Elegy to Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit) ByLevi Rogers
This past Christmas, my wife Cat and I visited Scotland for the first time where my sister Alyssa and her husband Eli have lived for the last two years. Eli was finishing up a degree in Psychology at the University of Edinburgh and we’d been meaning to visit, but hadn’t and were running out of time before they left. We’d also recently discovered that both my wife and my sister were expecting so there was a sort of pre-maternal bond happening across continents we thought it’d be nice to bridge.
We left on the 23rd of December. A de-icing issue caused our non-stop flight from Salt Lake to Amsterdam to take a quick detour to Minneapolis where we stayed the night—forced to take a flight out of Minneapolis to Amsterdam the next day on Christmas Eve. This delay wasn’t a huge deal at first, but it turned into one because we didn’t end up getting into Edinburgh until Christmas Day—our luggage lost and two days behind us. This is all to say that when we arrived to Edinburgh on Christmas and walked around the city in the rain, we never quite warmed up. Not even after a hot shower and some borrowed clothes. For the entire trip, we were cold—unused to the cold, wet humidity of Scotland compared to the dry, nippy winters of Utah. That week we walked around Edinburgh, toured the Highlands in my sister and brother-in-law’s #vanlife van, sipped a bunch of whiskey, ate blood sausages and Haggis, drove through Glasgow in the rain, and never quite warmed up. I thought about this trip to Scotland about when I heard the news on a Friday in May that Scott Hutchison, lead singer of the Scottish Indie-rock band Frightened Rabbit, walked off a bridge just north of Edinburgh in the Forth of Firth and killed himself. On Wednesday, Hutchison went missing. On Thursday night, his body washed up at the Port Edgar Marina in South Queensferry. I thought of how cold and dark the water of the River Forth must have been that night. No body of water in Scotland is ever really warm. The lochs are deep and wide. Narrow and cold. The earth nearly as wet as the bodies of water that surround and populate the small island. I hope it was a quick and painless death, as quick as the air probably rushed out of his lungs in the body of water below. I thought of my uncle Jim—a big, friendly bear of a man who exhibited barely any signs of depression—who one November day squirmed into the crawl space beneath his townhouse in Arvada, Colorado and shot himself, leaving my aunt Tammy and cousins Jordan, Mitch, and Mike behind. I thought of the famous quote of David Foster Wallace—about how suicide is like being trapped in a burning building, there are no good options either way—you either jump or succumb to the flames. But mostly I thought about the cold.
In 1977, the world swooned for Harrison Ford’s gun slinging, wise-cracking, wealth-seeking Han Solo. Ford brought a fiercely independent and begrudging hero to life. Alden Ehrenreich’s Solo stayed loyal to this vision, but also gave us insight into the character not yet witnessed: Han is an artist, not just the rogue smuggler.
Solo: A Star Wars Story opens on Han’s home planet, Corellia, and we see Han as a young man, perhaps even a late teen-aged boy. He’s madly in love with Emilia Clark’s Qi'Ra, and looking for freedom and a life the means something more. Early in the movie, we find that Han and Qi’Ra want to buy a ship, fly away, and live their life together. Immediately, we see Han attached to someone, and more importantly, tied to a goal.
This isn’t your daddy’s Han. He’s a romantic young man, full of hope.
Han’s attitude in Solo is that of a 18-year-old protester drafted in Vietnam. During the trench-warfare scene, he seems the only soldier capable of asking, “What’s our objective”—a question that’s more to do with a silent protest than actually seeking the answer. In a later scene, when Han’s Imperial commanding officer refers to the enemy as “hostiles,” he points out “It’s their planet, we’re the hostiles.” This echoes the thoughts suppressed during the 60’s, when it was unpatriotic to question the military maneuvers of the United States.
Star Wars has always shown Han as independent, a man who bristles at being commanded. It’s no surprise to discover that Han was kicked out of the Imperial Academy for “having a mind of [his] own.” What’s Solobrings is this new understanding that Han has an artistic passion for piloting, much as one has for playing the guitar, writing books, or painting. His drive in life is to push himself to be the best pilot. He is a man that wants the proverbial paintbrush in his hand at all times.
Piloting spacecraft in Soloisn’t delivered as just a means to get from point A to point B. It’s a craft that is greatly improved by the experienced and the talented. This movie creates the image that piloting is to be caressed, studied—it is not something that any old robot can do.
In Empire, we get a glimpse of this treatment of flying, where Han’s ability as a captain helps Leia & co. escape the clutches of the Empire. Leia kisses Han on the cheek and while discussing Han’s superb gift, quips, “You have your moments. Not many of them, but you do have them.” Solo expounds on this idea, showing us the true talent Han has for flying.
Solo attempts to be an explanation of how Han started as a romantic and became hardened by heartbreaking circumstances. It only partly succeeds, as it never actually shows the consequences of said heartbreak. What it does succeed in doing, however, is supplying a look into the Han before he becomes the grumpy smuggler we meet in A New Hope without trashing the integrity of his character.
Solois a western adventure with an independent thinking, war protesting, flying artiste at its helm. While the movie falls into tropes and clichés, it succeeds by giving a greater breadth to this most beloved character, providing insight that not only manages not to bore the audience, but give the audience a reason to root for this character—a difficult feat in a movie where the audience knows the main character is going to survive. Solo, along with Ehrenreich’s performance, fills out character gaps and gives us something we’ve never seen this clearly—a romantic artist in the Star Wars Universe.