Han Solo and the Bold Future of the Star Wars Cinematic Universe

Now that the dust has settled from Disney’s release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, many are wondering what the future of the franchise has in store. It’s complicated, to say the least.

Solo may be the first Star Wars film to actually not turn a profit. The film performed poorly both in the United States and abroad and there are debates roaring on the internet as to why. Analysts on Wall Street blame poor marketing on Disney’s part and from our point of view, they may be correct.

The lead-up to the three previous outings of this new era of Star Wars, The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi, was nothing short of extravagant. The sprawling cast of A-list actors was on just about every talk show and the merchandising plus brand tie-ins were everywhere. Toys, posters, and costumes flew off the shelves even before those films opened.

So why didn’t Solo get this kind of fanfare?

Well, the film was in trouble from the beginning. In our opinion, the first mistake was deciding to make a Han Solo origin story in the first place. You don’t simply recast and try to recreate one of the most iconic characters in movie history––some would say cultural history. Star Wars has transcended its medium since George Lucas released A New Hope and become part of the zeitgeist of society.

There is no bigger fandom in the world than Star Wars fans. It’s practically a religion (it’s an actual religion in some places) and let’s face it, Han Solo is one of the major focal points of that worship. But why? Some would argue that it was entirely Harrison Ford’s charisma, and yes we could certainly agree with that. But also, Solo himself was dashing and mysterious. Almost an anti-hero. He didn’t care too much about the politics, he just wanted to get paid.

Let’s not forget some other factors. He flew what we believed to be the fastest ship in the galaxy, and hung out with a tall and scary crossbow carrying beast named Chewbacca. Whom we love as much as Solo, of course.

Han Solo was a good contrast to the other central characters introduced to the world in the first Star Wars film. The young naive boy from Tatooine, the old crazy wizard Jedi, and of course, the pristine but badass Princess. Solo was the mysterious rogue, found at a shady bar with his giant hairy beast of a friend.

What’s exciting about Han Solo? The mystery. And Disney’s newest Star Wars movie sort of took that away from us. Many Star Wars fans simply did not show up to see the film.

Did we really need to know how he got his name? Did we really need to know what he did when he was a kid? Not really. That was part of the mystery. Seeing Solo as a naive young man who joins the empire sort of takes away from the image we grew up with. The badass who takes no names and answers to no authority. Solo also shows the character fawning after a girl. Come on, he’s too cool for that. Remember his famous response to Leia’s “I love you” in Empire Strikes Back? That’s who Solo is. And we didn’t want that to change.

There were other problems too. Disney hired the duo behind The Lego Movie, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, to direct the film but problems started to arise early in production. Reports said that the pair lacked the experience to handle such a monumental film and had too casual of a shooting style on set. This created a lot of chaos and the need for many takes to capture one scene. The pair also rewrote scenes and filmed scenes the studio did not approve of which inflated the budget and delayed shooting.

There were also reports that Alden Ehrenreich, cast as Solo, was not hitting his marks and that an acting coach had to be brought in to help the relatively unknown actor––who many complained did not resemble the famous character.

After Disney and Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy hit an impasse with the directing duo hired to reimagine Han Solo, a new director was brought on board: Ron Howard. Many of you may know him as the director of Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, and the Da Vinci Code series. In his earlier years, he was an actor on the TV classic Happy Days and one of his first film roles actually came from George Lucas himself, in an indy called American Graffiti.

While he wasn’t the most inspired replacement, he was the safest bet for Disney & Lucasfilm. Solo: A Star Wars Story actually turned out to be a decent film––but it just wasn’t seen. Considering the task of picking up somebody’s troubled work and making it your own, Howard pulled it off and it was his lifelong experience as a filmmaker that enabled him to do so.

So what’s next in the Star Wars cinematic universe?

Lucasfilm will now wrap up the current main trilogy that follows Rey, Finn, and Poe as they try to rebuild the rebellion in the wake of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and General Leia’s death. Ok, we know that Leia technically didn’t die in the films but Carrie Fisher has passed and it’s assumed she’ll be written out of the final chapter of the main trilogy, Episode 9.

JJ Abrams directed Episode 7: The Force Awakens, which performed phenomenally both critically and financially around the world. He exited the series with grace for someone else to direct the Episode 8.

As for Episode 9, Disney & Lucasfilm hired Colin Trevorrow, the director of Jurassic World––a well-received film that earned over a billion dollars worldwide. He would lead the way on the final chapter of this trilogy…until something went very wrong. Trevorrow had a passion project he wanted to direct before tackling Star Wars called Book of Henry, which he did. The film was brutally panned by critics and made almost no money.

Disney and Lucasfilm were obviously concerned.

Coupled with disagreements on where he wanted to take the story, Lucasfilm decided to fire him. And then they convinced JJ Abrams to return to finish the trilogy––which is a safe bet.

But what happens when the trilogy ends?

The acclaimed director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson, has signed on to oversee the production of an entirely new trilogy. According to what we know, it will have nothing to do with the Skywalker family drama and will feature new planets and new characters in another part of the galaxy. When will it take place? Nobody knows. Many applauded Johnson’s take on Star Wars in The Last Jedi, calling it fresh and bold.

However, some said he strayed too far from the farm. Regardless, the film garnered positive reviews and a billion dollars in ticket sales. In our opinion, it gave Star Wars new life for a new generation. It was new and daring.

Lucasfilm’s model is to have a main trilogy with standalone films squeezed into the years in between. These films tell the stories we’ve heard about throughout the mythology of Star Wars but never saw on screen. Like how the rebels stole the Death Star plans or how the Millenium Falcon made that famous Kessel run. Sure, we love these but don’t try to recreate characters that already exist in the ether of popular culture.

So what other standalone films are coming? We hear on the grapevine that Lucasfilm will soon announce an Obi-Wan Kenobi film that will bring back Ewan McGregor, who embodied the character in the prequel trilogy. Now a quick note on that trilogy: many think all three were bad but that Ewan Mcgregor’s performance as Kenobi was the only saving grace. It’s hard for us to disagree but we do like some parts of the trilogy rather than the individual films.

So what will Obi-Wan’s solo outing be like? There was a huge clue in Solo: A Star Wars story…..so spoiler alert.

In a pretty shocking twist, it turned out that Emperor Palpatine’s old apprentice (and baddie of Episode 1) Darth Maul, is somehow still alive and running the crime syndicate that Han Solo & crew was pulling the job for in the Solo movie. Now, when he appeared, many in the theater and then on twitter gasped. How? They asked.

In Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, Obi-Wan Kenobi slices Darth Maul in half during the final battle, killing the Sith apprentice. Or so we thought. As it turns out, Lucasfilm’s animated shows The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels are “canon” meaning they are part of the sprawling mythological universe of Star Wars and they tie directly into the films.

Unfortunately, many don’t watch those so they didn’t know the true fate of Darth Maul.

In Episode 1, after Maul is cut in half, he tumbles down a shaft into a trash dump miles below. Anyone else would have died immediately after being separated from half your body but Maul didn’t. He was kept alive by the force, albeit a very dark side of the force. Over time, he was able to dig through the mountain of trash and find extremely rudimentary legs to attach his body. He couldn’t control them, but now he could at least move around.

Over time, he went insane until being found by his brother and mother, who helped bring him back to reality. This brings us to Solo: A Star Wars Story, which takes place about 25 years after Episode 1 and 10 years before the first Star Wars film, Episode 4: A New Hope. So here’s our theory: We think Darth Maul and Obi-Wan will be reunited for one more battle. Remember, this is personal for Obi-Wan, who watched his master be killed by the Sith apprentice.

Kenobi’s solo film will likely pick up on Tatooine after he delivers baby Luke Skywalker to Uncle Lars and Aunt Beru on the moisture farm. We think Kenobi will go on a secret adventure to track his old nemesis after learning he’s still alive and running an intergalactic crime syndicate. You know what that means, a duel of the fates rematch!

We also know there is a Boba Fett movie coming which you can read in our separate post here.

We’ll make sure to keep you up to date on all Star Wars news!

(Credit for all images: Disney)

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