It’s Debate Day! This week we’re arguing over the best sidekick in movies. To poison your brain with Aaron’s psychotic rantings, click here: Samwise Gamgee: The Best Sidekick in All of Film. To see my awesome and unassailable point of view, read on!
Beside every great hero is a sidekick: a boon companion you can depend on in times of need, a guy who’s always got your back no matter how outrageous things get. Even Hamlet had Horatio to vent his frustrations to, and by God, Horatio stood by his pal, even when Hamlet went off the deep end in a big way. There have been a ton of great sidekicks in cinema history, from Cledus Snow, the unsung hero of Smokey and the Bandit, to Goose, the trusty wingman to Tom Cruise’s Maverick in Top Gun. But the best sidekick of all is the one and only Chewbacca, the Wookie warrior who stood by Han Solo’s side throughout the original Star Wars trilogy.
First, some background. There’s all kinds of expanded universe nonsense about Chewie that gives him a comically elaborate backstory involving back-stabbery on his home planet of Kashyyyk and some crap about him being a renowned hero of the Clone Wars. I’m gonna pretend that doesn’t exist because it’s dumb. All you need to know is this: he’s best buddies with Han Solo. I think we can safely assume that the two have been through a lot together. When we meet them in the Mos Eisley cantina, they have the easy air of long-time compadres who’d trust one another with their lives. Nothing can come between them, and in a galaxy full of cutthroats and warlords, a friend like that is hard to find.
Han is clearly the brains of the operation, mostly due to the fact that he can speak Basic and Chewie can’t (or at least chooses not to). Chewie is a big furry wookie who communicates through guttural grunts and howls. Even though Han is generally the only one who can really understand Chewie, his meaning comes through loud and clear. Most of the time, however, Chewie is content to let Han do the talking and decision-making.
Does that mean Chewie is any less capable than Han? Hell no. He’s a crack shot with a bowcaster, and what he lacks in charisma he makes up for in raw strength. As Han warns R2-D2, wookies are liable to tear an opponent’s arms out of their sockets when they lose at Dejarik. Chewie’s hulking stature and physical prowess make him a force to be reckoned with, the kind of ally the rebels are glad is with them rather than against them.
He’s not all brawn, though. Chewie can pilot the Falcon just as well as Han, and he’s a competent mechanic as well as a critical problem solver. When the Falcon gets stranded in space with no power, Chewie works as hard as anyone to get her going again — maybe even harder than Han, who’s wasting time playing tonsil hockey with the princess. When C-3P0 gets separated from the group and taken apart in Cloud City, it’s Chewie who tracks him down and rescues his components. And during the battle for the shield generator on the forest moon of Endor, it’s Chewie who commandeers an AT-ST (with the help of some Ewoks) to wreak havoc on the Imperial forces.
Chewie is also loyal to the end. When it looks like his best buddy Han is about to be frozen in carbonite, Chewie is ready to lay down his life to protect him. But when Han insists that going berserk won’t help, and that Chewie’s duty now is to protect Leia, Chewie soberly accepts his new responsibility, never leaving Leia’s side until they successfully rescue Han from Jabba’s Palace. During the rescue mission, Chewie plays the role of the hulking brute who’s been outsmarted, causing his enemies to underestimate his competence and skill. Chewie will do anything for Han because that’s what an awesome sidekick does.
A great sidekick doesn’t just blindly follow the hero’s orders, though. He’s gotta be willing to criticize or even ridicule the hero when called for. Han is brash, cocksure, rakish, and arrogant, and it’s up to Chewie to bring his partner down to size when his head swells up a bit too much. Chewie seems to take sadistic pleasure in laughing at Han’s discomfort, prompting Han to remark “Laugh it up, fuzzball,” as if this is far from the first time he’s been a joke at his sidekick’s expense. Chewie keeps Han humble, and that goes a long way towards keeping him alive.
The end of Star Wars is the ultimate injustice: Han and Luke get medals, but Chewie is left out. Still, he doesn’t complain. He’s happy for his friends, even though the rebel cause surely would have failed without his help. Chewie is not a proud wookie. He’s got a heart as big as the forest moon of Endor, and he’ll gladly undergo any humiliation if it means saving the galaxy and his pals. A true sidekick doesn’t need recognition: he’s satisfied with a job well done.
Aaron picked Samwise Gamgee this week, Frodo’s constant companion from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And sure, Sam is a stalwart ally who urges his pal Frodo on when things look grim, even carrying the ring (although not wearing it, like in the books) and confronting Shelob. But let’s be honest: Chewie would have iced Shelob in a second, even without his bowcaster. If I have to pick between a hobbit and a wookie to have my back, you better believe I want the seven-foot-tall furball riding shotgun.
A great sidekick is always there for the hero, picking up the slack when things get rough, yet not afraid to voice concerns when the hero is acting a fool. He’s a dependable ally through thick and thin, but humble enough to let the hero hog the glory and get the girl. Chewbacca embodies all of these traits and then some, and that’s what makes him the best sidekick of all time.
So who’s truly the finest companion a hero could ask for? Chewie, Sam, or someone totally different? Let us know in the poll!