With Force Awakens finally out of theaters and available on DVD, not to mention a new trailer for Disney's latest Star Wars spinoff debuting today, I wanted to expand on a point I made in a January rant: Not only was Disney's treatment of Han Solo [*see update below] inexcusable and shocking, it's even more shocking -- and telling -- that the Internet has remained almost totally docile about that fact. In an ironic twist, Disney has turned geek culture's obsession with spoiler alerts against it, silencing any collective outrage before it even begins.
Even worse, the tradition of spoiler alerts have caused geeks to even censor their own internal thought processes. Surely some of us hated the shabby way Han Solo was treated in Force Awakens. But since our own cultural mores prohibit us from outwardly expressing that anger in any online forum, we self-police our dissent until that dissent has been silenced -- even in our own heads.
Think about it: Han Solo has been a beloved geek culture icon for five decades. But with little objection or protest, his new corporate owner escorted him offstage like so much excess baggage -- and hardly any geek said a word.
Like I said back then -- and even now, I feel obligated by the Internet to robotically add SPOILER WARNING before saying this again:
I am not categorically opposed to the idea of killing off Han Solo, actually, but the way Abrams does it is unbelievably reckless and uncaring. And on a far more basic level, it’s just bad storytelling... Han Solo is killed in Force Awakens by a son we know little about, after a long period of estrangement we don’t witness, for reasons we are not shown. His death is not the necessary end to a long story arc, but a jarring unearned plot twist that is shocking only in its total arbitrariness. It gets still worse after Han’s murder, because the impact of his death is barely touched upon. One of the franchise’s most beloved characters -- and in the story, one of the rebels’ most legendary figure -- is mourned onscreen for a minute or two at most. And the story keeps rumbling along, scarcely undeterred.
But then again, so does the franchise. And so old Han Solo is treated like an irrelevant impediment to the overall corporate momentum, and brusquely sent to seed. In the process, we see movie geek culture for what it is: Like Leigh Alexander said about gamers, not really a culture, but a corporate consumer market, and an easily controllable one at that.
Update, 1:15pm: Some readers have pointed out that Harrison Ford himself requested Han Solo's death. Even if so, for reasons explained above, his death didn't make much sense in the story, and was cavalierly handled and lightly mourned. Contrast how Solo's death is mourned in Force Awakens with this scene, one of the most famous in geek cinema:
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