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Update: HD versions of all six Star Wars films hit the digital marketplace for the first time tomorrow, packed with all kinds of cool bonus features. There was also talk that one of the biggest changes George Lucas made in his special editions, Han Solo not shooting first, was going to be corrected. Some sources said this was happening, others disagreed, but now at least one tweet from someone who has seen the new versions appears to indicate that this is not the case.
Tomorrow is a big day for Star Wars fans. The beloved space opera is hitting the digital market, which means you can buy them on outlets on like iTunes and the like for the first time. While that’s all well and good, there is a new report going around that these digital versions could correct what is generally considered the biggest, most grievous mistake George Lucas made in his special editions.
According to Badass Digest’s sources—we can’t stress enough that this is an unconfirmed rumor from unnamed people at this point—in the digital edition of A New Hope available tomorrow, Han once again shoots first.
When Lucas went back and tinkered with the original trilogy—A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi—he made a number of changes, including adding new scenes, tweaking already extant ones, and injecting new blobs of CGI into the mix. Some were minor, some were significant, but the one that really rankled fans across the globe comes in the Mos Eisley Cantina Scene, when the Rodian bounty hunter Greedo confronts Han Solo (Harrison Ford). He’s come to take Han to Jabba the Hutt and collect his reward. In the original, Han pops off and shoots Greedo with his blaster, but in the altered version, Greedo draws and shoots first.
This has been said many times in many places, but while this seems like a relatively minor change, it’s actually very pivotal and casts a wide ripple. We just met Han at this point, we’re still trying to get a read on his character, and this moment goes a long way to defining who he is, to how we see him. He’s not a good guy, not hero, at least not yet. When we first meet him, he’s essentially a smuggler, a pirate, a mercenary out for number one and doesn’t give a shit about anyone else. Han Solo is very much the kind of ruthless son of a bitch who shoots first.
When Lucas made that change, it indelibly altered Han as a character. He killed Greedo in self-defense, not because he’s a rogue and a ruthless bastard. It changes who he is, and it impacts his overall arc in the first film and the franchise. The Han we meet first, in the original cut, is not the kind of guy who feels pangs of conscience and comes back to pull Luke Skywalker’s ass out of the fire. The character’s arc is that he becomes that person, and if he starts off as "maybe not that bad a guy in the first place," he goes through less of a journey, less of a change, and his new relationship with Luke and Leia becomes a little bit less important.
Over the years, we’ve heard numerous reports and rumors that the untouched versions of the original Star Wars trilogy could be made available once again. Those have never panned out, but if this rumor is true—again, it’s a big if—this could be a first stepping stone to finally getting our grubby little mitts on the unblemished theatrical cuts. Either way, we’ll know for sure tomorrow.