[Update: Reposted from April 12th for #StarWarsDay 2018. May the 4th be with you!]
Solo: A Star Wars Story is going to be making a lot of changes to how audiences view the self-famed smugger, but they may not be prepared for just how much Ron Howard's young Han prequel is going to reframe Harrison Ford's iconic character.
Solo is, of course, going to be filling in a lot of Han's background. Already from the trailers, we've seen his early relationship with Chewbacca and Lando, acquiring his trademark blaster, taking on the Kessel Run and plentiful other hints. The biggest perception shift so far comes in the form of the Millennium Falcon, which is in a much better state than in the subsequent movies (it's also likely yet to have its final droid brain uploaded). Needless to say, there's going to be a lot of ground covered.
But all of these are elements that surround Han and say nothing of the man himself. While Alden Ehrenreich's casting and performance (and acting coach) have been some of the most hotly discussed aspects of Solo's production this side of Lord and Miller, we know little about what this early-twentysomething is actually like; he's quipped well in the full trailer, but there's little beyond being cocksure. And that may be because, when you drill down, Han's true character is a lot more complex and internally conflicted than the "uber cool" exterior tends to let on.
If Solo really is diving deep, then it's got a big personality contradiction to work with - and that may be the entire point of the film.
How Rogue One "Improved" Star Wars
Solo is the second entry in the Star Wars Story enterprise, the first non-Saga run of movies in the Disney era. Quite what the exact purpose of these is beyond extending the brand was initially unclear, especially given the freedom they have with franchise staples: Rogue One ditched the crawl, and while it worked hard to bring back actors or recreate original trilogy stars with CGI, Solo's gone for an all-in recast (albeit aided by being set ten years prior). However, based on that first outing and how Solo is shaping up, we have a good idea.
Rogue One expanded the galaxy, showing the "war" side and connecting various narrative strands to fill out some key backstory to the main Saga; the Rebel Alliance's first victory from Star Wars' opening crawl. Within that, it addressed a long-standing fan discussion: why the Death Star had a fundamental flaw in the first place. As detailed in the film, Galen Erso, the superweapon's architect, had planted a trap in the space station's reactor system that if hit would start a chain reaction that would bring the whole thing down.
This wasn't exactly a plot hole to begin with (Empire hubris was and remains a fair enough explanation) and providing this clarification wasn't what made Rogue One great, yet it did add to the bigger picture and was evidently part of the decision to make the film; the explanation, along with the rest of the world expansion, made the original Star Wars a stronger piece of the canon. It thus seems that the Star Wars Stories are about - alongside making good movies, obviously - canon improvement; they're banner tales that feel like some old school Expanded Universe adventure, giving depth to something previously ambiguous.
What Is Solo Adding to Star Wars?
It's important to note that, in the early days of Disney Star Wars, Solo was going to come first. It (along with a Boba Fett-related movie) were the earliest rumored non-sequel projects from the rejuvenated Lucasfilm (in fact, Solo was in the works before George Lucas sold the company), with Rogue One only added to the docket years later. So, in one version of the plan we got Han before Jyn, which puts an onus on what exactly Solo is going to be changing regarding the character.
Of course, we know it's going to be filling a lot of gaps; already in this article, we've touched on some big ones, and it seems likely that pretty much any line from the originals that touches on Han's past will be given a new meaning - from "I've made a few special modifications myself" to "Chewie and me got into a lot of places more heavily guarded than this". But that's all inference from trailers. Where's the Death Star weakness? Disney CEO Bob Iger has said we'll see how Han got his name, and now the confusion of whether he was being literal or not (he wasn't) has worn off, we have to ask: who is Han Solo?
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019