During a lengthy Twitter session to mark the digital release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, co-writer Jonathan Kasdan defended the movie’s controversial cameo from prequel trilogy character Darth Maul. Bad buzz plagued Solo from its earliest stages, thanks in large part to the firing of original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller. When the movie released earlier this year, audiences were mostly lukewarm, and many long-time Star Wars fans reacted with outright anger to certain developments in the long-awaited standalone adventure.
Among the movie’s many controversial moves, perhaps none created more outrage than a certain late cameo from a prequel trilogy character. After the story’s many twists and turns, which left Han Solo’s childhood sweetheart Qi’ra in charge of the late Dryden Vos’ piece of the Crimson Dawn criminal empire, we learned that Qi’ra herself now answered to powers higher up in the syndicate. Thanks to a holographic message beamed into Vos’ former office, we discovered that Qi'ra's new boss was in fact none other than Darth Maul, the Sith lord vanquished by Obi-Wan Kenobi during the climactic battle at the end of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
Maul’s appearance in the movie, seemingly tacked on in order to wedge the character into the film, was immediately met with criticism from fans accusing the movie of engaging in a fan service stunt. Now, screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan has taken to social media to defend the inclusion of Maul, arguing that Maul’s cameo was far from a stunt and actually was foreshadowed throughout the movie. During a lengthy run-down posted to Twitter, Kasdan gave his take on the cameo, comparing Maul's appearance to the final shocking reveal at the end of The Usual Suspects:
If you felt like it was just a cheap stunt, I suppose that’s fair, but the truth is Maul was built into the design of Solo in many subtle ways, including the name Crimson Dawn, the artifacts in Dryden’s study, and Qi’ra’s use of Teras Kasi. Maul is my favorite character from the prequel trilogy. I love that Dave Filoni brought him back and expanded on his story in Clone Wars and Rebels. I love that there is at least some continuity between the shows and the movies. For me, Maul was destined to pass through Solo as the ultimate SW Keyser Soze.
As Kasdan points out, Maul has a bigger place in Star Wars canon than just his appearance in Phantom Menace, having returned from the dead with robot legs to engage in more evil acts in the series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Indeed, Maul even got a rematch with Obi-Wan on Rebels. Solo’s reveal that Maul was now the head of a criminal organization made some sense given his larger role in the Star Wars universe. Employing Maul for a shocking last-minute cameo of course also helped subvert fan expectations, as most assumed it would be Jabba the Hutt showing up (Jabba ultimately is only indirectly referenced in the film).
Arguably however, it wasn’t the simple inclusion of Maul that was the problem, it was how the scene was executed. Maul suddenly appears in a hologram, which is not a big deal in the Star Wars universe, except that this hologram breaks with tradition by being in full color. Why the color hologram? It seems the move was made just so Maul could whip out his famous red double-bladed lightsaber for a fan service moment. But for many people, Maul’s appearance elicited not awe or excitement but laughter.
But according to Kasdan, the Maul cameo was more than just a fan service stunt, it was an attempt at creating continuity with other Star Wars properties and an opportunity to include a character Kasdan himself has particular affection for. Stunt or not, Maul’s sudden and arguably incongruous appearance in Solo: A Star Wars Story will continue to be one of the movie’s most talked-about - and derided - moments.
Source: Jonathan Kasdan/Twitter
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