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Han Shot First

“Han shot first” is a phrase used by Star Wars fans to refer to a controversial change made to a scene in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. In the scene, Han Solo meets the bounty hunter Greedo at the Mos Eisley Cantina. Han owes money to galactic crime lord Jabba the Hutt for dumping some cargo that he was supposed to smuggle for Jabba, and Greedo has come to take Han’s money, rather than bring him to Jabba. Han and Greedo sit opposite each other at a table and hold an ominous conversation while Greedo aims his blaster at Han. During their conversation and unbeknownst to Greedo, Han stealthily readies his own blaster beneath the table.

Greedo tells Han “I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.” and Han replies “Yes, I’ll bet you have.” In the original theatrical version of the film, Han shoots Greedo and Greedo dies without firing a shot. The scene was modified for the 1997 re-release to feature Han using his weapon in retaliation after Greedo fires at him; the latter missing Han at point-blank range (<2 meters away). Thus, the phrase "Han shot first" is a retort to director George Lucas' explicit cinematographic assertion that "Greedo shot first."

Star Wars creator George Lucas explained the change by stating that he wanted to make clear to children that Han had “no choice” but to shoot Greedo. This justification was unsatisfactory to many long-time and adult fans of the series. The ire of some fans led to an online petition demanding that the changes be retracted. The primary objection to the revision is that it alters Han’s initially morally ambiguous character, making his later transition from anti-hero to hero less meaningful; others claim that shooting Greedo first was justified, since Han was likely to be killed by Greedo or Jabba the Hutt, making Han’s preemptive action both prudent and necessary. The plausibility of Greedo missing from such a short distance is also considered questionable, and criticized as being depicted in an awkward manner.[citation needed]

Since the Special Editions, there have been two DVD releases. In the 2004 DVD release, the disputed scene was altered again. In this version, Greedo still shoots before Han does, and he still misses at close range, but the timing is altered (so the shots are fired at almost the same time) and Han “dodges” the shot (digital manipulation is used to “lean” the character to one side).

The 2006 DVD had two versions—the 2004 changes and the original theatrical version. The theatrical version features no changes, including Han shooting first. When announcing the dual-version DVDs, Lucasfilm noted that the scene was included by saying: “…and yes, [viewers] see Han Solo shot first.”
For the 2011 Blu-ray release, the shot of Han and Greedo firing at each other from the 2004 DVD has been tightened up by several frames.

In a 2012 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lucas altered his previous statements by announcing that Greedo had always shot first – stating that a combination of bad close-up shots and the audiences’ inaccurate perception of the Han Solo character was what actually caused all the confusion: “The controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo, in Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo [who seemed to be the one who shot first in the original] to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t. It had been done in all close-ups and it was confusing about who did what to whom. I put a little wider shot in there that made it clear that Greedo is the one who shot first, but everyone wanted to think that Han shot first, because they wanted to think that he actually just gunned him down.

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