Han Shot First and Didn’t Shoot First

By  · Published on June 9th, 2015

A script that appears to be a fan-style copy of an early Star Wars draft was just unearthed in – surprise – Canada. It’s always the last place you look, right?

A librarian named Kristian Brown found it in the archives of the University of New Brunswick while combing through the sci-fi collection and was happy to report that Han definitely, absolutely, without a doubt shot first.

That should put an end to the debate once and for all, but it doesn’t, because the aggravating question of whether Han shot Greedo or if Greedo shot at Han first has two answers, and both are correct. Not to mention the fact that a screenplay isn’t its corresponding movie – large changes can, and often do, get made between early drafts and the finished product. Multiple versions of the same film are a different story.

That’s the trivial yet problematic nature of revisions. In George Lucas’s 1977 version, there’s only one blast; Han Solo is a preemptively striking badass. In Lucas’s 1997 version, Greedo shoots first, and Han fires reflexively in self-defense. In Quentin Tarantino’s version, Greedo orders drei whiskeys the wrong way and says goodbye to his Nazi balls. It’s confusing.

But trying to figure out which version is the “correct” one is a futile exercise in fuzzy math. Like closing one eye at a time to make a tall building move. Both answers/versions are equally correct until you decide how you want Han to ultimately be characterized. It’s Schrodinger’s Blaster.

I personally don’t care, but I understand why it’s such a sticking point for such a large portion of fans. If you’re inclined to care, Han shooting first is a foundational principle of his personality – especially considering the scene is one of the character’s earliest in the film. His shooting first matches Harrison Ford’s devil may care swagger. His flinching and firing in recoil is clunky and makes the sequence one he merely survives instead of one where his personality is allowed to emerge.

Lucas has stated that he always intended for Greedo to shoot first because he didn’t want Han to be a “cold-blooded killer,” but he got the editing wrong the first go ‘round. In attempting to clarify his vision, he created a paradox. Han shot first and he didn’t shoot first. There will always be two conflicting, official versions of the story – one validated by the creator, the other validated by a large number of fans – regardless of how many ancient drafts of the script turn up in school libraries.

The better question is, if Greedo shot first, how did he miss?

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