Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Chewbacca, the overlooked hero of the Star Wars films

Cathy has complained that my review of The Last Jedi didn't mention Chewbacca once. Chewie is one of her favourite characters, and although this sounds insulting, she likes it when I remark on the comparisons between them. Like Cathy, Chewie is loyal, dependable, smart, isn't overly talkative, and is very strong.

Trading card pose!

Sadly, Chewie is also frequently overlooked. It's a famous running gag that there is no medal for the wookiee at the end of Star Wars: A New Hope. Surely with all the different edits that have happened to that poor, oft-butchered film, they could have put in a sequence where a medal is dropped round his neck and then CGI-d onto him when he says 'RRRRAAAAWWWRRRR' at the end. (Trivia quiz answer - he is the last character to speak in A New Hope.)

Then in The Force Awakens, he sees his long-time buddy / boss / best friend killed in front of him, but when the Millennium Falcon lands back at the resistance base, Princess Leia, who had hugged him earlier as if they were besties, ignores him and hugs Rey instead. Rey, who she has hardly heard anything about, much less never met. Surely, Chewie deserved the hug more. Cathy was sort of outraged about how he was snubbed here. Although I have suggested that maybe Chewie was concerned about the grievously injured Finn at the time. I'm sure once Finn was in sick bay, Chewie would have got the hug he needed, probably off-screen, because he's a proud wookiee and doesn't want people to see him grieving. (Cathy isn't buying any of my explanations, by the way.)

So, does Chewie deserve more respect from the Star Wars writers? I think so. Chronologically we first see him in Episode III, fighting to protect his home world of Kashyyyk. He is part of Yoda's honour guard, helping the old jedi survive Order 66. In A New Hope, he sets up the deal with Obi Wan to get him and Luke passage to Alderaan. In Empire, Han entrusts Leia to him. In Return of the Jedi, he wears shackles to give Leia a reason to enter Jabba the Hutt's court in a rescue attempt to spring Han.

Throughout the movies, we see him as Han's conscience. In A New Hope, Han gruffly tells Chewie that he knows what he's doing as he loads the rebel money onto the Falcon. Clearly Chewie wants them to stick around and help the attack on the Death Star. In The Force Awakens, he gives away Han's bluffing when Han is trying to lie his way out of a showdown with the gangs he has taken money from.

"I know what I'm doing!"

He's not just Han's conscience though. He is loyal to a fault. When Han starts running down a Death Star corridor after a squad of stormtroopers, he doesn't hesitate and follows them. In the Special Edition of A New Hope, Han finds Jabba and various goons at his ship (including Boba Fett on some sort of retainer), and Chewie is there and ready to back him up. Chewie is the pretend captive when Luke and Han go looking for the Princess. He follows Han out of the Falcon to look for mynocks. As I mentioned he ends up in Jabba's dungeon, where he holds onto Han like a protective mother when the two are reunited. There's no question he's going to Endor even though Han hasn't volunteered him and he's clearly annoyed that Han wanted to protect him. And so on, and so forth. No wonder he ends up hunting rathtars.

And he does have key parts to play in The Last Jedi. First he gets Luke's attention by kicking in the door of his hut. That's played for laughs in the film, but lets not overlook his commitment to supporting Rey after Han's death - even to the point of kicking in the door of the last known jedi master at the risk of seriously angering him. Then he shows off some badass piloting skills to evade the First Order TIE fighters over Crait and play as much a role in saving the last few sparks of the Resistance as Rey did. And he even managed to do that with a ship that seems to have become infested with porgs that get in the way at inconvenient moments. It's not the first time he has piloted the Falcon at key moments. He was the wookiee ex machina who saved Rey and Finn as Starkiller Base shattered around them at the end of Episode VII. (He really should have got that hug!)

I think the case is made for Chewie being the overlooked hero. Literally, on-screen in A New Hope and The Force Awakens, and generally in the trilogy. With a Han Solo spin off movie due this summer, we can only hope that Chewie gets to play a major role.

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