Solo is the Celluloid You’re Looking For
This article is intended as a good humored response to opinions discussed on the main USW podcast and with which I disagree. I love and respect each member of USW. Believe it or not, people can express differences of opinion without instilling hatred or ruining lives. If we can’t do it about a movie, what hope do we have in the rest of the world?
In episode number 118 of the Unmistakably Star Wars podcast, the panel discussed whether centering on Han Solo was the best choice for the next Star Wars movie. This was based on a Forbes article by Dani Di Placido, in which the author states he wants the movie to fail. Rebekah Jones, on the USW panel, agreed, saying she didn’t want a Han Solo movie. Devin Kleffer said the legacy characters, which I define as Luke, Leia, and Han, are sacred and time is needed before we can see them in new stories being portrayed by different actors. Michael O’Connor said he didn’t know anybody excited about the movie.
Hey Michael, I’m excited about the movie.
The panel made the point that there are so many untapped areas of the Star Wars’ timeline and/or galaxy that Disney could explore to add freshness to the franchise. This is true, but Jones and Eve both admitted most fans prefer to see something of the familiar. Still, they thought using legacy characters may be too much on the nose. At the same time, O’Connor joked about every minor character getting their own movie, sarcastically referencing a Jabba the Hutt and Salacious B. Crumb spin off, which I agree would be ludicrous.
So if Lucasfilm uses nostalgia, does it make the blasphemous choice of using a legacy character or the ridiculous decision to promote characters of no substance? Kleffer wondered, if Lucasfilm could go back in time, would it choose a different route other than Solo. I say, “No.” Solo was the perfect and intentional choice.
The first reason is Han Solo is the perfect blending of legacy character and fan indifference. I say this as a huge Han fan. When I first saw Star Wars as a child, I identified with Luke. As I grew older, I gravitated toward Han. As aspirational as Luke is, Han is more relatable to me.
When we first meet him, he is arrogant to the point of unlikability. He is shocked when Luke hasn’t heard of the Millennium Falcon. He is braggadocious of his piloting skills. His mention of the Kessel Run record is meant to impress and intimidate. This is only Han the salesman. He must show confidence to close the deal on his terms.
Immediately after making the deal with Luke and Obi-Wan, he drops his facade when alone with Chewie. The confidence is gone, and we see a fearful, vulnerable side. He is excited about getting the credits and seems relieved about how it will get him out of hot water with Jabba. This is echoed at the end when he struggles with the choice between self-preservation and helping others. He ultimately makes the right choice, but it does not come easy. I would rather always make the right choice, like young Luke, but I know I have deeper struggles, like Han.
Despite my love for Han, I have to admit he is the least developed of the main three legacy characters. He shows growth in A New Hope. He transitions further towards self sacrifice in The Empire Strikes Back, but he is almost unnecessary in Return of the Jedi.
This is closely related to the second reason, Harrison Ford’s relationships to the character and Star Wars fans. Just search the internet for Ford’s feelings about Star Wars and Han Solo, and you will find plenty of evidence about his stance on the subject. This culminated in Ford’s famous (infamous?) desire to kill off the character.
This is also demonstrated by Ford’s relationship to Star Wars fans. He never engaged with fans in places like conventions as much as Mark Hamill and, later, Carrie Fisher. This could simply be the fact that Ford was a more prolific actor and did not want to lose his commercial appeal by being tied to one franchise or genre. The reason could be a more sinister. I don’t know exactly why. Regardless, a personal relationship with the fans was never cultivated.
Even with all this history, one of Placido’s reasons for wanting Solo to fail is that he cannot imagine anyone else playing the character. If this line of thinking is prevalent, just imagine how much more intensified the feeling would be if another actor was tapped to play Luke or Leia. Hamill is treasured because of how much he clearly loves and interacts with the fans, and Fisher is protected because of her frankness, wit, and untimely passing. If any of these three actors can be replaced, it is Ford.
Some may wonder why we have to replace any of the actors, which leads me to my last point. These characters are too important and interesting to be excluded from any further movies. One of the biggest voids in the Star Wars cinematic universe is the absence of adventures between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Many fans, including me, want to see the big three on the big screen in big adventures from this time period. It goes without saying that this cannot be done with the original actors.
Because of this, Han is the only choice for the next movie. He is easiest character to see another actor playing, although many will resist. If Solo is successful, a Luke movie should be next, with Mark Hamill leading the PR campaign, proclaiming that it is alright for this character to have life beyond Hamill himself.
After that may be the most important, and most difficult, step. As ahead of her time as Leia was, she was still limited by her time. As more female voices have added to her canon, such as Claudia Gray with Bloodline, Leia has developed more fully. Even though Rey has picked up the mantle, Leia deserves to be seen by audiences as the central character in a Star Wars movie, not relying on any man to rescue her but driving the plot herself. (I will leave it to the ladies of the Podme podcast to make the same argument for Padme, but I think she deserves the same treatment.)
So with Solo, we start the journey of refusing to allow nostalgia to hold these characters hostage. They do not belong to any of us. They belong to all of us. We must allow them to connect with our children and grandchildren. We cannot hold on to them so tightly that they define our lives. By the same token, their lives cannot be defined by us.