The Changing Face of Our Favourite Star Wars Heroes

Who Are Your Favourite Star Wars Characters and why do they inspire you?

Who is your favourite Star Wars character?

Every fans journey is a deeply personal one, we all come from different backgrounds and environments which all contribute to the choice of our favourite Star Wars characters, whether being a reflection of our own character or a personality trait we aspire to employ but do they actually evolve over time and change as we season?

Within this article, I invite you to join me in my personal reflection and explore the journey that influenced my choices as the years have progressed. Are they the same the world over…I wonder?

Upon the release of the Empire Strikes Back in 1980, the enormity of the Star Wars universe was a relative unknown to me. Like most children, I had been exposed to the vast range of Kenner action figures that had flooded the market in the aftermath of the release of A New Hope and my earliest memories return to a time where I would regularly steal my brothers Millennium Falcon in order to recreate the battles amongst the stars. By the age of three and heavily influenced once again by my older brother whom, being seven years older already adored the saga and had instilled in me a love for an iconic character whom went on to play a vital role in the entire Star Wars mythology.

That character was our beloved R2-D2, the heroic droid all other droids aspired to be, the one true and constant character that holds the entire saga together. His journey, that began in 1977 on board the Tantive IV was our entry point into the Star Wars story which would go on to captivate the world with its majesty and prove that the little droid we know and love holds the key to the entire story, a fact that is upheld today in the upshot of The Force Awakens.

Our introduction into the galaxy far, far away is entwined with his and we joined him on an epic journey that propelled him into the thick of the galactic civil war.

Again…

Little did we know at the time that his story had begun several decades before we found him along with his trusty counterpart C-3PO, dodging Imperial E-11 Blaster fire aboard a Rebel Alliance Blockade Runner. Walking hand in hand with Kenny Baker’s monumental performance which gave the little droid his soul was Artoo’s allure that drew fans admiration from across the globe. The little Astromech droid was as free spirited as he was rebellious which made for a match made in heaven and the combination made the character an icon across the globe.

That being said, I cannot honestly recall my memories from such a young age but I have been reliably informed that because of these characteristics combined with his awesome sound effects and feisty disposition, R2-D2 was regarded as the best thing my tiny eyes had ever seen. As a result, he had been easily catapulted into the status of my favourite character, like he did with millions of other children. My love for Artoo showed no signs of relenting throughout the Empire Strikes Back, which like so many other Star Wars fans I regard as the quintessential Star Wars movie, never to be surpassed. The movies darker tone combined with the unfolding story of Luke Skywalker’s Jedi training with the lovable Master Yoda was a turning point for the entire saga which even now, has never and will never be replicated despite the monumental success of The Force Awakens.

With the Star Wars saga unavailable to buy on home video at the time, we were left with only memories of the adventures we had witnessed in the first two instalments and as a result, I maintained the status quo with R2-D2 taking precedence in my action figure replicating adventures. The 1983 release of Return of the Jedi however, changed the entire landscape of my thinking. Due in part to being the first Star Wars film I can physically remember seeing at the cinema, despite being taken to see Empire by my parents, my age was undoubtedly a factor in my sudden perception change towards the characters battling upon the silver screen.

My idea of whom played the most vital role was changing as quickly as I was ageing and I found my attention drawn to a character that, had been an integral part of the saga from the very beginning but whose contribution had evaded the attention of my young mind that was clearly unable to grasp the enormity of his influence.

The character was none other than the legendary captain of the Millennium Falcon himself, Han Solo.

By the time Jedi had arrived on the big screen my love for R2-D2 was reaching its peak and I found myself appreciating things I had no concept of in previous years. Upon my first screening of the saga’s “final” chapter… (or so we thought!) that incidentally took place at the Marble Arch cinema in London that just so happened to boast the largest screen in Europe at the time, Harrison Ford’s amazing performance combined with Han Solo’s action hero persona blew my mind.

It suddenly dawned upon me that I was watching a performance like no other, a character that would serve as personal inspiration and go on to build character within my own personality. Freed from his carbonite prison, the blinded warrior launched into an attack upon the minions and bounty hunters atop Jabba the Hutt’s desert skiff, rescuing Lando Calrissian from certain death at the threshold of the Sarlaac pit and escaping back to the safety of the Rebel fleet.

Mind blown…

The awesome Rebel hero complete with his self-assured and sometimes arrogant over confidence influenced the kind of person I aspired to be and as a direct result, when playing Star Wars on the playground I insisted upon playing the role of Han Solo, pitting his unswerving abilities against the agents of the infamous Empire.

The Han vs Luke debate:
Like most kids at the time, I was embroiled in the major debate that seemed to split opinions as well as members of the same family. The debate was a simple one, whom was the better hero, Han Solo or Luke Skywalker…

Now to be clear, I have nothing against Luke. In fact, I both admire and love the character greatly, so much so that to my mind especially coming from the era of the original trilogy, I regard him as THE quintessential Jedi Knight. At the time, we were only privy to three other Jedi, all of whom were elderly warriors spinning fantastical tales about the trials and tribulations of the Clone Wars and the endless struggle against the sinister agents of the Dark Side. We had no real insight into the awesome power the Jedi could wield in their prime, that revelation was withheld until the Prequel trilogy and the awe-inspiring finale of Attack of the Clones where the laser sword wielding warriors sliced their way through an overwhelming torrent of Battle Droids.

Luke Skywalker was my era’s young Jedi Knight, the last of his kind and desperate to save his father’s eternal soul from the dark path he had chosen in the tense moments of Revenge of the Sith. The young warrior, whilst still under the tutelage of Jedi Master Yoda, was forced to confront not only his twisted and evil father but the sinister mastermind that had orchestrated his tragic fall in the first place, the evil Emperor Palpatine. Despite the overwhelming odds stacked against him, Luke emerged triumphant and rescued his father from his own dark inner torture, but he was unable to replace Han Solo as my favourite character.

Once compared to the smug, over confident and macho charm of Han Solo it was a no contest for me.

Han Solo was just too damn cool.

His charm came with a triple threat of characters to attract us with. Not only did we have Harrison Ford’s amazing performance as Han Solo which made him the most iconic of characters but he also came with his trusty co-pilot, the loyal and reliable Wookiee Chewbacca. Paraphrasing our beloved Princess Leia, the “Walking carpet” was as loyal as he was awe-inspiring and the relationship shared between them reflected the true association with a man and his dog. Chewie was Han Solo’s version of man’s best friend and was adored as such by millions of fans the world over, but their relationship needed an environment in which to evolve, and we got that in abundance. Our dynamic duo’s base of operations was the Millennium Falcon, a modified freighter that was dubbed the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy and known to be the only ship to make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. The Falcon was a marvel, she was fast and manoeuvrable but also homely and rugged in equal quantity and offered the perfect environment in which to make the package complete.

This relationship proved vital, especially to me personally as the Falcon quickly became the most important character to me as a whole, even more important than Solo himself and I regarded her as “My Falcon”. She maintained that title throughout my evolution into adulthood and still holds onto her crown to this day, especially in the aftermath of The Force Awakens and her escape from Starkiller Base in the movies finale.

But I digress, back to the timeline…

In the years that followed, my opinion remained unchanged. Han Solo was the best pilot in the cosmos, Chewbacca was his dependable and trustworthy sidekick and the Millennium Falcon was the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy. And I would have words with anyone at the time who dared to call her junk. Han Solo was the character I identified with the most, the one true member of the team that ticked all of the boxes for me. Not only was he supremely confident on the battle field, but he carried that arrogant self-confidence into his romantic encounters with Princess Leia, a trait that helped him to win her affections. His larger than life persona provided me with a blueprint for how I wanted to be perceived as an adult and directly influenced my personality throughout my childhood, a characteristic that unbeknownst to me, I maintain even now. In the midst of a deep sleep, I have been known to recite Han Solo’s introductory speech to both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker in the confines of the Mos Eisley cantina from A New Hope. A characteristic I am taunted for by my fantastic Wife on a regular basis. Maybe deep within the pit of my consciousness I am still that little boy emulating Harrison Ford’s awesome character that helped craft me into an adult.

Returning to my younger self, and little did I know that at the age of eight, I was on the threshold of embracing another character, one that would rival Han Solo as my most adored character.

With the onset of adolescence and the long awaited release of the VHS cassette, I revisited the original trilogy over and over and found myself fascinated by a character that had remained on the periphery of my thinking in my youth. Whilst watching the Empire Strikes Back I found myself intrigued by the bounty hunter that had initially tracked Han Solo and his band of Rebel’s to the Bespin mining colony controlled by Lando Calrissian. The mysterious Mandalorian warrior Boba Fett, with his amazing array of weaponry and rocket powered jet pack quickly became a firm favourite of mine, like so many other fan boys who admired the fearless and equally mystifying bounty hunter.

His unknown origins only added to his attraction and like so many other fans around the world, I held him in high regard and had an insatiable appetite for further tales of his exploits. His enormous following undoubtedly influenced George Lucas’ thinking when it came to re-launching the saga in 1997 when we were treated to newly added scenes never before seen. Many of the alterations were minimalistic, only detectable to the most vigilant of fans with the exception of a sequence where my beloved Han Solo confronted Jabba the Hutt at the threshold of the Millennium Falcon’s landing ramp. The added sequence sparked a great debate within the fan base, some were overjoyed to have a new scene to digest where as others sighted the 2-minute sequence for it less than impressive CGI special effects that have since been retuned. However, the addition of Boba Fett to the sequence was a delight to behold and appeased fans around the globe.

The controversial scene, whether loved or loathed was swiftly followed by the traditional sequence where the Millennium Falcon blasted away from the Mos Eisley spaceport but having been tweaked, depicted a stunning CGI shot the famous vessel in renewed glory. The new effects were breath-taking, the Millennium Falcon looked as beautiful as she ever had and this was accentuated further during the final attack on the Death Star when a brand new fly past sequence was added to my delight.

With the re-release of Return of the Jedi, we were given a new insight into Boba Fett’s reality when, whilst attending a celebration at Jabba the Hutt’s palace we saw him attract attention from Jabba’s female dancers. The sequence added a new level of definition to his character, shedding light on his life around his bounty hunter persona but his death sequence had frustratingly been left untreated. For many years, myself like the rest of the fan base never truly believed that the mighty Fett perished at the Sarlaac pit, and that he crawled from the depths to survive the ordeal ready to hunt another day. Regrettably, this change was omitted from the final edition with George Lucas admitting on the DVD bonus features that with so many people believing Fett had survived he found the addition of such a sequence a waste of resources.

Despite the scenes omission, my continued admiration for these characters only escalated over time and managed to survive the onset of my teenage fascination with the opposite sex. Even with the arrival of the Prequel trilogy that introduced us to a galaxy of new and fascinating characters, the charm of Han Solo and Boba Fett could not be surpassed. R2-D2 however, found a new lease of life in the era of the Clone Wars which only helped to cement his legacy and prove his importance to the entire saga.

With characters like Jedi Master’s Plo Koon, Mace Windu and Kit Fisto slicing Battle Droids into pieces, the prequels held enough draw to captivate us further, but for me personally, the longing for my favourite characters ceased to abate and even though I admire the three movies as a whole I always felt that their addition would have enhanced their appeal. We were introduced to a younger incarnation of Boba Fett, portrayed by the enigmatic Daniel Logan but his performance only intensified my appetite for more of Jeremy Bulloch’s older persona. The computer animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars added another layer of depth to the bounty hunter’s prestige with Logan reprising his role and expanding on the character’s history but the episodes he was involved with also served to raise more questions than they answered.

Star Wars: The Clones Wars (Season 2) Episodes: Death Trap, R2 Come Home & Lethal Track Down

His character returned to the series as a vengeful young teenager, desperate to seek revenge for the death of his father and punish the Jedi responsible for his demise, Mace Windu. Fett capitalised on his Attack of the Clones heritage and infiltrated the ranks of the clone cadet brethren stationed aboard Windu’s Jedi Cruiser, the Endurance before attempting to eliminate him with an explosive charge. The explosion narrowly missed its mark and Windu survived to fight another day but his vessel was crippled beyond repair and helplessly plummeted through the atmosphere to crash land on the planet Vanqor. With his quarry escaping aboard his Jedi Starfighter and his vengeance desperately out of reach, the bitter young Fett drew Windu to the wreckage and planted another explosive charge, this time concealed inside the remains of his father’s Mandalorian helmet.

The resulting explosion was enough to trap both Windu and his companion, Anakin Skywalker beneath a crumpled pile of debris where they remained at Fett’s mercy free for him to pick off at his leisure. However, Boba did not count on the presence of R2-D2, whom had accompanied Skywalker aboard the wreck in search of several missing Clone officers, including Windu’s very own Clone Commander, Ponds. Not only did Artoo defend his master but he succeeded in drawing Fett and his bounty hunter comrades away from the wounded Jedi allowing reinforcements to arrive in the form of Jedi Master Plo Koon.

The rescue was a success but the ordeal had taken its toll on both Skywalker and Windu whom were admitted to the care of the republic medical staff leaving Fett to ponder the implications of his missed opportunity. The story eventually came to its conclusion and culminated in Fett being remanded within the confines of republic prison located on the planet Coruscant.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Season 4) Episode: Bounty

His eventual escape would signal the end of his vengeful quest, instead opting to focus his attention toward building a team of bounty hunters in order to take on the most difficult of bounties. His final appearance found him crossing paths with the forsaken Sith trainee Asajj Ventress, whom used his inexperience to her advantage and manipulated him in order to gain her way to a life of freelance bounty hunting. We can only hope that Dave Filoni and his team behind Star Wars Rebels bring Boba Fett back to our screens and resolve the unanswered questions clouding his legacy.

As thrilling as both the prequels and The Clone Wars animated series were, they never truly emulated the superiority of the original trilogy, that accolade was left for The Force Awakens which, despite not involving Boba Fett heralded the long awaited return of Harrison Ford as Han Solo. His epic return was a delight; in fact, it was as if Harrison Ford had never been away from the role despite an absence of more than thirty years. He was swiftly back in command of the Millennium Falcon with his dependable sidekick, Chewbacca at his side ready to save the galaxy from the clutches of the sinister First Order and its Dark Side employing commanders.

His return was bittersweet however when the character met his end at the hands of his own son, Ben Solo better known as his darker alter ego Kylo Ren whom slain his father with his lightsaber and watched his fall into the chasm below. Chewie managed to escape to safety aboard the Falcon but my beloved Han Solo, the character I have been highly invested in for more than thirty years was gone.

Looking toward the future of the saga and with both Solo and Boba Fett vacating their positions for the next instalments I find myself in a conundrum. Their retirement from the series has left a void which I doubt can be filled by even the likes of Luke Skywalker or any of the new characters established in The Force Awakens. I still have my beloved Millennium Falcon to focus my affections upon but I find myself craving a humanoid character to both embrace and invest in along the next step of our journey.

I have no doubt that this feeling is reverberating around the world with a million other fans at this point, but for the first time in my life I find myself facing an era of Star Wars movies with only R2-D2 and the Millennium Falcon to guide me.

I hope your answers come swifter than mine, in the meantime we have Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to enjoy which boasts the return of Darth Vader and the agents of the Empire. Their involvement will undoubtedly rejuvenate the nostalgic feeling in us all for the original trilogy but the future comes with many unanswered questions.

The top vacancy is now open; the real question is who will step up to claim the position?

May The Force Be With You…

 

Phil Roberts

Owner | Editor-In-Chief | Daily Content Manager | Social Media Manager for thefutureoftheforce.com • Star Wars Mega Fan • Novel Writer • Cineworld Unlimited Member • Movie Lover • Lover of all things Marvel and DC, Star Trek, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Universal Monsters, Ray Harryhausen and Batman 1966 • Husband to @Cool2Zoe & Cool Dad!

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