Han Solo and the Runaway Trailersby Todd King, contributing writer
Just in time to interrupt the fading squabbling around The Last Jedi (there are plenty of contemplative pieces written about it out there but just know you don't have to pick sides; have your own viewpoint about it), Lucasfilm and Disney released two trailers for Solo: A Star Wars Story and also announced a new series of films that are apart from Rian Johnson's previously announced Star Wars trilogy.
There is all that and meanwhile we still have speculation about several other projects, including rumors about a live-action television show, the constant musings about a possible Obi-Wan Kenobi movie with Ewan McGregor, and the continued construction of Galaxy's Edge in the Disney parks. Also, don't forget that Star Wars: Rebels is entering its last season this month.
Before The Force Awakens, I speculated how big this franchise was going to get—and with all this new information, Disney is surpassing my wildest expectations. Let's take stock on all this for a moment.
Same name, different face
"Big Game," a TV spot for "Solo: A Star Wars Story." © Lucasfilm.
During the Super Bowl broadcast, we got a short teaser with some quick images from Solo, and it also served as a preview of the longer teaser that it said would be released the following day. I find it excellent that the longer trailer didn't just show the short one again with a couple extra shots. Instead, the longer trailer showed us a lot more about the movie; particularly of Han Solo himself and the actor portraying him, Alden Ehrenreich. The short teaser barely even showed his face, but the second one gave us an extended glimpse into the behavior and attitude of the character. Honestly, it is exactly how I imagined the character to be: cocky, determined, resourceful—but with hints of irony and compassion. It's all there and I must say I'm pleased with Ehrenreich's take on Han so far.
With this satisfying depiction of Han, I was able to focus on and enjoy the other imagery the teaser gave us. Yes, there are the usual trappings of Star Wars (like droids, aliens, and TIE fighters), but what I like most from the trailer is the impression it confers. Simply put, it looks fun.
I think we need a bit of levity after the dark and heavy offerings from the previous two movies: Rogue One and The Last Jedi. Han is shown as the scoundrel a bit by ramming Stormtroopers off their swoop bikes, weaving around astroids and tentacled space beasts, saying, "We're fine," and showing up in seedy criminal underground spots obviously up to no good. We've seen both sides of Han—the scoundrel and the hero—but mostly the hero. With this movie, we may see more of the scoundrel, and I think that's perfect for this story.
The official teaser for "Solo: A Star Wars Story." © Lucasfilm.
What also seems fun here is all the action. There is a great sense of speed in this preview, right from the outset of that wailing guitar that sounds like an engine revving up. There are chases and escapes. There are companions and adversaries. It has all the mix of an old Western flick. That's not a far stretch since Han Solo, even from A New Hope, was described as a space cowboy. And judging by these trailers and the new still images from Entertainment Weekly magazine, this idea is complete with a train heist! Who doesn't love a good train heist?
On top of that train heist, there's this legend that Han won the Millennium Falcon from his old friend Lando Calrissian (superbly cast with Donald Glover) in a high-stakes card game (which has always been called "sabacc" in Legends). We've seen that in Westerns, too. Oh, and at the 49-second mark in the long trailer, the imagery of a showdown is quite blatant. There may be no horses or cowboy hats (yet?) but the ideas and the steampunk-inspired visuals are all there. All that remains is something common to most Westerns: the sense of loss. Pick any great Western (like Unforgiven, High Noon) and one character or another is facing something lost—whether it's a lamenting of the bygone world or a change from their own old self—and it is this sense of loss that drives the story. With Solo, that loss could be any number of things.
Even though I predict there will be some pathos in the story, the movie still seems like it will be a rip-roaring good time. We'll get the fast action and shootouts a movie about Han Solo needs. Even though the obvious meaning of his last name fits the mantra of a cowboy who, "walks alone," he is never without companions. We've known Chewbacca for some time and I like that we were never really told why or how they became friends. I guess we'll get that here, so I just hope it is not a contrivance. We've also known Lando, but we never got to see his past with Han—and again, it looks like that's in here, too. But I am actually very excited to see more of the character, mostly because of Donald Glover, who so looks the part.
There are other characters that surround and probably help create the character of Han, such as Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and Q’ira (Emilia Clarke), who may all end up serving as a surrogate family for Han, even if briefly. With Lando and Chewie, I think we have the making of a buddy film that goes with the Western ideas; and with Westerns, it is the buddies who most often bring out the best (and sometimes worst) in each other.
That other main character
Let's not forget the other main character: the Millennium Falcon. I don't think it's serendipity that Solo: A Star Wars Story is coming out before the opening of Galaxy's Edge in Disneyland and Walt Disney World. One of the most iconic images in movies, the Falcon, will be a centerpiece in the new parks. Oh, and it's a ride, too.
I can't help but wonder how the events of this new movie will affect the park attraction. Will some of the new locations in the movie be part of the ride? Will the crew that Beckett forms be similar in function to the crew that must pilot the ride's cockpit? Like in the trailers, will we, when we finally get to sit down at the controls, find the same mechanisms, buttons, and levers that Han uses to maneuver the ship? [On a side note: these quick images are some of the most we've ever really seen on screen of the freighter's controlling mechanisms.] Will we also have to ram TIE fighters and avoid tentacle monsters (that scene looks like something out of Star Tours)?
A big question I have is, will the movie show the mysterious Kessel run alluded to in the saga? And if so, will we try to fly the Falcon through the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs? I don't want to answer myself just yet—I just want to dream for a while before these are no longer questions.
Overall, I'm very excited and have high expectations for Solo. The good thing is, May is not too far away (much closer than the December schedule we've been under). The bad thing is, after that, Episode IX is a year and a half away.