George Lucas has ambivalent feelings about the new Star Wars movie, comparing his experience watching it to that of a divorced father attending his child’s wedding. “My ex will be there, my new wife will be there, but I’m going to have to take a very deep breath and be a good person and sit through it,” as Lucas put it to the Washington Post.
If George Lucas is the father of Star Wars, Han Solo is his problem child. A rogue son, a charming rake no less, Solo always got into trouble with the law, shot first in cantinas, and got mixed up with the dark underbelly of drug smuggling... That’s right, Han Solo was a drug smuggler.
That part of his resume isn't discussed often around the Solo dinner table – nor for that matter at press junkets for The Force Awakens – but it's nonetheless part of the Star Wars canon. Before getting in bed with the Jedi, Han Solo smuggled a fictional drug known as "spice" (the sci-fi classic Dune definitely had an influence on George Lucas) while in the employ of Tatooine's notorious crime lord, Jabba the Hutt.
His success as drug smuggler would lead him to boast that the Millennium Falcon made the Kessel Run – a hyperspace route for running the drug from the spice mines of Kessel – "in less than twelve parsecs."
In A New Hope, C-3P0 fears out loud that he and R2 will be sent to the “spice mines of Kessel,” and Luke was raised with the impression that his father was a navigator on a spice freighter.
Aside from these fleeting references, there's little elaboration upon this elusive substance. According to Wookieepedia, spice could yield a “brief yet pleasurable telepathic boost and heightened mental state", while excessive use could “degenerate the nerves in the brain resulting in loss of sight, twitching, nervousness and paranoia.”
In early drafts of Star Wars, spice was central to the plot. Instead of transporting the all-important plans for the Death Star, Princess Leia was sneaking “two hundred pounds of the greatly treasured aura spice.”
Han Solo's drug smuggling days wouldn't be the first time his moral fiber comes into question. Lucas has felt the need to alter Han Solo to the point of making changes to scenes in already released movies, most notably one where Han shoots and kills bounty hunter Greedo in the Mos Eisley Cantina.
In the original Star Wars (1977), Solo shoots first, whereas in the 1997 Special Edition re-release of “Star Wars,” the scene has been altered to show Greedo shooting first. This set off a firestorm of controversy, starting a “Han Shot First” movement amongst purists who wanted the original version restored.
Asked why he would go through the trouble, Lucas broke it down for the Washington Post:
Han Solo was going to marry Leia, and you look back and say, ‘Should he be a cold-blooded killer?’ When you’re John Wayne, you don’t shoot people (first) — you let them have the first shot. It’s a mythological reality that we hope our society pays attention to.
Eventually, Han would be marginalized to the point of being entirely written out of the prequels.
In any event, before helping the Rebels defeat the Empire, Han Solo was a man with an eye on profit and little scruples about how it was made. We'll have to wait until this Friday to see what the future holds for one of Star Wars' most iconic characters.