Prior to The Force Awakens’ release in 2015, one of the most hyped elements was Harrison Ford’s return to the role of Han Solo. After all, he’s one of the most beloved characters in the saga, though Ford was famously reticent to return to the part. However, Disney and Lucasfilm managed to convince him, reportedly by assuring him that Han would be killed off for good and wouldn’t appear in future movies. So, it was a bit of a surprise when Ford reprised the role once more in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in a ghostly form to offer advice to his son Kylo Ren.
How did Abrams convince Ford to come back, though? Well, in an interview with Vanity Fair, the director said it was surprisingly easy, explaining:
“We had a meeting and talked about what it would be. Harrison, who is one of the great people ever, and incredibly thoughtful about everything that he does, all he ever wants is to understand the utility of the character: ‘What is my role?’ … It was about sitting with him and explaining what our intention was. We talked about it for quite a while, I sent him the pages. He got it, and of course, as you can see, he was wonderful.”
I suspect all this is basically true, though I don’t think it tells the whole story. My bet is that Han Solo’s appearance in The Rise of Skywalker was originally planned to have been Leia. After all, it’d make far more sense for her to appear as a Force Ghost after her Jedi training and she was originally planned to have a more central role in the plot.
Given that Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford were such good friends, my thinking is that Abrams explained to Ford that even the geniuses at ILM couldn’t make this scene work with unused Leia footage from previous movies and so asked him to step in as a favor to her memory.
But even if that’s the case, I don’t think the scene quite works with Han Solo in it. After all, as he isn’t coming back as a ghost, we’re essentially seeing Kylo Ren imagining what his dad would say to him. That makes Han’s tacit forgiveness for Kylo having murdered him a bit weird, like Ren is essentially forgiving himself.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed seeing Ford as Han again one more time, but I wish Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker had moved forward with some new ideas rather than just regurgitating the greatest hits of the Original Trilogy.