Solo: A Star Wars Story, directed by Ron Howard (Apollo 13, Rush, Inferno), has been mired in controversy since the very announcement of the project. Seen as unnecessary by many, the prevailing sentiment following around the upcoming addition to the Star Wars universe was that it was doomed to failure. It’s not hard to see why: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, initially brought on to direct the project, were let go by Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, who cited “different creative visions” in a June 2017 statement on StarWars.com.
Perhaps the marriage was truly that, a difference in vision. Lord and Miller, known for their comedic takes on material such as 21 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie, were reportedly used to a style of filmmaking that utilized more improvisational styles – perhaps that works for light comedies, but big-budget films such as those in Star Wars seemingly demand a different take. Howard was brought in shortly thereafter to finish principal photography.
Along with the directorial change (which also saw the film’s chief editor leave, as well as reports of an acting coach for Alden Ehrenreich, playing the titular smuggler), there had been virtually no promotion of this film – a Star Wars movie, at that – at all. It was argued that with ‘The Last Jedi’ still in theatres worldwide, Star Wars needed no further promotion, but fans disagreed. Where, they asked, was footage of the galaxy’s most beloved smuggler?
Well, fans will wait no further. After a 60 second spot during the Super Bowl, the full feature-length trailer debuted on ABC’s Good Morning America (ABC is, along with Lucasfilm, owned by Disney).
Initially, it’s clear that this movie, tonally, is different from every Star Wars movie yet. The setting, the characters (even ones familiar to audiences), everything about it feels new. This is also the second standalone movie that’s not being scored by John Williams; composer John Powell is flying solo (pun entirely intended) on this one, so even the music will sound, to an extent, different.
Before you go any further down the rabbit hole that Star Wars can be, it’s important to note one simple fact that the trailer makes very clear: Alden Ehrenreich is not Harrison Ford. Truthfully, no one is, and no one can be. It’d be silly to assume that Ehrenreich was just going to do a Ford impersonation, which would be a disservice to the movie, to Ford, and even to himself as an actor. What’s important that he gets right is the charm, the smarmy-ness, the arrogance, and it seems – at least from what has been shown thus far – that is well in place.
Donald Glover looks amazing as Lando Calrissian, Han’s old smuggler buddy audiences meet in 1980’s ‘Empire Strikes Back’. The outfit and the facial hair look like they’ve been yanked right out of the 80s itself, and it’s hard not to imagine what he’ll sound like compared to Billy Dee Williams.
It seems that the movie itself is drawing, at least in part, from the old Expanded Universe, now classed as ‘Legends’. Particularly of note is Ann C. Crispin’s 1997 trilogy of books, centering on Han’s origins as a young orphan. In those books, readers learn about how he was a little criminal working for a con man named Garris Shrike, and after escaping from under Shrike’s thumb, he joins the Imperial Flight Academy, and is eventually drummed out for disobeying orders – or “having a mind of his own,” to borrow a line from the trailer.
Woody Harrelson is officially playing Tobias Beckett (as per IMDB), a mysterious figure gathering a crew for some as-of-yet unknown mission – perhaps a heist, one in which Han and co. are intimately involved – but the script could have still been inspired by Shrike’s original characterization.
Same goes for Emilia Clarke’s Qi’Ra – Crispin’s novel had Han’s initial love interest as a slave-turned-Rebel sympathizer named Bria Tharen – but more importantly, her fate will be of great interest to many people, as of course she does not appear in the original trilogy in any capacity before Han meets Leia.
Chewbacca doesn’t get much screen time in the trailer, but as it’s a teaser, it’s almost forgivable. Joonas Suotamo returns as Chewbacca after his first time in the Wookiee suit for ‘The Last Jedi’ – in case you were wondering, original Chewie Peter Mayhew is 73 years old and does much of his travel via mechanized scooter, so here’s hoping for a cameo of some sort.
Of course, one of the best parts of watching Star Wars trailers is the rampant (often nerdy) speculation. Is the storm surrounding the Star Destroyer at the beginning part of the Maw? Is Kessel, the planet near which Han does the famous Kessel Run, one of the planets we’ve seen so far, or is it perhaps his homeworld of Corellia? Does Han still win the Falcon from Lando in a game of sabacc? How does the Millenium Falcon’s interior get from stark white to an almost dull gray in a few short years? Did Han stop using Tide pods?
So far, Disney has not been afraid to keep things they liked from the original Legends Expanded Universe, up to and including Han and Leia having a son who falls to the dark side, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility to think that one or more of those items above could be in this film. This trailer – which audiences can likely expect to see in theatres in front of the next Disney property, Black Panther, in just a couple of weeks – was just a teaser, so a fuller look at everyone’s favourite scruffy-looking nerf herder will most likely be arriving in the coming months.
Solo: A Star Wars Story arrives in theatres on May 25th, 2018.
You can find Shoaib Alli on Twitter (@SNSAlli) for more thoughts about Solo: A Star Wars Story and a number of other films.