Warning: If you still haven’t seen “Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” there are major spoilers for it in this article.
The Han Solo movie is kind of like the Broadway revival of “Cats.” No one asked for it. No one wanted it. Yet, it’s happening, anyway.
As I’ve already made very clear, I’m incredibly new to the “Star Wars” thing. But when I get into something, I research it until my eyes go blurry, which is exactly what I’ve been doing with the iconic saga, particularly the Han Solo character. What I’ve repeatedly discovered is that the most die-hard Han Solo fans out there are the people who least want the film to actually be made. And in my research (and immediate attachment to Solo), I’ve come to the conclusion that I agree.
The basics are as follows: The (still untitled) Han Solo movie is the second in a series of anthology “Star Wars” films. Its predecessor was 2016’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” which takes place immediately before “Episode IV: A New Hope.” Apparently, the Han Solo movie will focus on “young Han Solo” (because Han was so old in “A New Hope?” Older than Luke and Leia, sure, but not OLD. I don’t get it.) and his adventures with Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian.
In essence, what I see is that the Han Solo movie is the “Star Wars” version of Stephenie Meyer’s leaked-and-forever-unfinished novel, “Midnight Sun."
Except there have already been more problems with this movie than there ever were with that leaked manuscript. Shooting for the film, which was scheduled to wrap at the end of July 2017 (in preparation for a May 25, 2018 theatrical release), has been extended by about two months because the directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller of “The LEGO Movie,” were fired in June. Oscar-winning Ron Howard, whom I prefer to think of as “little Richie Cunningham,” will replace Lord and Miller. That’s right. LucasFilm itself is unhappy with where the Han Solo movie is headed, but they still won’t kill it. They won’t kill something that nobody even wants.
The film will star Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo—a role made iconic by someone else. And that’s my biggest problem with this project. Harrison Ford is Han Solo. Han Solo is not the love-struck kid from “Beautiful Creatures” or the cowboy from “Hail, Caesar.” He’s Harrison Ford. After forty years, the names and faces are essentially interchangeable.
Word on the street is that at the end of June, LucasFilm had to bring in an acting coach for Ehrenreich because they were so unhappy with his performance up to that point. Even as a new fan, I read that news and sarcastically thought, “Gee, I wonder why.”
Here’s an apparently unpopular opinion: I like Ehrenreich. I think he’s a good actor. I’ve only seen him in a few venues, but he’s been good and believable in every one of them. The difference between Ehrenreich in other projects and as Han Solo is that in all those other projects, Ehrenreich originated his roles. This time, he’s expected to match one of the most famous portrayals of all time. That’s not fair. That’s not even realistic. I want to spend as much time with Han Solo as I can, but not if he’s hardly recognizable.
Another reason why the Han Solo movie feels like a bad idea is because of its new characters, particularly Emilia Clarke in an undisclosed female lead. That’s enough to make my heart clench.
See, even in my infancy as a “Star Wars” fan, I’ve developed a strong preference for the original trilogy. In that time, I’ve fallen in love with Han Solo’s love for Princess Leia. This new young Solo film will show Han’s interactions with another woman who isn’t Leia—another woman he knew before Leia. Before you can make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, people are going to refer to Clarke’s character as Han’s true love, the one who got away. And after the bizarre restructuring of Han, Leia, and Luke’s characters in the sequel trilogy thus far (put forth brilliantly in this letter to screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan by Anne Michaela), it’s easy to believe that this new film will try to erase or lessen the degree of love between Han and Leia. After all, in “The Force Awakens,” Han and Leia had been separated for quite some time before Han’s death, both plot points that could have been easily avoided. It would be less-than-surprising for this new film to all but throw Han and Leia’s long-existing love out the window for a new character. It seems like Disney doesn’t want its audience to care about the original “Star Wars” films anymore, and erasing the way those characters were is the best way to do it.
Additionally, a Han Solo movie is another attempt at imitation nostalgia, like “The Force Awakens,” and there’s no real reason for it. Obviously, “Star Wars” is no stranger to jumping around a timeline—Anakin Skywalker’s biography came twenty-two “real-world” years after his son’s journey. But to chronicle the smuggling tales of a younger Han Solo after killing him in 2015? It seems like another stab in the back for fans of the character. Han Solo is dead. Is it really fair to remind an audience who adores him that they won’t see him continue to grow, but they can see who he was before he met Luke Skywalker in that cantina? I, for one, have no interest in regressing this character. This seems to be worse retroactive continuity for Han than the idea that he shot second. Han Solo is a mysterious character, and that’s what’s compelling about him.
I think I’m always going to want more Han Solo. Once I latch onto a favorite character, I usually don’t let go. There’s still a framed picture of “Harry Potter” sidekick, Ron Weasley, circa 2001, in my bedroom. But that’s the thing. I want more Han Solo, not less. Han Solo before he gave Luke Skywalker a ride is, in effect, less of who he is.
Twitter user @Notintheface1 has the right idea. If Ron Howard is going to direct the Han Solo film, he should narrate it, too. Just like he did on “Arrested Development.” That would be, perhaps, this film’s only hope.