JJ Abrams Harrison Ford Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I only know two people that haven’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but to be respectful and for the sake of filmgoers that haven’t had the time for a trip to the theater, it’s best to avoid spoilers. Most of you probably already know which The Force Awakens scene the headline refers to, so you’re safe to check out director J.J. Abrams comments on the big scene from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens three times, and each time the audience let out a collective gasp when Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) killed his father, Han Solo (Harrison Ford). It’s such a well-executed sequence that I don’t think the shock only comes from witnessing Han’s death but also from the filmmaking. How Abrams uses light — natural light battling the dark interior lighting — is such a simple but dramatically effective choice. How about when Han shouts his son’s name? Chills.

Abrams has discussed The Force Awakens death scene before:

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.

The director wanted the film to have “guts.” There was already enough emotion in the movie, but Han’s demise really drives the ending of The Force Awakens and increases the tension in the final battle. It was the right decision to make, and as most Star Wars fans know, it’s a choice Harrison Ford has been supporting since Return of the Jedi.

Ford tried to convince George Lucas to kill off the character in Return of the Jedi, but Lucas wasn’t interested. Speaking with Fandango, Abrams opened up a bit more about Ford’s reaction to the character’s death:

He was very thoughtful about it, and he got it. He understood why it was so powerful. And I think part of it was because Harrison himself — Han, the character — has so much ahead of him. Has so much life and fight and adventure — that this was the time to do that thing. If we felt like the character was sort of at the end of his days, it wouldn’t have been as powerful. The thing that made it potentially meaningful wasn’t just who does it and how it happened, but that it’s a character that is so vital that is meeting his demise. I’ll also say that Harrison’s always said that he knew that Han needed to have clear utility, and that’s what he wanted to do.

If Han Solo was some big, grieving old mope all throughout Star Wars: The Force Awakens, his demise wouldn’t have been as impactful. You’d see a man on his last legs perishing, not someone still full of drive and charisma. Some argued the character didn’t evolve enough since the original trilogy, but Solo has always been fairly stubborn, a man set in his ways. The character felt just right in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and so did his death sequence.

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