Tuesday, Ron Howard officially announced that the title of the upcoming Han Solo standalone Star Wars film would be Solo. The announcement set off some eye-rolling about the simplicity of the name but there’s a notable lack of excitement surrounding the origin story otherwise.
Some of that might be because, aside from a couple cast photos and potential easter egg announcements on Twitter, details have been pretty scarce. Potentially, the lack of excitement over seeing one of Hollywood’s iconic, lovable rogues is that, well, we pretty much know what’s going to happen.
While Rogue One at least introduced audiences to a bevy of new characters with unknown motives and places in the jigsaw that is the Star Wars Universe, we already know that this is a movie about young Han Solo and young Chewbacca (does Chewbacca age? How old is Chewbacca, anyway?) long before they ever met a goofy farm boy and weird old guy on Tatooine and their destinies were changed forever. We assume the Kessel Run will come up at some point and they’ll make it in less than 12 parsecs. We’ll probably find out how Han won the Millenium Falcon from Lando Calrissian. And we’ll see Han and Chewie fly off into the stars for whatever adventure was next in the space between now and A New Hope.
Knowing all of that doesn’t mean the movie can’t be good or that the plot can have some surprises (surely Rogue One’s Jyn Urso makes a cameo at some point, right?). But it does tap into a concern about the near future plans for the Star Wars standalone films…
Of all the ideas they could do, why are they giving us the most boring options?
We don’t know too much about what comes after Solo but we do know that an Obi-Wan Kenobi film is in the works with Stephen Daldry at the helm and, presumably, Ewan McGregor reprising his role as the Jedi Master. That’s all well and good and fans have wondered for years what life was like for Kenobi in-between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Except, we already know. Star Wars Rebels, which is considered canon according to the Disney timeline, already showed us his return confrontation with Darth Maul and how it ended, which then basically set up Kenobi’s reasons for doing what he does.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you couldn’t do a Kenobi movie, there’s still a lot of years in there currently unaccounted for, but is that really worth an entire movie? Do we need to watch Kenobi act as a sheriff for a Tatooine trading post while Baby Luke traipses by in the background? We know what eventually happens. The stakes can only be so high. It could be interesting but it probably won’t be…epic.
And that’s what I hope Disney and Lucasfilm think about in the future when it comes to how they define what is worthy of being added to the Star Wars Cinematic Universe. Because we’re talking about events that happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. There’s this sense that we need Star Wars films to focus on the Skywalkers and The Empire and their cohorts because that’s all we’ve known.
But now the universe is the limit. We can tell any story we want in the Star Wars Universe. Rogue One showed us the possibilities, but that was merely the beginning. There are millennia of stories and lore about Jedi and Sith that we can dig into. There are alien races and faraway planets that could be explored. The Star Wars Universe is an inexhaustible resource for storytelling, so there’s really no reason to stick to the tiny parameters we think exist because mainstream audiences know four or five characters.
Honestly, there’s really only one character from the current storyline whose standalone movie could really surprise audiences and that would be Darth Vader. What was it like for Anakin after he turned and truly gave in to the Dark Side? What about a movie that focuses on one of Darth Vader’s “side missions?” What about a protege that Vader was grooming in the interim who perhaps foreshadowed what was to come between him and the Emporer. Most of these stories have been explored in books, comics, and video games, but it would be something special to see it on the big screen.
As Rogue One proved, however, the Star Wars name carries so much weight you could be bold and brave and put entirely new characters out there and audiences will follow. Set a movie back in the days when The Sith controlled the galaxy. Or set a movie on the edge of the galaxy where an entirely new set of characters react to what’s happening near the center. Tell stories about epic battles or tell stories about local uprisings.
If you’re a Star Wars fan you could probably sit here all day and list out potential movie ideas and they’d all probably work. Unfortunately, it looks like Disney is going to try to pump the recognizable character well dry before they branch out to different timelines and stories within the universe. That’s a shame, because, man, it’s a big universe out there.