Why Chewbacca Is the Unsung, Disrespected Hero of the ‘Star Wars’ Universe (Commentary)

He might seem like a sidekick, but Chewbacca is actually the Liam Neeson of “Star Wars” — even though Liam Neeson was in “Star Wars”

Last Updated: May 24, 2018 @ 5:28 PM

(Note: This post includes at least one spoiler about a joke in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”)

“The Last Jedi” has kicked up a nuanced discussion among moviegoers and fans on social media about the ideas of failure and the aging of heroes, how people are shaped by failure and how we should embrace the past by moving forward.

Just kidding. It’s been a tire fire of nonsense. The side that loves the movie seems to think everyone who doesn’t is an idiot. The side that doesn’t like the movie is overrun with overzealous “Star Wars” fans who think it’s a good idea to make petitions to have movies they don’t like deleted from the world — and there are plenty who just hate “The Last Jedi” for straight-up sexist and racist reasons.

Finally there are the people in the middle, who might be lukewarm on the movie, but who at least agree that we all miss Carrie Fisher and that Mark Hamill is amazing in it. No matter where you stand, The Discourse about “The Last Jedi” is pretty insufferable.

It’s been tough to discover interesting discussions and takes about “The Last Jedi” amid the noise, which was why I was struck by this particular viral tweet.

It’s not a new phenomenon that Chewie has been passed over and ignored for the credit he is rightly due. Even way back in “A New Hope,” the first time Chewie appeared on screen, he was constantly disrespected. Han and Luke pretended Chewie was their dumb alien prisoner so they could save Princess Leia. He didn’t even get a medal at the end of the movie, even though Luke and Han did. But Chewie went through as much danger as anyone else, and he was part of the two-man team flying the Millennium Falcon when it saved Luke when he took his shot to destroy the Death Star.

Really, a guy fails to fix a hyperdrive a few times in life-or-death situations, or puts one droid together backwards, and suddenly everyone thinks it’s OK to shout at him. Just because he’s furry and no one can understand him, he gets stuck hanging out with a bunch of Ewoks.

Things haven’t gotten any better. In “The Last Jedi,” Chewie waits for days while Rey gets her Jedi training going with Luke, and he can’t even enjoy a meal without a guilt trip from some random cute animal. He helps Rey execute all her bad plans to visit Kylo Ren and never even argues. In a movie franchise in which every character who wanders into the frame is getting a novel, a comic, or a video game to run down their backstory, Chewbacca is continually overlooked.

But the idea that Chewbacca as the dad everyone in “Star Wars” deserves is actually a read that works pretty well. In fact, this is not the first time the idea that Chewie is a bigger deal to the “Star Wars” universe than we realize. The best fan theory I’ve ever read, which you can find right here, is one that posits that Chewie is actually a key figure in the Rebellion that no one ever talks about.

Written by a fan named Keith Martin, the theory reconsiders “A New Hope,” the first “Star Wars” movie, in light of the changes and retcons that are part of the story in “Revenge of the Sith,” the sixth movie. It runs with the idea that Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Bail Organa created the beginnings of the Rebellion at the close of “Revenge of the Sith.” Obi-Wan takes baby Luke to Tatooine to be raised by Anakin Skywalker’s step-family, the Larses. Bail takes baby Leia and raises her. Yoda heads to Dagobah to hide out. But they’re not the only ones around who would probably be rebels. There are three other characters from the original trilogy who are around for the prequels as well: C-3PO, R2-D2, and — wait for it — Chewbacca.

It turns out that Chewie was a military commander before he was a small-time crook’s driver. In “Revenge of the Sith,” we see that Yoda knew Chewie at the Battle of Kashyyyk, one of the last military engagements of the prequels during the Clone Wars. And as Martin’s fan theory posits, Obi-Wan, Yoda and Bail couldn’t really handle forming an insurrection on their own. Even if they had other Rebel Alliance founders such as Mon Mothma immediately on-hand, they would still need actual agents out in the galaxy, gathering information and finding other potential allies.

As Martin has it, Chewie would be an obvious choice to be a spy. He used to be a general, but now he takes orders from a not-especially-great smuggler? That doesn’t seem like it makes a ton of sense.

But assume that Chewie’s hanging out with Han because it affords him ample opportunities to make contacts and gather intelligence, and suddenly his life choices seem a little smarter. Flying around the galaxy, Chewie could sneak around the bars and allies of planet after planet, finding out all kinds of useful information. And when he finally joins back up with Obi-Wan and R2-D2, he’d potentially have way more knowledge about what’s going on than anyone else. Chewbacca might not be taking center stage, but that’s because good spies don’t let on what they’re up to.

Chewie has always been an unsung hero of “Star Wars” by that logic. Chewie is a part of every major military action of the movies. And while Han Solo and Lando Calrissian attain the rank of general in the Rebellion, nobody makes Chewbacca a commander. Why? Because he’s more effective as a secret operative. Nobody suspects Space Mr. Bean. Martin suggests Chewie didn’t get a medal, not because he wasn’t offered one, but because he turned it down.

In the new trilogy, Chewbacca left the Resistance with Han, but he could have been reprising his role in feeding information back to Leia — or he could have finally been trying to take it easy after years of fighting.

But then Rey and Finn come along, pulling Han and Chewie back into the goings-on of the galaxy. Chewie might still be the butt of a few jokes in the movie, but he quickly proves he’s still a capable soldier, and when his best friend is killed, Chewie finds himself suddenly staring down military might of the Empire, back in full force.

So when Rey heads out to find Luke Skywalker at the end of “The Force Awakens,” Chewie goes with her. Not because he needs a new side to kick, but because he’s the Resistance’s best man. Leia sends Chewie with the Resistance’s potentially most powerful new asset, to find their most powerful old one. He’s the Columbo of “Star Wars” — everybody thinks he’s just some dork, but he’s secretly smarter than everyone.

By that read of “Star Wars,” which is obviously the right and true read, Chewie’s not just the soccer dad of “Star Wars,” driving Rey to her Jedi appointments and supporting her as she tries to deal with her bad boy beau Kylo Ren. He’s a Liam Neeson dad of the “Taken” variety. He’ll hang out in the background with the porgs. He’ll let other people do the heroing. But if anything happens to Rey, expect that Chewbacca will find you, and he will kill you. And he’ll turn down the medal they offer him when he’s done.

Get this wookiee a tie-in novel already.