Thursday, July 18, 2013

Opinion: Don't Everybody Thank Me at Once: What's Next for Han Solo

 By: Alex Smith

Along with Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford has confirmed his willingness - eagerness, even - to reclaim his role as Han Solo for the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII. Disney, which bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion last October, made the first of many wise choices by assigning J.J. Abrams, director of the acclaimed 2009 Star Trek, to oversee the first film in the upcoming trilogy, set to release in 2015.

Episode VII is still years away, but some of us can’t help looking ahead even further, especially with Harrison Ford’s recent 71st birthday, to the more glorious return of Han Solo in his own standalone film. The Walt Disney Co. unveiled plans in February to create a number of spin-off films following Episode VII, and the first are rumored to be centering on Boba Fett and Han Solo.

Han Solo is of course one of the most beloved characters in Star Wars, often out-staging Luke Skywalker (Hamill) and even the stunning Princess Leia (Fisher) in most scenes, and so an onslaught of prequels with Solo’s return, and one film featuring the handsome con man, should be welcome news.

In the case of Solo, at least, the Walt Disney Co. won’t be struggling for action packed material, since The Han Solo Trilogy already exists. The trilogy of books, written by Ann C. Crispin, was released in 1997. Before Crispin, author Brian Daley had already composed The Han Solo Adventures, another trilogy, in 1979. His novels are set two years before Han appears in Episode IV: A New Hope. Like all good fiction working within an established fictional “universe”, the two trilogies incorporate each other’s timelines; Daley’s works are contextualized in interludes in Rebel Dawn, Crispin’s final Han Solo novel.

Disney has plans to set Solo’s film in the period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Hopefully, at least minor references - dare I say flashbacks? - will be made to Han’s earlier life, since Crispin’s trilogies provides substantial material to create another complete trilogy, well, solely featuring Solo. Whether or not the film aims to focus at all on Crispin’s all encompassing novels, or remain primarily based in the more recent series of adventures Daley focused on, the prequels are bound to have new characters and planets that have yet to appear on screen, such as Han’s pre- C-3PO and R2-D2 droid companions, Bollux and Blue Max. Disney has also revealed that they’ve pulled in their top guns, recruiting The Empire Strikes Back’s Lawrence Kasdan and Sherlock Holmes’ Simon Kinberg to write two of the subsequent standalone films in the planned triptych, although it’s not confirmed who specifically will take on Boba, Han, or Yoda.

It would be impossible for Ford to star in these prequels now that he’s in his 70s of course, and if anything he will appear only as a framing device, since the role will require an actor even younger than the 35 year old Ford who first appeared in 1977’s Star Wars. But who could possibly replace Ford and climb confidently into the Millenium Falcon without crashing and burning?

The role won’t be easy to fill, since last minute improvisations - changing “I love you too” to “I know” before being frozen in carbonite, to cite the most famous example - gave Ford an air of authenticity that may be difficult to replicate. If Nathan Fillion (Firefly) weren’t aging himself, he’d be a shoe-in, having already portrayed a feisty pilot. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises), despite his large name, has proven himself capable in high action films as well. With the Star Trek connection through J.J. Abrams, it’s a good bet that Chris Pine will be offered the role. In preparing to play James T. Kirk, who has similar “accidental hero” traits, Pine supposedly drew inspiration for Ford’s own depictions of Solo and Indiana Jones.

No matter the actor who is ultimately cast, audiences are likely to see a more exposed Han Solo. Crispin’s trilogy begins as far back as Solo’s childhood, following from his beginning as a pickpocket and street urchin and ends with the momentous meeting of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker in the Mos Eisley Cantina, where he decides to barter passage with them to the planet Alderaan.

At the very least, a Solo free of Leia’s influences will appear. With his roguish attitude, it would be unrealistic for Solo to have been free of romance pre-princess. Han has an interlude with a woman named Bria Tharen, a slave rescue with an aristocratic bloodline. It’s because of Tharen that the Rebel Alliance secures valuable information about the Death Star’s weaknesses, which then spurs the beginning of A New Hope.

In the novels, Han remains the rowdy smuggler fans grew to love in the original Star Wars trilogy. Expect to see more of Han’s sidekick as well, including a possible wedding and return home for Chewbacca to the Wookiee home planet of Kashyyyk. There could also be returns of fan favorites such as Darth Vader and Boba Fett, making the film a must-see, the major downside being the (seeming) light-years we’ll have to wait between now and the film’s possible release.  

Author Bio: Alex Smith is a film and TV blogger for where he writes about everything from the latest Star Wars rumors to retrospectives of forgotten sci-fi B-movies from the 1980s. He lives and work in Washington, D.C.


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