Most of the changes have revolved around the milliseconds between the characters firing their blasters.
But in what is at least the fifth version of the scene that circulated Tuesday after the launch of Disney Plus, Greedo belts out a curious phrase before the carnage begins: maclunkey.
The change touched off a firestorm of discussion on social media, speculating about what actually led to this latest controversy.
Did maclunkey amount to a war cry or a plea for Han not to shoot?
Fan linguists (yeah it’s a thing) speculated it was ma klounkee, or in Huttese, this will be the end of you.
Back up. What is going on?
The cantina shooting is perhaps the most amended 10 seconds in cinema history.
In the original theatrical release, Han Solo — the roguish, scruffy-looking smuggler — is set to provide transport for Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi off the desert planet Tatooine.
But he runs into a complication. He owes the universe-wide kingpin Jabba the Hutt a lot of money, and Greedo, the spiky-head Rodian bounty hunter, is looking to collect. Greedo shoves Han into a booth at gunpoint. He tells Han he looked forward to this encounter.
Meanwhile, Han unholsters a blaster under the table. “Yeah, I’ll bet you have,” Han says, before he shoots Greedo point-blank.
The scene said something important about Han.
He is unafraid to kill if he his cornered, and the shooting was either coldblooded or a justifiable defense, depending on your perspective. It added a complexity to a character who fluidly moves from selfishness to great risks for his rebel friends.
The first controversial change
In 1997, for the 20th anniversary re-release of the film in theaters and VHS, Lucas introduced a number of alterations, including the addition of digital aliens.
But the most assailed change by far occurred in the Han and Greedo scene. In this new version, Greedo pulls the trigger first in a wild shot, missing Han by half a parsec. Han responds with a clunky CGI dodge, then fires at Greedo.
The change essentially recasts Han’s response from a preemptive killing to a victim responding to a violent bounty hunter’s wild misfire.
It did not go over well. “Han shot first” became an instant rallying cry on pre-social media messages boards, and T-shirts were created to send fans back into a simpler time.
It changes again, and again (and again)
Subsequent releases have shaved off the moment before the laser fire exchange, though never appeasing most of the fan base upset over the revisionist moment.
In 2004, for the DVD release of the original trilogy, Han still dodges, but he is much quicker on the draw, pulling the trigger right after Greedo fires.
Then, in 2011, Lucas and company took a scalpel to the celluloid for the Blu-ray release, removing a few more slivers in between the exchange.
You can only tell Greedo fires first if you slow down the playback. Otherwise, it appears Han is lucky Greedo is a bad shot.
The new addition of Greedo’s maclunkey was years in the making. Lucas himself oversaw the change before he sold his franchise to Disney in 2012, Vanity Fair reported.
That change could have been prepared for a 3-D release that never occurred, and was shelved until now, io9 speculated. Lucasfilm did not return a request for comment.