February 10, 2012

That's Low, George. Solo.

George Lucas has come forward to set the record straight for all those of you who were wondering--Greedo shot first. Of course some of us weren't wondering. I was one of the many who saw it in the theater when it fist came out. Lucas can talk about his intentions until the Death Star flotsam reaches the outer ridges of that galaxy far, far away, but what was there on the screen was large as life and pretty damn clear. Han shot first. Greedo didn't shoot at all.

Now I don't know why Lucas continues to fuck with his films. Honestly, I don't. If I had to make a guess, I'd say it was something psychological, some form of OCD. Or maybe it's just because he can. Whatever the reason, it doesn't matter. I'd even argue that Lucas' "intentions" don't matter. I've heard people argue that they're his movies, so what he says goes. But that's not entirely true, in my opinion. When an artist creates art, he can tweak it and fix it and reinterpret it as much as he wants privately, but once he puts it out there, it belongs--at least in part--to the public. If Leonardo was alive today, we wouldn't let him and his paintbrush back into the Louvre because he suddenly realized the Mona Lisa should have had bigger tits.

Authorial intent certainly means something, but it doesn't mean everything. If I write a short story, and you get something out of it besides what I intended you to, then good for you. It doesn't mean you're wrong, and it doesn't mean I've failed in writing my story. Lucas claims we shouldn't see Han as a "cold-blooded killer," but that just shows how distant he's become from these characters, because I'm betting that no one ever saw Han as that. After all, Greedo had his pistol pointed at Han, and had just told him that he was going to enjoy killing him! That's not cold-blooded; that's self-defense. Or look at it this way--if we see that scene as Han being "cold-blooded," what are we to make of Han swooping in out of nowhere during the final battle to destroy the TIE fighter that never fired a shot at him? Isn't that the equivalent of shooting someone in the back? Now, of course he was defending his friend, so we don't fault him, just like we don't fault him when he shot Greedo. First.

One last thought: even if you believe that Lucas has the right to "clarify" his original intentions for the character, it still doesn't change things. Lucas apparently forgot that he had a script. That's the thing about having stuff written down--it makes it pretty easy to see what those original intentions were. This is from the script:

GREEDO: Going somewhere, Solo?

HAN: Yes, Greedo. As a matter of fact, I was just going to see your boss. Tell Jabba that I've got his money.

Han sits down and the alien sits across from him holding the gun on him.

GREEDO: It's too late. You should have paid him when you had the chance. Jabba's put a price on your head, so large that every bounty hunter in the galaxy will be looking for you. I'm lucky I found you first.

HAN: Yeah, but this time I got the money.

GREEDO: If you give it to me, I might forget I found you.

HAN: I don't have it with me. Tell Jabba...

GREEDO: Jabba's through with you. He has no time for smugglers who drop their shipments at the first sign of an Imperial cruiser.

HAN: Even I get boarded sometimes. Do you think I had a choice?

Han Solo slowly reaches for his gun under the table.

GREEDO: You can tell that to Jabba. He may only take your ship.

HAN: Over my dead body.

GREEDO: That's the idea. I've been looking forward to killing you for a long time.

HAN: Yes, I'll bet you have.

Suddenly the slimy alien disappears in a blinding flash of light. Han pulls his smoking gun from beneath the table as the other patron look on in bemused amazement. Han gets up and starts out of the cantina, flipping the bartender some coins as he leaves.

HAN: Sorry about the mess.

See the part where Greedo shoots? Neither do I.


  1. Anonymous3:15 PM

    Not that I'm willing to give Lucas an out, but that snippet you've included doesn't have any real direction notes on it. There's no possible way to tell from this who shot first from it, or that Greedo shot at all; only that Han shot Greedo and walked away -which we all knew. The script doesn't need to tell us Greedo did anything more then die if its not going to include direction notes.

    The only way this could be conclusive is if we had a script that specifically said " " in the same typeface and format as the rest of the script, and confirmed by those involved with that days shoot, or scribbled in Lucas' handwriting and confirmed by witnesses that the addition/note had been made while on set, to tweek the scene.

    Additionally, given the fact that the blaster fire was done in post production, this could always have been something intended to be figured out in editing, which no real goals in either direction other then Han lives. Again, Greedo could have waved a banana around and it didn't need to be in the script. A script only needs the most general, important information, to segway the parts of a scene together.

    1. Anonymous3:18 PM

      sigh.. In those quotations in my second paragraph its meant to say "Both men Calm, two shots are fired. Greedo slumps on the table." in a similar format to what a script/screenplay with direction notes included would look like.

      I forgot that Blogspot takes that as if your trying to code HTML.

  2. Yes, and the fact that "two shots are fired" is NOT included says a lot. As you've said, a screenplay includes the most important information. (I've been teaching screenwriting for 13 years, by the way.) Greedo shooting at Han and missing IS important information. There's a saying: "if it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage." Notice that we "see" Han's smoking weapon, and Greedo "disappears in a blinding flash of light." And that's "suddenly," mind you. Suddenly. All of that is a pretty clear indication of what goes on in the scene.

    You're looking for 100% certainty, which you're never going to get. But go read the script. Look at the detail included. If Lucas truly "intended" to have Greedo fire first, it would have been no problem to include it, as you pointed out, and he certainly would have. But apart from him saying so years after the fact, there's no inkling ANYWHERE that he felt that way.

    There aren't any "direction notes," as you call them, in the script because it's not a shooting script. Not having them here means nothing one way or the other. Screenwriters don't direct. But they DO include salient points of the story. You didn't say what your experience in screenwriting is, but in my opinion, some of the things you've said indicate that you're not that knowledgeable about it. For example, "Greedo could have waved a banana around and it didn't need to be in the script." Except that it would. If the screenwriter wanted (or intended, if you please) Greedo to wield a banana, he absolutely WOULD have to include that. Yes, things change from the original script to the finished product, but it seems as though you're saying that a screenwriter can leave a bunch of stuff out of the screenplay and it'll all get taken care of later. In my experience, that's a poor way to write a screenplay, and I can't imagine that writer would get much work.

    You can turn it any which way you want, but there's nothing here to indicate Greedo fired, and he didn't fire in the original scene as it appeared in theaters. If he intended to do it, he should have done it. He didn't. It's like my pointing out the sky is blue, and your saying in response that I can't prove it because I didn't specify whether it was royal blue or Egyptian blue. Or, if you'd prefer to stay with the movie analogies, it's like saying that Neo might possibly have taken both pills because the screenplay shows him taking only the red one, and no mention is made of what he does with the blue one.