[Note: While there are no confirmed spoilers in this article, there are references to Lucasfilm-approved snippets of information, accompanied by our own rampant speculation and wish-listery. The plot-sensitive reader should proceed with caution.]
Star Wars fans have never been busier than in 2017, spinning the ongoing plates of Rebels and Forces of Destiny on the small screen, and with the paint barely dry on Rogue One, the imminent arrival of The Last Jedi and a cinematic feature for Han Solo gearing up for a May 2018 release. Announced back in 2015 and teased out in customary secrecy ever since (the title wasn’t confirmed until mid-October of this year), Solo: A Star Wars Story is the second ‘anthology’ movie, the un-numbered standalone adventures still within the continuity of the ‘saga’ entries.
Although it’s an exciting time to be a fan, the production of this particular instalment has been far from plain-sailing. The film was originally set to be helmed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (best-known for The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street adaptations). After six months of filming, the pair parted company with Lucasfilm’s project under the cloud of Creative Differences™. Since Lord and Miller were on directing-only duties, it’s unclear exactly how their own vision was affecting Lawrence and Jon Kasdan’s screenplay. Everyone has maintained a dignified silence on the mechanics of the situation, although how much of that is down to professional courtesy rather than legally binding non-disclosure agreements is presently unknown.
For two days in June, guesswork and speculation ran wild across the media, until it was announced that the reins had been picked up by Ron Howard, latterly of the outstanding Formula 1 biopic, Rush. But Solo is not Howard’s first journey off-planet, having pulled in a host of awards with 1995’s Apollo 13. Nor is this his first brush with LFL, since he starred in George Lucas’ acclaimed American Graffiti back in 1973 and directed the Lucasfilm-produced Willow in 1988. Whatever you may think of Ron’s more recent work in the Dan Browniverse, the good Captain Solo is undoubtedly in a safe pair of hands.
While it’s widely assumed that the events of Solo will take place before Han’s meeting with Kenobi and Skywalker in Chalmun’s Cantina, it’s worth noting that the pic-happy Howard has shared an unprecedented number of set-photos hinting at the presence of the all-familiar Empire in both architecture and costuming. There has also been a tweeted reference to the galaxy’s narcotic of choice which suggests that we might finally be seeing Kessel on the big screen, too.
Alden Ehrenreich will be donning the blood-stripe trousers as the film’s eponymous hero. While it’s not yet officially confirmed where the action sits in the Galaxy Far, Far Away’s timeline, bear in mind that 1977 saw a 35yr old Harrison Ford playing Solo at around 29. Ehrenreich is currently 27, so it’s not unreasonable to assume he’ll be portraying the Corellian captain at some point within five years of A New Hope.
Joining Alden will be Donald Glover as the young smoothie-supreme Lando Calrissian, with supporting performances coming from Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Woody Harrelson and Paul Bettany, each taking their first steps into this larger world. And where is Chewbacca in all of this? Howard’s photos confirm the Wookiee’s presence in the movie (reprised by The Force Awakens’ co-Chewie, Joonas Suotamo), but will this be the walking carpet’s first meeting with Han? And if so, should this really happen so chronologically close to A New Hope, given the air of firm, fraternal familiarity already on display by that point?
And where will it end? Rogue One took us tantalizingly close to the opening moments of Episode IV, and while it would be tempting to close Solo with the smuggler getting the drinks in at Mos Eisley, that would also be the easy route. The pilot who brags of completing the Kessel-run in under 12 parsecs may be partial to a shortcut, but he’s certainly not known for making anything easy.
But all will be answered in less than a year. All we can do until Solo‘s trailers begin to land is be patient and focus our efforts on dissecting the minutiae of The Last Jedi. Which, to be fair, we were planning on doing anyway…