So, that scene in “Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope.” The Special Edition version, not, you know, the real one. That terrible, terrible scene where we are, against our will, introduced to a CGI Jabba the Hutt, who has descended upon Han Solo’s hangar in Mos Eisley, demanding to know where his money is and why, incidentally, Han had to fry poor Greedo.
You know the scene I’m talking about.
In the original movie, Han shoots Greedo in the cantina (no, he doesn’t “shoot first,” as so many Internet memes and even a t-shirt I own emphatically state; Han Solo is originally the ONLY person to shoot in that scene, and he does so as an act of preemptive self-defense, NOT in response to Greedo drawing on him. Think about it, people, it makes no fucking sense for Greedo to shoot at Han. Han’s just told Greedo he’s about to be flush with cash because he’s picked up a lucrative charter, and Greedo’s in the process of trying to extort it from him, which he cannot do if the smuggler is dead. Saying Greedo represented a clear and present danger to Han Solo in the Mos Eisley cantina is like saying Iraq presented a clear and present danger to the United States because of its WMD’s in 2002…and if you believe that, I just don’t know what the fuck to tell you). Then he hightails it to his hangar, where, when we next see him, he’s responding to Luke calling the Falcon a “hunk of junk” by telling him the ship has it where it counts, but we’re in a bit of a rush here, so let’s get this show on the road.
Wanna know why Han was in a rush? Because he’d just MURDERED A DUDE IN FRONT OF WITNESSES in a local bar, and he consequently has reason to believe that that dude’s boss, to whom Han owes money (i.e., Jabba) will be none too pleased when he finds this out, and will be coming after him not to collect a debt, but to take retribution. There’s a sense of urgency to Han’s need to get off of that godforsaken planet, and it’s legitimately earned in the previous few scenes. We get it, on a gut level. Han’s in trouble with the mob, and has to split.
Unless this is the Special Edition.
In which case, Han’s urgency to get out of town following his cold-blooded killing of a mob enforcer is met with Jabba the Hutt– who is portrayed in the Star Wars universe as the Godfather himself, a big-time crime boss, ruthless, villainous, greedy, powerful — waiting at Han’s hangar with a small cadre of hit men, a cadre which includes, just by the by, the baddest bounty hunter in the universe, Boba Fett.
Yeah. Conventional wisdom might suggest that, if you’ve been paying attention, Han’s kinda screwed. The Godfather doesn’t show up PERSONALLY to chit chat or collect a debt; he shows up because he wants to see with his own two reptilian eyes your grisly death.
But. The scene does not unfold thusly.
Han calmly tells Jabba he’s been “waiting for him.” Jabba, who seems to be in reasonably good humor, inquires plaintively why Han had to “fry poor Greedo,” as well as why he’s not paid him what he owes. Han, in response, gets pissy and defensive with Jabba, petulantly stating that it wasn’t his fault that he’d had to drop the goods he’d been smuggling for Jabba that one time (the apparent source of the debt), and even insults the Don, telling him that if Jabba wanted to talk to Han about it, he should come see him himself, instead of sending “one of these twerps.”
Then he steps on Jabba’s tail.
HE STEPS ON JABBA’S GODDAMN TAIL.
(May I fucking remind you at this point that Jabba has been accompanied to this rendezvous by a squad of bodyguards, including Boba fucking Fett? All of whom just watched, for all intents and purposes, their boss just get PHYSICALLY ASSAULTED?)
Anyway. Then Han soothingly tells Jabba that he’s just picked up a nice, juicy charter, and if Jabba is willing to be patient with Han, he’ll be willing to not only pay him what he owes, but cut him in for an additional fifteen percent. (Well, actually, Jabba wants an extra twenty, but Han effortlessly gets him to settle for fifteen, because why not.) Jabba, placated, slithers away, and the next we see of Han is the aforementioned “we’re in a bit of a hurry” scene.
Except, now he’s not. Because he’s just made a deal with Jabba. He has more time; he’s not in trouble for killing Jabba’s henchman. I mean, Jabba didn’t even give him shit for stepping on his tail. Everything’s kinda comin’ up Solo in that moment, if you ask me. He’s not particularly in a rush. But, whatever.
Yeah. The scene sucks on multiple levels.
It derails the next scene, taking away any sense of urgency. It kinda ruins the big reveal of Jabba the Hutt in “Return of the Jedi.” It undermines the mythos of Jabba the Hutt– instead of a powerful, ruthless gangster, we’re been introduced to a Jabba who is…well…I mean, he’s kind of a bitch. Han treated him like one, anyway. The scene was justifiably cut from the original release of Episode IV, and not just, as George Lucas claims, because the special effects were not there to animate Jabba to his satisfaction; it was justifiably cut because it kind of fucks up the narrative in not insignificant ways.
Jabba the Hutt is one of the Maestro’s favorite Star War characters. I get why he hates this scene.
I don’t hate it…as much. I’ll tell you why.
Sometimes, when dealing with latter-day Star Wars– which is to say, any Star Wars that was produced after the original trilogy in its original form– your ability to enjoy it is highly dependent upon your ability to play make believe. That is, to fill in certain parts of the backstory with details or story arcs that you’ve kind of imagined, in your own head, and which aren’t, eh, exactly INCONSISTENT with what we’re “officially” being told on the screen; but which, if we’re going to be honest, probably weren’t what Lucas had in mind.
You kind of have to play “Welllll….what if?”
I know. It’s lame. You shouldn’t have to. Lucas should be better than this. But he’s not, and we do, and I like Star Wars enough to want to keep liking it, so. Here’s the “What if?” game I play with this scene from Episode IV.
WHAT IF Jabba, at this point in time, is NOT the Godfather?
I mean, it makes really very little sense for the Godfather to be chasing down smugglers’ debts in the first place. As noted above, the only real reason Jabba should be there is if he’d decided to have Han executed, and he wants to see it in person. But WHAT IF Jabba, instead of being The Godfather, is, at this point, just kind of a mid-level enforcer mob thug? Like, he’s the Don’s son or something; he’ll someday be the Don, but right now, he’s doing grunt work. Going around, shaking down deadbeats like Han Solo.
Like, a visit from Jabba the Hutt at this point may be a bigger deal than running into Greedo at the cantina– he is, after all, related to the Don, and will someday be the Don– but he’s still working his way up the ladder. Smugglers still feel free at this point to be a little flippant toward him, try to smooth talk him, maybe even step on his tail. (This might also explain why his bodyguards didn’t fry Han when he did so– it wasn’t in their mandate from the Godfather to do so, and Han still owed the Godfather money, and if they fried him he wouldn’t be able to pay up.)
If Jabba’s not the Big Boss at this stage, but an Aspiring Goon, it solves all sorts of problems– not only for this scene, but for the later movies. Problems such as:
Why did he tolerate Han stepping on his tail? (See above.)
Why does he let Han go? (He didn’t have the authority to kill him, and he thinks he’s actually made a better deal for the Don, which he can go back to his boss with and get praised for.)
Why, in Return of the Jedi, is Jabba so dead set against bargaining with Luke? Luke is, after all, a Jedi who has already gifted Jabba two droids; one would think that, as a businessman, Jabba would at least be somewhat willing to play ball. Why is Jabba so hell-bent on keeping Han imprisoned in carbonite, hanging on his wall? (Because now that Jabba has risen to Godfather status in the mob, now that he actually is the Big Boss, he is going around taking retribution on everybody who treated him like shit when he was coming up through the ranks– notably cocky smugglers who felt it was okay to step on his tail.)
Don’t get me wrong. The scene still sucks, and I still wish it wasn’t in there. The CGI Jabba in the original Special Edition is absolutely embarrassing– maybe a half step above the California Raisins– and the fact that we have to do these mental gymnastics at all to justify the scene is irritating. But if you reimagine the character arc of Jabba the Hutt as the story of a mid-level mob guy who, at the time of Episode IV, is doing shit work for the Godfather at the time; but who rises through the ranks to become the Godfather himself by Episode VI…it makes you want to punch the movie a little less.
(You can do the same “reimagining” thing with Jar Jar in the prequels, by the way. Google “Jar Jar Sith theory.”)
Anyway. This is what the Maestro and I talked about at Roma’s, a chill (and chilly, on this day) bare bones place on Cicero. The setup’s pretty basic– no tables; think lunch counter and stools. While waiting for the Maestro to get there, I sat reading a book of P.G. Wodehouse short stories while the proprietor told a regular about how he’d just had a bunch of meat stolen from the store.
Stolen meat. Jabba the Hutt would have Boba Fett kick your ASS for something like that.
Decent, basic slice of cheese pizza. Crispy crust, kinda salty. Hard to mess up the essentials.
No reimagining needed for pizza.