Heads up, there are huge SPOILERS ahead for the five of you out there who haven’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet.
With a more than $2 billion worldwide haul, it should be readily apparent that Star Wars: The Force Awakens struck a chord with viewers around the globe and established a legitimate connection with fans. Without a doubt, the most emotional moment was the death of Han Solo at the hands of Kylo Ren, also known as his son, Ben Solo. It was one of those moments that sucked the air out of the theater, even if you knew it was coming (it kicked me in the stomach just as hard on additional viewings). It was a bold choice, one that wasn’t easy for anyone involved, and according to director J.J. Abrams, Harrison Ford had some strong feelings on the matter.
J.J. Abrams recently talked with Fandango about a number of things, but, as is to be expected, the subject of Star Wars: The Force Awakens came up, and the writer and director talked about Harrison Ford’s reaction to what was a controversial choice. Abrams said:
He was very thoughtful about it, and he got it. He understood why it was so powerful. And I think part of it was because Harrison himself — Han, the character— has so much ahead of him. Has so much life and fight and adventure—that this was the time to do that thing. If we felt like the character was sort of at the end of his days, it wouldn't have been as powerful. The thing that made it potentially meaningful wasn't just who does it and how it happened, but that it's a character that is so vital that is meeting his demise.
There’s been a great deal of discussion about the death of Han Solo in the days following the release and subsequent global take over of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, about whether or not it was necessary, why it happened, what it achieves from a narrative perspective, and more. Is this the kind of thing that Kylo Ren can come back from, or is lightsabering your father through the heart an irredeemable act? Does this set the stage for the greatest comeback in cinematic history, or does it drive home the fact that Kylo Ren is truly evil and that Ben Solo has been lost to the Dark Side of the Force once and for all?
Elaborating on why the decision to kill off one of cinema’s most beloved characters, even if he is a scruffy looking nerf herder, J.J. Abrams continued:
I'll also say that Harrison's always said that he knew that Han needed to have clear utility, and that's what he wanted to do. And that's why he argued back in the day that Han should die and George [Lucas] didn't want to do it. And I don't know what his utility in that regard would've been, though I'm sure Harrison would've come up with a clever pitch for it. But in this case there was such a clear utility— it's about bringing this new villain to the fore, and there's nothing I could think of that is more hideous than patricide, especially when it comes to Han Solo.
As J.J. Abrams says, Harrison Ford famously lobbied for Han Solo to be killed earlier in the saga, back in Return of the Jedi. When you whack a character that popular, there has to be a reason, and the timing just wasn’t right, but when it finally happened, it certainly was one hell of a moment. I wonder if this will turn out to become iconic in the same way that "I am your father" has become over the years.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens has become the third highest grossing movie of all time worldwide, with more than $2 billion in box office receipts. It hits digital download on March 15, and hits Blu-ray and DVD on April 5.