Monday, January 12, 2015

One in a million: Why you'd rather be Luke Skywalker than Han Solo

 Taken from

As my colleague Baron von Chop pointed out, it's hard to pick between being Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Maybe it's because they each exemplify so much of what makes for a good hero. One of them is the classic farm-boy-turned-hero, who undergoes the Hero's Journey to find not only glory but himself. The other is the Scoundrel with a Heart of Gold, who discovers that there are depths to himself that even he didn't know about (and gets the princess, too). But we have to look beyond some of the obvious things, too. These characters aren't just archetypes, and there is plenty to recommend them both beyond the roles they play. But let's start with the obvious.

1. A Laser Sword

You get a sword made out of light that can cut through anything. Let me try to break this down for you. Think of every great sword in the universe: Excalibur, Stormbringer, Glamdring, Narsil, the Master Sword. Now admit it: a lightsaber is about a million times better than any of those. You remember how you reacted the first time Luke made a blade of pure light appear out of nowhere in that shack on Tatooine? For weeks, that image didn't leave your mind. You used to want to be able to just whip out a seemingly ordinary tube and POW you have something that reflects energy blasts, slices through metal like paper, and glows. You know how just the sound of a lightsaber turning on and waving around was enough to get you stoked? Now admit it: you are having that feeling right now. You think a starship is a chick magnet? Think again.

Image by Anthony Foti on

2. The Force

On some level, you might want to dismiss this as nothing but mysticism. You might say it's all about "hokey religions and ancient weapons," or you might call it "simple tricks and nonsense," but think about this: you have a mystical connection to the very fabric of the universe. Have you ever sat and listened to the mind-exploding wisdom of an old teacher and wished you, too, could take a sip from that magical spring? Well, how about tasting that spring every time you open the tap in your kitchen? Jedi have indoor plumbing, yo. You and the cosmos itself just became BFFs. There is simply no way to weigh this against having a stinky monkey as a copilot. Han will never feel what it's like to have that connectedness to the entire universe. Let's come right out and say it: Luke is magic, and Han isn't.

3. A Good Attitude

This is where the gloves come off and we get personal. Now, Luke is a nice guy, so he would never say this, but I would. Han is a dick. Not only is he smug, but he's also a downer to hang out with. He's sarcastic and negative. You don't want someone who's going to roll his eyes and scoff when you suggest that you should all go hang out at the new Dewback Ribs place that opened in town so you can come home with pockets full of Dianoga Sauce. You want someone who's going to say, "That sounds awesome! Let me grab my keys." And that's Luke. The Rebel Alliance tells him they need someone to pilot an X-Wing to attack the Death Star. Does Luke say, "This is suicide?" No, that's Han. Does Luke point out that he's never been in an X-Wing before and has no flight combat training? Does he talk about the chances a handful of fighters have for destroying something the size of a moon? Does he remind the Rebels that he has rightfully earned a chance to kick back and rest for a while after rescuing a princess from the most heavily-defended place in the galaxy? No way. The Rebels need pilots, and he takes a step forward. He puts on that orange suit and goes right to work. Luke is a wonderful human being.

Image by TK769 on

Han is also wrong. A lot. That's fine if he has his friends around to bail him out, but on his own, he's not going to accomplish much other than flying around making deliveries, because he just doesn't have the motivation to be a hero. And which would you rather be: the savior of the galaxy or a delivery boy? But wait: there's more.


Who fired the shot that destroyed the Death Star? That would be Luke. Who spent most of the fight kicking his feet up in safety, only to swoop in at the last minute and take a shot at Vader's wingman? Han Solo. Who was out piloting a snowspeeder to fight off the Imperial walkers? Your boy Luke. Who spent all that time just getting the Falcon ready to run away? Han.Who masterminded the rescue from Jabba the Hutt's palace? Luke Skywalker. Who was hanging in carbonite on the wall? Han was. Who faced down Darth Vader, the baddest dude ever, in the throne room of the Emperor of the Galaxy? Mister Skywalker. Who needed Ewoks to bail him out in a fight against Imperial Officer #3? You get my point.

In addition to a good attitude, Luke is simply at the heart of everything. While it's true that Han is cool, Luke is the hero of the story. The Hero's Journey is his. He's the one who goes from being a wide-eyed farm boy to a hardened badass. And, since this debate is all about making a choice, we all know which you would choose to be.

5. The Best Teachers

Since the time he was a baby, Luke has had Obi-Wan Kenobi, a Jedi Knight, watching over him. Ben is the mysterious man of the wilds, an archetypal hermetic wizard everyone wonders about. He carries a sense of grandeur and power with him--and he wants to take Luke with him on a galactic adventure. The line "I want to come with you to Alderaan and learn the ways of the Force" still sends shivers down my spine, because it's the moment we all long for: someone to believe in us, to train us, to show us that we have a potential as limitless as the galaxy itself.

On top of that, Luke not only is the only character in the original trilogy to meet Yoda, he is also the last person to be trained by him. Yoda trained Jedi for centuries, but his last lesson is not in a temple somewhere, but in the sweltering jungle of a remote planet, one-on-one with Luke Skywalker. All of that wisdom will be part of Luke forever. Do you remember all those marvelous Yoda quotes that stayed with you for decades? Quotes like, "Wars not make one great." "You must unlearn what you have learned." "Only different in your mind." Han doesn't, because he wasn't even there.

6. It Only Gets Better

We know Jedi become more amazing with age. The older they become, the wiser and more powerful they are. And, when they die, they "become more powerful than you could possibly imagine." What does Han have to look forward to? As an older guy, he will be driving a Millennium Falcon that's increasingly ramshackle and obsolete. He'll be like the bald guy driving an old-model Camaro with the top down, being overtaken by soccer moms in their Ford Fiestas. Sure, his ride might have been fast when he was young, but there's no way that "piece of junk" is still going to turn any heads. On top of that, as a married man, Han isn't going to be as much of a scoundrel and wanderer. He's going to become the "cool dad," and Chewbacca is going to go from ripping arms out of sockets to being "Uncle Chewie." Luke, meanwhile, gets to grow a badass beard (and we all know Jedi are about 20% cooler and  more powerful with beards) and train the next generation of Jedi, as well as becoming ever more powerful and wise in the ways of the Force. Luke is going to be uprooting trees with his mind as a gray-bearded wizard. Han is going to be fumbling for his cane so he can take Chewie out for walkies. And after he dies, Luke gets to party with all the other dead Jedi as a Force ghost forever.

 Image by SaturnoArg on

1 comment:

  1. These are all good points, and I'll grant you another one: Luke gets to spend most of his time accompanied by R2-D2, the feisty Swiss army knife of robots. Han, meanwhile, is stuck with C-3PO, the neurotic professor of robots. Clearly Luke wins there.