it's funnier for it be green. And really it’s all about the gag.

And then there’s the matter of skull fragments. Would they be burnt from the laser blast? Would they be noticeable in all the blood? Leaving them white looked weird, but they are skull bits.

Would there be anything else splattering against the wall? Antenna? Who knows what weirdness lurks inside an alien’s skull.

And how did my love Star Wars end up becoming me spending days working on Greedo's brains? The force is weird. /Shane Hnetka


I Dreamed of Kashyyyk

For many years, even well into my 20s, I believed that I had dreamed an extra Star Wars movie. My bedroom floor circa 1978 was a mess of Star Wars action figures and models, including a sweet multi-level Death Star with trash compactor and foam rubber trash. My overactive eight-year old mind was desperate for more adventures from my favourite characters. My extra movie consisted mostly of Wookiees and followed the disjointed logic of dreams, full of incident but almost devoid of story, It jumped from weird animation to musical set pieces with disturbing disregard for quality, the whole thing culminating in a psychedelic celebration with Princess Leia singing bizarre lyrics set to the main Star Wars theme.

Sometimes I’d bring it up with friends. They all agreed that my dream sounded like a terrible addition to the Star Wars canon. Every so often, though, a disturbance would pass over someone’s face, as if they too were reaching into the same unconscious well and drawing up those same images: a dancing Wookiee child on a balcony. Bea Arthur (Bea Arthur?) belting out a Kurt Weill-esque dirge in the Mos Eisley cantina. An old Wookiee watching a virtual reality strip tease. And one day, a friend nodded and said, “That’s not a dream. You’re talking about The Star Wars Holiday Special.”

In 1978, as the Star Wars movie was burrowing its way into the popular imagination and taking it over like a cordyceps infection, George Lucas authorized The Star Wars Holiday Special and quickly came to regret what he’d unleashed. In a world where the Ewoks cartoon ran for 35 episodes, it says something that Lucas disavowed the Special altogether and now lives in a comforting dream world where the special never existed. Starring the main Star Wars cast (including a performance from Harrison Ford that suggested either extreme embarrassment or constipation), the special was set in the home of Chewbacca’s family as they wait, and wait, and wait for Chewie and Han to return and celebrate — ugh — Life Day. And while they wait, they entertain themselves with video games, afternoon cooking shows and virtual reality porn. Not kidding.

The Star Wars Holiday Special,which also starred Bea Arthur and Harvey Korman in multiple roles, couldn’t have existed at any other time in history. 1978 sat at the confluence of Star Wars mania and the last, glittery gasp of television variety specials, and after the Holiday Special aired, only one of those cultural forces could survive.

I guess we can thank George Lucas for that much.

And yes, Carrie Fisher sang the Life Day song, set to the Star Wars theme melody. That was not a dream. That was really happening. /Aidan Morgan


Things You Learn During A Star Wars Marathon

I recently had the chance to attend a private show of all six Star Wars films back-to-back at a Toronto movie theatre. Outside 15-minute breaks between films, those attending wouldn’t get any reprieve. Leave early and you would be shamed, show up only for the original trilogy and you would be called an asshole. The rules were rather draconian.

I had my doubts that I’d be able to go through all six films in one sit, but the experience proved to be a lot more comfortable than initially expected. Even though I’ve seen the Star Wars movies dozens of times, there were still a few surprises that only reveal themselves in a context such as this.

Here’s what I learned from 12 hours of Star Wars.

1. The Phantom Menace is genuinely awful on many levels. Forget the casual racism and the character-that-shall-not-be-named. The dialogue is horrific and Natalie Portman’s career could’ve been destroyed if she wasn’t signed for all three movies. The acting is inexcusably bad and actually improved in the following two episodes.

The dialogue, however, remained unbearable (see “I don’t like sand”).

2. The stormtroopers in the original Star Wars are spectacularly incompetent. They’re terrible shots, are easily distracted and can be fooled over the intercom with tremendous ease (not to mention the guy who knocks his head against a door frame). The troopers would have blown the Death Star by themselves within a few weeks had the rebels not intervened. Darth Vader apparently managed to clone-up considerably better personal for The Empire Strikes Back.

3. The lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan and Vader in Star Wars is garbage. This is the one element the prequels improved considerably on.

4. Count Dooku tells it like it is. Dooku twists the truth at his convenience, but he’s more pragmatic than evil.

5. I suspect Han Solo’s expression of surprise at being informed of Leia and Luke’s has more to do with all the incestuous acts he witnessed than the news itself.

6. Anakin is such a whiny little something, his transformation into Darth Vader is horrifically implausible. Turning evil is easy. Becoming cool is another matter entirely.

7. This one is on me. Until the marathon, I never realized one pilot, Wedge, survived all those borderline suicidal missions against Vader’s forces. I always thought of those guys as interchangeable. Except for Porkins. Poor doomed Porkins. /Jorge Ignacio Castillo

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