How the Walkway Scene in Star Wars: The Force Awakens could have been better (even if you love the movie)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Spoilers Discussion Ahead!
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is breaking all kinds of records at the box office. It’s not just die-hard Star Wars fans who are giddy about Episode VII, critics love the movie too. The critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes is currently above 90% and The Force Awakens received a Best Picture nomination from the Critics Choice Awards.
This is all not to say that The Force Awakens is immune to criticism. It’s possible to be a fan of a film and at the same time be critical of parts of the movie which aren’t working as well as it could have.
Some believe that there are way too many similarities between The Force Awakens and A New Hope. On the other hand, some appreciate how Episode VII mirrored the original and reenergized the Star Wars universe for a new generation. While others draw the line at the Starkiller base being an unneeded retread of the Death Star.
Personally, The Force Awakens is deserving of a lot of praises yet there is one scene in particular, among a few, that took me out of the movie watching experience. This is the scene towards the end of the movie where Kylo Ren confronts a certain rebel on an open bridge. (Spoilers ahead, final warning)
Perhaps you were in a theater where the audience gasped in shock or quietly sobbed after Kylo Ren drove his light saber through Han Solo. Or maybe there was a collective silence where if you could read the thought bubble above each movie-goer it would say “Did they really just kill off Han Solo?” or “I saw that coming from a mile away.”
Whatever is your personal reaction to that scene, whether positive, negative, or neutral it’s completely valid. It’s your reaction. Nobody needs to convince you how you should feel about it. If you loved it, that’s great. For myself, maybe I’m growing colder but I wished that moment emotionally resonated with me. I wished it was a gut punch where I’m completely absorbed in that cinematic moment. A scene where I could say, wow they really nailed it.
Don’t get me wrong, the way Han Solo’s death was handled didn’t ruin the film for me. It wasn’t a bad scene and it didn’t take away from all the other aspects that director J.J. Abrams got right. But I can’t help to think how the open bridge scene could have played out better. Here’s one possible version which with a few minor tweaks on the original screenplay would have worked better for me.
Let me preface this by saying that the intent of my alternative version of the scene is not to change the ending. The fate of all the characters remain unchanged. This is still character driven storytelling which is one reason why fans of the original trilogy connected with the Star Wars universe as a whole.
The ultimate goal is to give Han Solo a stronger farewell as a beloved fan favorite character and to raise the emotional stakes. As for concerns that Han Solo’s demise is telegraphed, that’s not a huge concern for me as long as there is a well written build up which should make for a stronger pay off. Further, it could help flesh out Kylo Ren’s character and his arc within the movie.
One point about Han Solo and Kylo Ren’s confrontation is that this is the first and only time we’ve seen them together through-out the entire movie. We didn’t get a chance to see their dynamics as characters, as father and son or what really happened between them before this pivotal scene.
You can make a case that the scene between Ben Kenobi and Darth Vader in A New Hope worked perfectly fine without knowing their history or relationship at the time. As much as the writers may want to mirror Obi-Wan and Han’s death, there are differences at play and ultimately the question which should be asked is what works best for this movie, for Han Solo and for Kylo Ren?
So to set up the walkway scene, Han Solo would have an earlier confrontation with Kylo Ren during the Battle at Takodana (home of Maz’s castle). Han tries to reach out to Kylo Ren and to secure Rey’s release. This brief dialogue scene would be designed to make us more invested and learn about their relationship, essentially setting up a bigger pay off for the walkway scene.
An altercation erupts where Ren quickly gets the upper hand on Han but Ren is not ready yet to kill his dad. This struggle to resist the light and embrace the dark side would also relate later in the scene when Ren talks to his grandfather’s helmet and commits to the darkness. “Show me again, the power of the darkness, and I will let nothing stand in our way“.
Jumping ahead to the actual walkway confrontation this could play out almost exactly as depicted. Except add a moment where Kylo Ren force reads Han Solo’s memories before falling to his knees. Han’s life long memories flashes before his eyes but from Kylo’s perspective. This would be a nice way to honor Han and briefly relive favorite moments in a heart breaking way.
We could also get a flash memory of the original core three (Leia, Luke and Han) together since it might not ever happen again. One of the final memories would be Han and Leia holding their baby boy with love and as proud parents. This overwhelming love would feel tumultuous for Kylo Ren as he fights to resist the light. The dialogue would be the same, he whispers “thank you” to his dad and knows what needs to be done.
Here’s director J.J. Abrams thoughts on why Kylo Ren had to kill Han Solo:
“Star Wars had the greatest villain in cinema history. So, how you bring a new villain into that world is a very tricky thing. We knew we needed to do something fucking bold. The only reason why Kylo Ren has any hope of being a worthy successor is because we lose one of the most beloved characters.”
The fact that many of us are actively thinking about this movie long after watching it is a good sign that The Force Awakens is doing many things right. Whether we may agree or disagree on certain issues is not really the point. The Star Wars universe is stimulating the imagination of many old and new fans alike. These are exciting times.
What was your reaction to Han Solo’s death? Is Kylo Ren a worthy Star Wars villain? What would you have changed about The Force Awakens?