Han Solo’s Past In A Not Too Distant Future

The second Star Wars Anthology stand-alone film.

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Young Han Solo.
Cover illustration to The Han Solo Trilogy: Rebel Dawn, art by Drew Struzan.

Among all the buzz related to the newest Star Wars films, one minor detail might have been left unnoticed. Aside from The Force Awakens, its sequels, and the coming of the first stand-alone film, Rogue One, there is one more film in the near future we know of. And its theme has been known for a while: Han Solo. The details about it have been coming slowly, however – since July 2015, when it has been announced, we have learned the names of three actors: first Alden Ehrenreich for young Han, then Donald Glover for Lando, and lastly, Emilia Clarke for so far unknown character.

Yes, sadly for all the fans of Harrison Ford, the stand-alone movie is supposed to focus on the story of young Han, therefore it is not very likely that we will see him being portrayed by the same actor anymore again, unless the film included some short “flash-forward” scene. Nevertheless, we should get the chance to witness the young smuggler’s career, indeed, we might get to learn how he became a smuggler in the first place. No further details have been revealed regarding the film’s plot, but we can make fairly good guesses: for instance, the way the ownership of Millenium Falcon transferred to our favourite Captain could be addressed, and if you remember Episode V, you’ll also know that the ship used to belong to Lando Calrissian before Han won it from him, “fair and square”. Captain Solo’s views of “fair and square” notwithstanding, the role of Lando has now been confirmed, so we can already start imagining Donald Glover at a sabacc table. I would also feel pretty safe making a bet on the appearance of young Chewbacca. His friendship with Han is such a prominent thing in the franchise that it is almost inevitable for it to be explored. Especially after Episode III gave us the (fairly random) cameo of Chewie at the end of the Clone Wars. Whether they like it or not, Lucas left Disney with the task to take Chewbacca, the Clone Wars freedom fighter, from Kashyyyk and deliver him aboard the fastest piece of junk in the Galaxy.

One could make more predictions, and one could also pull out some cheat sheet to help, because that path has been trodden before. For a long time, the existing canon of Star Wars books and comics has been operating with certain version of Captain Solo’s past, and given the legendary smuggler’s popularity, his history became immensely rich. However, with the announcement of the newest trilogy, the whole expanded universe has changed. The books taking place after Episode VI’s events are no longer canon, and now it starts to seem like the same fate may befall also those preceding them. It is inevitable, however, that the team tasked with bringing young Han to the screen will bump into at least some of the same themes to explore as the writers did. So what kind of predictions can we make?

Brian Daley's The Han Solo AdventuresThus far, probably the most comprehensive and most exhaustive insight into young Han’s life has been provided by two book trilogies: The Han Solo Adventures by Brian Daley and Ann C. Crispin’s The Han Solo Trilogy. Whereas first of Brian Daley’s books was published already in 1979 (so even before Episode V came to theaters), A. C. Crispin’s trilogy already draws on the large amount of film and expanded universe material available by the end of the 1990s. And while The Han Solo Adventures is mostly telling about the smuggler we are already familiar with and his various daring and risky travels to the far corners of the Galaxy, A. C. Crispin’s Han Solo Trilogy gives more backstory – exactly the sort of thing one would expect from the future film.

Fueled by obvious enthusiasm, A. C. Crispin managed to produce a set of books focusing on everything a typical Solo-fan (or even just an average non-Solo fan) would like to know. The Han Solo Trilogy starts with a young street urchin finding his way among the criminals, discovering who his Corellian parents were, acquiring his affinity for mistreated Wookiees, which later of course plays a prominent role as he frees young Chewbacca from slavery. We see how he learned to fly a ship, how he first saw the Millenium Falcon and how he did the Kessel Run under 12 parsecs. We learn how he got to become Jabba’s favourite smuggler and also about his history with Boba Fett (no spoilers in case you are planning to read the books, but there is one of the most emotional scenes close to the end of the last book, in which the cold bounty hunter plays an important part). And, what is perhaps one of the central parts of A. C. Crispin’s trilogy, we get some insight into Captain Solo’s romantic relationships during his early life, which makes a nice overture for his later liaison with princess Leia. Because even though there is nothing in the films that would make us question the believability of their relationship, I would still say the film gives us a bit better answer to why Leia would fall for Han than vice versa. And A. C. Crispin filled just that gap: in seeing Captain Solo interact with other women, we get to understand what would attract him to someone like Leia. Where this gets interesting in relation to the recent news is that the third actor officially announced to be cast for the film was Emilia Clarke (probably most famous for her role as Daenerys in Game of Thrones). Without knowing anything at all regarding her role, one would not want to jump into conclusions, however, if one looks at a list consisting of “Han, Lando and a mysterious female character”, it is very hard not to start imagining where this might go. If the film goes the A. C. Crispin route and gives us Han’s former love interest as a “forerunner of Leia”, then Emilia Clarke’s job might be just as difficult as Alden Ehrenreich’s and Donald Glover’s.

The Han Solo Trilogy has been dissed by some as being “too romantic” and containing a bit of a “Mary Sue” character. Whether that is true or not, it managed to flesh out Han Solo the smuggler captain, explore his motivations, his relationship with other characters (especially Lando, Chewie, Boba Fett and Jabba) and why he behaves the way he behaves in a believable manner, which is at the same time true to the films. If Disney is going to come up with its own version of Han’s past, it will have a lot to do to make it at least equally colorful and interesting. For instance, A.C. Crispin spent more time than other authors fleshing out (sic) the Hutts, the machinations in their family clans, and especially Jabba’s relationship to Han which we can see in the films to turn from quite warm one into… well, freezing. If the future stand-alone movie manages to explore Han-Jabba relationship as deeply as she did, I am going to applaud it.

Christopher Miller and Phil Lord
Christopher Miller and Phil Lord (source: starwars.com)

There are good reasons to be expectant, though. Disney did once again the same thing they did with Star Wars: The Force Awakens and entrusted the task of screenwriting to Lawrence Kasdan. This experienced filmmaker is known for his work on the screenplay of Episode V and VI and his hand has showed also in The Force Awakens. For the Han Solo film, he shall have the aid of his son Jon Kasdan (known for titles such as In the Land of Women and the series Dawson’s Creek). The directors are coming from yet another area, they are the “dynamic duo” of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Most people would connect them with The LEGO movie as well as several other, generally rather lighthearted titles. They seem to take their involvement with Star Wars seriously, however, and they have promised “to take risks, to give the audience a fresh experience”, and they “pledge… to be faithful stewards of these characters who mean so much to us.” That sounds certainly like a good start.

It is, of course, really only a start so far. The film is scheduled for release on 25th May 2018, so it has a long way to go and many obstacles to overcome. There is just one of them that deserves to be mentioned, because it can’t be avoided: to make the lead actor represent convincingly, well, young Harrison Ford. There is no subtler way to put it: the star actor has portrayed the smuggler in such a manner that anything less than perfect will be put under heavy fire. On first sight, especially for the hardcore fans, such task might even seem impossible, but let us not forget one thing – it has been done before. I am talking about Obi-Wan Kenobi, whose younger version played by Ewan McGregor complemented Alec Guinness fantastically. Of course, Han does get a bit more screen time than old Ben, but the question is not about quantity, it’s about quality. And there I would say it all depends on the chosen actor’s, in this case Alden Ehrenreich’s, presence. Either we believe from the first moment that this is Han Solo, or then we don’t and we spend the whole film following the adventures of unknown young man in Corellian pants. No amount of great screenplay or directing can take care of that. Let us just hope that Disney has really managed to find a good – no, better than good: perfect actor for the job.

For now, however, all the Solo fans will have to settle for waiting, and for the older version of their favourite smuggler in The Force Awakens. Which, I am sure, is still more than we would have hoped for ten years ago.