A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, a movie came out that defied all expectations. Its influence can still be felt to this day. That film was Pitch Perfect.
Deering High grad, Anna Kendrick, plays Beca Mitchell, a talented but skeptical freshman who eventually leads her a cappella group to a much sought after victory in the national championship. Her love interest, Jesse, is a movie nut, and among his favorites is a lesser known film called Star Wars.
This got me thinking. If Pitch Perfect was Star Wars, who would Beca be? My first thought was Luke Skywalker, because she has some conflicts with her dad and uses unorthodox methods to win in the end. However, that didn’t sit right. For one thing, Beca has to be convinced to join the Barden Bellas–the college’s all-girl a cappella group–while Luke has been dreaming of joining the rebellion since he was bullseyeing womp rats in his T-16.
Then it hit me. Beca is skeptical, and at first only interested in her own agenda of becoming a music producer. Thanks to a deal she strikes with her dad, joining the Barden Bellas is only a means to an end; he gives her permission to pursue her dream if she’ll try an extra-curricular club first. Beca’s original motives are selfish, but by the end she helps out her friends and is crucial to their success.
Oh my God, she’s freaking Han Solo.
Like Beca, Han only got involved with Luke and Leia’s idealistic quest because he was promised a big payday. He scoffs at “the force” and rolls his eyes at “that old fossil,” Obi-Wan Kenobi. When he finally does take the money and run, we’re disappointed but not surprised. He’s basically a space pirate only interested in money. Or is he?
The character of Han Solo adds a much needed human element to Star Wars. The arc of Luke Skywalker’s character is pretty much a straight line from farm boy to hero. Han has some inner demons to defeat before he can admit his emotional attachment to the cause of the rebellion, which makes him human and very relatable. Luke speaks for all of us when he gushes, “I knew you’d come back!”
Beca quits on her friends too. After losing the semi-finals and butting heads with Aubrey, the Bellas’ leader, she walks away. Not to pay off a giant slug-like crime boss who put a bounty on her head, but presumably to pursue her original interest of creating compelling mashups on her laptop. Like Han, who piloted the Millennium Falcon away from the rebel base (not Rebel Wilson) and his love interest Princess Leia, Beca loses the Bellas and Jesse. Both characters have to decide what’s truly important to them and both choose wisely.
The only thing audiences love to see more than a Death Star getting blown up or a well-choreographed a cappella number, is for it to be accompanied by a cynical detached character honestly declaring their love. It’s effective because it confirms our suspicion that this person isn’t actually a selfish loser (like Bumper of the Treblemakers). It also doesn’t hurt if this sequence happens alongside a spectacular explosion or a heartfelt a cappella rendition of Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me.”
But before we “blow this thing and go home,” let’s take a moment to consider what just happened here. Anna Kendrick’s Beca Mitchell is analogous to one of the most revered characters in pop culture. Han Solo is beloved, not just for his swashbuckling antics and awesome spaceship, but because of his singularity. No one has been able to recreate his mercurial mixture of detached cool and heat-of-the-moment earnestness, until now.
Kendrick knowingly took a stab at one of Harrison Ford’s other iconic characters in her contribution to Red Nose Day, a fundraising event for charity. She portrayed Indiana Jones in a spoof of The Last Crusade.
I hope to live in a world where someday this is an actual movie (I mean– fighting misogyny at home and Nazis abroad–the script practically writes itself). Meanwhile, the Anna Kendrick and Harrison Ford comparisons continue.
Harrison Ford became a household name playing characters that relied less on chameleon acting chops and more on his innate qualities as a relatable guy. He has a certain oh-it’s-that-dude vibe that can’t be picked up at Juilliard. Obviously Kendrick shares this quality. The question is whether she can bullwhip Hollywood into offering her a role as iconic as Indiana Jones. Not an Indiana Jones reboot per se (I’d still pay money to see that), but something new, befitting her rare skill set.
It might be a long shot, but as Captain Solo once said, “Never tell me the odds.”