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The biggest criticism that Star Wars: The Force Awakens faced during its theatrical release was the fact that a good number of fans said it was nothing more than a re-tread of the story to Star Wars: A New Hope. Well, those fans may want to read this new theory, as someone's now suggested that Return of the Jedi is the film that's been properly ripped off, and for one big reason – it's necessary to make Han Solo's death make sense.
Tony Szhou, the host of the YouTube series Every Frame A Painting, wrote this theory for Medium, and after reviewing its contents, it makes a lot of sense out of why the J.J. Abrams film felt extremely familiar. Szhou hypothesizes that in order to make the climactic moment where Han Solo gets stabbed through the chest by his son actually have an impact, Abrams had to reconstruct Solo's arc from Return of the Jedi to do so. Why's that you ask? It's because it's the most logical point in the Star Wars saga for Solo to have taken the plunge.
The theory goes as follows: Han Solo's arc of going from smuggler to true believer in the original Star Wars trilogy was one that was setting up a grand sacrifice of the scruffy looking Nerf herder that we'd come to know and love. A big sacrifice from Han in Return of the Jedi would have been the way to cap off the series, and give his character his due. Since he didn't get that moment, and his death was apparently a vital part to the experience J.J. Abrams and his co-writers wanted Star Wars: The Force Awakens to contain, the film resets Han to that egotistical smuggler attitude he had when we first met him, only to quickly revert him back to someone who cares, just in time for him to die.
Out of all of the criticisms for the exhilarating Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this happens to be the most applicable – even in the face of "Rey's story is just A New Hope, but with a female protagonist" gripe that's been more pervasive in the public's opinion. Han Solo's inclusion in the seventh Star Wars film did seem a little more like they were playing the Greatest Hits of the original run, without creating a new, dynamic character to shepherd Rey and Finn through their journey. That's not any offense to the usage of the Han Solo character, as seeing Harrison Ford back in the saddle was part of what made the film so much damned fun. But again, Solo's death would have been more fitting if it had occurred at the end of Return of the Jedi, as Ford had wanted to begin with.
At the very least, any retreads that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has engaged in will have been done for one, crucial reason: it sets up Star Wars: Episode VIII so that it can go to some new and interesting places story wise. If the rumors we've been hearing are true, that just may be happening right now as we speak, which means that in the end it was worth delaying Han Solo's death three decades or so. We'll see if this gambit pays off when Star Wars: Episode VIII opens on December 15th, 2017.