Why J.J. Abrams Made A Major Change To Star Wars: The Force Awakens' End

Now that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is in theaters, smashing box office records into kindling along the way, many of us have finally seen the movie we’ve been anticipating and speculating about for the last few years. There are some shocking moments to be sure, but one in particular almost didn’t come to pass, and it has now been revealed why J.J. Abrams changed the ending.

SPOILERS. As you probably inferred from the headline, we’re going to talk about the end of The Force Awakens, and if you haven’t seen the movie yet, for the love of god, stop what you’re doing and go see it right now. If you read on it will ruin the end. Go HERE if you want to talk about it.

Michael Arndt was the original writer of The Force Awakens, and though he was replaced by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, he still has a credit. If you’ve seen the film, you know what ultimately happens to Han Solo, and in talking to EW, Arndt revealed that wasn’t originally the case and why Abrams made the change. He Toy Story 3 writer said:

I had thought Han’s story and Leia’s story was just about them coming back together. At the end of the movie, they would have reconciled and gotten over their differences. And you would have said, ‘Okay, bad stuff happened, but at least they’re back together again. J.J. rightly asked, ‘What is Han doing in this movie?’ If we’re not going to have something important and irreversible happen to him, then he kind of feels like luggage. He feels like this great, sexy piece of luggage you have in your movie. But he’s not really evolving. He’s not really pushing the story forward.

To get more specific, Han is killed by the villainous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who also happens to be his son, Ben Solo, who has long been on the path of the Dark Side of the Force. It wasn’t entirely a shock—Harrison Ford lobbied for Han to be killed off as far back as Return of the Jedi, and rumors that he would die circulated from the beginning—but it’s still a jarring moment, especially for those of us who grew up with the character.

This is the big emotional moment of The Force Awakens, and, as Arndt says, it is something "irreversible." It’s going to be interesting to see how this impacts a number of other characters moving forward. We saw Kylo Ren be conflicted early in the film, but after killing his father, is there still a chance for his redemption down the road? Han served as a pseudo father figure to Rey (Daisy Ridley), and she was obviously affected; Leia (Carrie Fisher) felt his death, but we didn’t really get to see her respond to it; what does Chewbacca do now that he doesn’t have his partner in crime; and though he probably sensed something, how will Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) react when he hears the news?

This last one will be especially important as Luke was Kylo Ren’s original mentor, and when the young Jedi turned dark, Luke bugged out and left it all behind. He already blames himself for how the Solo child turned out, but if he also killed his best friend, how is he going to respond?

We have a long time to wait until we find out the answers to any of these questions, as Star Wars: Episode VIII doesn’t hit theaters until May 26, 2017. Expect a lot of speculation in the meantime.

Brent McKnight