Amid the giant catalog of new television shows, the old movies, and live-action remakes of classic films, the most-talked-about thing on Disney+ is perhaps the most controversial scene in all of Star Wars: Han Solo’s confrontation and shootout with Greedo the bounty hunter in the very first film.
The burning question at the heart of the debate: Did Han Solo shoot Greedo first?
Re-edited versions of Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope have suggested otherwise over the years, despite the original movie showing that Han (Harrison Ford) gunned down Greedo before the bounty hunter could aim his laser at Han. George Lucas infamously changed the brief encounter with the 1997 special edition of the first Star Wars trilogy, giving Greedo a chance to fire a bad shot at Han before Han kills him dead.
It’s an infamous recut, one of many that franchise creator Lucas has made over the years. Disney+ now offers yet another take on the scene, to subscribers’ surprise: Greedo, a humanoid insect-like creature known as Rodian, now also says something before he and Han both fire off blaster shots. What he says is unsubtitled, unlike his previous dialogue, but many viewers say it sounds like a delectable nonsense word: “Maclunkey.”
Disney told Vox sister site The Verge that George Lucas himself edited the scene “prior to [Lucasfilms’] Disney acquisition.” This is the first time fans have seen this particular alteration, though, and it’s created shockwaves of confusion and amusement.
By itself, the scene and tweak isn’t anything more than slight silliness. But in the context of the previous edits from Lucas, each one making Solo less culpable, the edits have had a sort of Streisand effect on the scene in making it more important, more talked about, and more integral to Star Wars canon than was originally intended.
Han shot first; Greedo’s innocent?
The “Han shot first” scene happens in Episode IV. At the Mos Eisley cantina, Greedo confronts Solo, saying that he’s been hired by Jabba the Hut to take in Solo, because Solo lost some of Jabba’s cargo. They trade words, with Greedo saying that Solo can’t handle the heat the short Rodian is about to bring.
Shots are fired, and depending on which version you have in front of you, the order of those shots changes.
In the original 1977 theatrical cut, Han appears to shoot first, immediately killing Greedo. (It’s in keeping with how cool Solo proves himself to be throughout the movie.) In the 1997 version, a special edition to commemorate 20 years of Star Wars, Lucas changed the scene to have Greedo fire first, suggesting Solo isn’t as quick of a draw as we were otherwise made to believe. Then in 2004, the scene was edited again to have both shoot at the same time. Here’s a comparison between the 1977 version and the 2004 version of the scene:
And now, on Disney+, we have Greedo shouting “Maclunkey” before attempting to kill Solo.
The various edits underscore two things: the morality of Han Solo and his threshold for mortal violence. Each of the edits make Solo’s killing of Greedo an act of retaliation or self-defense. Lucas has said the edits were done to keep Solo’s heroism intact:
“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 to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t,” Lucas told the Hollywood Reporter in 2012. “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.”
While your mileage may vary on how much you believe Lucas when he says that it was clear that Greedo shot first in the original theatrical version, and Solo’s shooting first is just a matter of staging and confusion, his intent of exonerating Solo comes through in the edits.
Lucas believes that Solo doesn’t kill unprovoked, and Solo doesn’t kill innocent people. Solo shooting someone dead before they’ve made any attempt on his life would be akin to Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman violating their moral edicts of never killing. This change allows Solo to remain a hero, and un-complicates his eventual good-guy storylines, like marrying Leia.
But the edits raise questions about how a veteran bounty hunter could be that bad of a shot at two feet away, and why a grizzled smuggler like Solo would allow a veteran bounty hunter to talk all this smack and threaten his life without taking any action. Would having Solo shoot first be that much of a moral strike?
“No Star Wars fan anywhere, ever, has thought of or wanted Han Solo to be a ‘cold-blooded killer.’” Matt Blum countered in a 2012 Wired story. “A cold-blooded killer would kill someone he knew or at least thought to be unarmed, when that person is not a threat to them … Han simply gets the drop on Greedo and kills him before he’s able to carry out his plan. Who — other than Lucas, evidently — would consider that ‘cold-blooded?’”
That remains the argument, but Lucas has not backed down. The wrinkle that this new edit introduces is the mysterious battle cry that Greedo shouts before meeting his end. It’s the funniest thing to ever happen to “Han shot first,” and perhaps the most welcome change that’s ever been made. “Maclunkey,” or whatever Greedo is actually saying, has since become its own joke among fans, who find the word to be among George Lucas’ most bizarre additions to the franchise.
Also, it just is a funny-sounding word.
Whenever MacLunkey’s not on screen, all the other characters should be asking, “Where’s MacLunkey?”
— Jason Bailey (@jasondashbailey) November 12, 2019
“WHAT MACLUNKEY TELLS US ABOUT STAR WARS EPISODE 9” – every fucking nerd website right now
— Mike Drucker (@MikeDrucker) November 12, 2019
Unfortunately for Greedo, no matter how many times this scene is edited, it always ends with him meeting his untimely end — provoked or not.