“Han First Shot.” With a tweeted photo from the set, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller ignited a galaxy of anticipation for Han Solo, the prequel origin story of the Star Wars galaxy’s most infamous smuggler-turned-rebel hero. The second Star Wars anthology film, currently scheduled for release in May of 2018, Han Solo will see Alden Ehrenreich (Hail Caesar!) step into the vest and leather boots made famous by Harrison Ford.
One lingering question hovering over the production is: What kind of Star Wars movie will Han Solo be? One of the benefits of Disney creating anthology Star Wars films is opening up the Lucasfilm sandbox for filmmakers to tell different kinds of stories set in the Star Wars universe. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was widely praised by audiences for embracing the “war” of Star Wars and delivering a grittier, more grounded film with stakes that proved fatal for the majority of its characters.
Specific plot details for Han Solo are, for the time being, staying under lock and key. Still, although Han Solo himself never likes to be told the odds, looking at the the information we currently have about his movie, the odds are Han Solo could be another first for the franchise: a smaller scale Star Wars film.
When we infer Han Solo will be “smaller scale” Star Wars, this isn’t to say the movie will be set in Dexter Jettster’s diner on Coruscant, with characters sitting around talking about their personal problems. Han Solo will still be a Star Wars movie as we’ve come to expect. Disney will certainly make sure Han Solo will feature the Millennium Falcon jumping to hyperspace, blaster battles, edge-of-your-seat action, and as much recognizable iconography as would be appropriate for the time period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope the movie is expected to be set in. These are the dangerous years in which Solo made his bones as a smuggler.
All the same, the character of Han Solo and the details of his origin story which are considered official canon that the movie is poised to depict indicate that Han Solo will be a departure from the “saving the galaxy” type of story the Star Wars movies, even Rogue One, have delivered thus far.
One need only look at Han Solo himself; before he joined the Rebel Alliance, Solo was no hero and prided himself on it. Solo was a smuggler, one constantly in trouble, often with the very gangsters he worked for. Avoiding “Imperial entanglements” was part and parcel for Solo and his trusted Wookiee sidekick Chewbacca. If there’s an Imperial Star Destroyer in the vicinity, Solo could be counted on to pilot the Millennium Falcon in another direction. Making a buck, not saving the galaxy, was Han Solo’s driving force.
Han Solo is also widely believed to be an origin story, taking place many years before Han meets Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, C-3PO, and R2-D2 in Mos Eisley Cantina on Tattooine. (Han Solo ending on a beat where, perhaps, Han and Chewie walk into that “wretched hive of scum and villainy” on that fateful day isn’t out of the question, to tie it as a direct lead-in to A New Hope as Rogue One was). The film is expected to dramatize how young Han was an orphan on Corellia and how he fell under the sway of a retired bounty hunter-turned-criminal named Garris Shrike, who raised young Han. Shrike is the role widely expected to be played by Woody Harrelson, one of only four principal cast members announced thus far.
There are a number of tidbits about Han’s early life and career that Han Solo would find irresistible to depict and Star Wars fans will expect to finally see on film. For instance, the famous card game between Han and a young Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), where Han won the Millennium Falcon will most certainly be there. Han piloting the Falcon on the famed Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs could also be an event covered in the film.
Fans surely expect to see how Han came under the employment of Jabba the Hutt, and how Han became Jabba’s top smuggler until the job where Han was forced to drop a shipment of illegal spice when the Falcon was boarded by Imperial forces. This was the reason why Jabba placed a bounty on Solo’s head, which we know ultimately ended up with Han encased in carbonite and hanging in Jabba’s throne room.
We should also finally get to see just how Han met his best friend Chewbacca, how Han saved Chewie’s life, and why exactly Chewie owes him a “life debt” under Wookiee custom. Knowing that Chewie stood by Han until the final moment of Han’s life when Han fell at the hands of his son Ben/Kylo Ren at Starkiller Base in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, seeing a young Han and a young Chewie meet and forge their bond with each other should be incredibly poignant.
Though Leia Organa would become the love of Han’s life, there were women before the princess. The official canon established in Marvel Comics’ Star Wars series introduced a woman named Sana Starros, a fellow smuggler whom Solo arranged a fake marriage with to facilitate a robbery. That scoundrel Han also absconded with Sana’s share of the loot, earning her enmity. It appears safe to assume that Sana Starros isn’t the role that Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) has been cast to play, though it remains to be seen if Clarke is playing a character specifically created for the Han Solo movie.
Then there are Han Solo‘s directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, whose credits don’t reflect a career built on big budget, sci-fi action extravaganzas. Lord and Miller come from the worlds of family-friendly animation (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, The LEGO Movie) and ribald comedy (the 21 Jump Street films, the pilots for TV’s Brooklyn 99 and The Last Man On Earth). Characters and humor are Lord and Miller’s bread and butter. Han Solo will be Lord and Miller’s first crack at directing a space action fantasy like Star Wars, and they are working from a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jon Kasdan. Lawrence Kasdan wrote The Empire Strikes Back, which is the most character-cetric of the Star Wars films. Indeed, no one puts words in Han Solo’s mouth better than the elder Kasdan.
The adventures of Han Solo’s early years, while steeped in Star Wars lore, are a departure far, far away from the Skywalker saga of Jedi vs. Sith family conflict across the generations. Nor is Han Solo likely to tackle blowing up a Death Star like so many other Star Wars movies have (especially since we’ve already seen the elder Solo played by Ford help to destroy a couple of those).
Instead, Han Solo looks to be a new kind of Star Wars movie, a more intimate study of a raffish scoundrel/everyman usually in over his head while trying to make a (dis)honest living in a galaxy infested by crime and ruled over by overwhelming tyranny. Han Solo will most certainly be a Star Wars movie in all the ways fans expect, but on a smaller scale focusing on the most beloved hero (who didn’t want to be one) of the Original Trilogy, and getting to the bottom of what made him such a lovable scoundrel.
We’ve got a good feeling about this.