For me the Jabba sequence in A New Hope is more important after Star Wars: The Force Awakens
In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we are shown a Han Solo that still believes he can talk his way out of anything. Confrontations with gang leaders and mob bosses is an everyday part of the life Han Solo leads as a smuggler. We first see Han Solo in this sort of standoff after he fried poor Greedo and talked to Jabba the Hutt in docking bay 94 in Star Wars: A New Hope. In The Force Awakens we see Han Solo in a similar situation with Bala-Tik (Guavian Death Gang) and Tasu Leech (Kanjiklub).
At the end of his life he’s still a swindler that is just trying to get by. After the “death” of his family, Han Solo as a character relapses and returns to his old ways, the only thing he was ever any good at: smuggling and transport. His character hasn’t totally gone back to his old self; when confronted with the possibility of helping the Resistance find Luke Skywalker, he doesn’t ask “how much?” Rather, Han Solo immediately puts himself and Chewbacca second to the galaxy at need. His character has progressed even though we’re seeing him at a low point. There is no moment where we learn he’s in this for the 17 thousand credits he needs to pay off a Jabba type to buy some more time. Still, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens we see that Han Solo doesn’t have a lot of time to buy anymore.
On the Eravana (Han Solo and Chewbacca’s freighter they have been conducting business since having the Falcon stolen from them) the fast talking ways of Han Solo are seemingly coming to an end. First, the Guavian Death Gang boards them. Han is forced to try and talk his way out of the situation with Bala-Tik. Han refers to those little freaks you can’t trust, Kanjiklub. Of course Kanjiklub shows up with Tasu Leech. Everyone wants their money from Solo. Yet he stands there cool and comedically stalls them with his words. We see that he still has it but the fast times of Han Solo are coming to an end.
The confrontation itself is classic Han Solo, right? It certainly feels like classic Han Solo. But what is it ultimately pulling from? One part is the Greedo sequence from A New Hope. The second part really harkens back to the Jabba sequence back at docking bay 94. The old one-two punch! Han Solo is first confronted by his past catching up with him via Greedo and then forced to try and buy more time with Jabba, which he does. Of course, you can only run from your problems for so long.
I like the addition of the Jabba the Hutt sequence in the 2004 edition of A New Hope (an upgrade of the 1997 first stab at a CGI Jabba). I always felt the added sequence was better for the saga, but not necessarily for A New Hope as a standalone film. The Greedo sequence conveys all of the same information as the Jabba sequence (Han owes Jabba money, he has a job now and will pay Jabba later). For the Original Trilogy, it introduced Jabba visually and you knew what Han was up against. When Han says he needs to leave the Rebellion or he’s a dead man, you immediately see Jabba and understand his plight. By Return of the Jedi Han Solo’s journey with Jabba has a clear beginning (Docking Bay 94), a middle (leaving in Empire to pay off Jabba), and an end (being unfrozen and the death of Jabba).
Now, after watching The Force Awakens I was struck by how well the confrontation with Guavian Death Gang and Kanjiklub worked for Han Solo’s character and how it was a throwback to the types of encounters we know Solo had. But we really only see that kind of encounter where Han smoothly talks his way out of trouble and buys more time in the Special Edition addition to A New Hope. Without the Jabba sequence, the only time we see Han Solo confront gang leaders and wheel and deal with them is when he’s blind in Return of the Jedi. In that film, he is sentenced to death, much like he’s about to be in The Force Awakens, but Solo’s “crew” defeats Jabba and his gang. The confident standoff-style confrontation is more in the style of the A New Hope sequence in my opinion. The sequence in The Force Awakens works better when we’ve seen Han actually talk his way out of something, not just blast his way out. It shows us he once “had it.” In The Force Awakens the scene shows us how the galaxy is shrinking in on Solo and he’s kind of screwed.
For this reason, I further feel the addition of the Jabba sequence is even more important to the saga itself now. It doesn’t change that the scene is slightly repetitious in relaying information from the Greedo sequence, and it won’t make you like CGI if you can’t suspend your disbelief, but for the saga as a whole, it actually enhances not only the Original Trilogy but now it enhances the Sequel Trilogy as far as Han Solo’s character and situations are concerned. I am surprised and delighted to see a sequence from the Special Edition of Star Wars: A New Hope suddenly made more important by The Force Awakens. I didn’t really see that coming.
Are there any scenes from the previous Star Wars installments that have taken on new meaning after seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens for you?