Gather around, everyone. We want to tell you about a story that happened a long time ago, in 1977, at movie theaters that really weren’t too far away. You know what, let’s just skip the Star Wars history lesson, one that basically every fan of the George Lucas inspired franchise knows by this point, and instead focus on just one character from that original film – the protagonist whom stole the spotlight. You know, Han Solo, the character that singlehandedly launched the career of Harrison Ford.
Solo was a blaster-toting, Millennium-Falcon-maneuvering, Wookie-interpreting smuggler who became an integral part of the franchise, though unlike many of the other characters from the original trilogy, we know very little about his personal background. Because of that, along with the Star Wars franchise’s continued success, it seemed only fitting that one of the story’s most popular characters got a stand-alone film, in the hopes of not only making Lucasfilm and Disney boatloads of cash but also to better educate audiences on everything leading up to Solo’s introduction at Mos Eisley Cantina. Solo: A Star Wars Story is set to hit theaters May 25 and with a ton of buzz surrounding the trailers, the potential is there for it to be on the same level as another Star Wars stand-alone spinoff, 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, as one of the franchise’s best – and that’s not something we say lightly. But why could this film be destined for greatness – well, it comes down to several different reasons.
THE RON HOWARD EFFECT
Early on in the production process of Solo, there were a number of bumps in the road made publicly, though the biggest of which was at the very top. Originally set to be directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, both of which are best known for The LEGO Movie and 21 Jump Street, it seems that the pair simply had different creative views than the studio, according to an interview with Vulture. Lord and Miller were pretty deep into the creative process before their departure, with principal photography just weeks from competition, and while we have no doubt of their directorial capabilities, when it was announced that Ron Howard would take over, suddenly we knew Solo was in good hands.
While your grandparents might remember him as the adventurous little kid on The Andy Griffith Show and your parents might remember him as Richie Cunningham on Happy Days, Howard’s best work has come from behind the camera and, in more than three decades, he’s come one of Hollywood’s best directors. Howard’s directorial career began with a string of comedies including Night Shift, Splash and Gung Ho before transitioning to deeper, more drama-oriented, material such as Apollo 13, The Da Vinci Code and A Beautiful Mind – which earned Howard his first Academy Award for Best Director, along with the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2002. We can’t forget Howard’s recent in-depth music-centric documentaries on topics such as The Beatles and Philadelphia’s Made In America music festival.
There’s no denying Howard has the experience to create a dynamic Star Wars film but a summer blockbuster of this caliber seems a little outside of his box, so why exactly do it? According to Entertainment Weekly, it came during a period when Howard was between directing work and wanted to help out an old friend. And, just like that, he became immersed in the project, despite his hesitation given how Miller and Lord departed, though he knows their fingerprints are still very much on the film. He was able to see the vision with the actors involved and just knew it had some serious potential.
CASTING JEDI-LEVEL ACTORS
Filling Harrison Ford’s shoes for a character he molded and made his own is certainly no easy task and while no one wants Alden Ehrenreich to emulate Ford, the comparison’s will undoubtedly be there. Look at the actors who have portrayed significant pop culture icons on the big screen, such as Heath Ledger as The Joker, Zachary Quinto as Spock or even Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka – no matter how great or terrible their performance, each one was somewhat compared to its predecessor. But the only difference this time around is that Ehrenreich is rather unknown to the general moviegoer and that’s something that could certainly play into his favor. His most notable work comes from the 2013 Woody Allen film Blue Jasmine and the 2016 Coen Brothers film Hail, Ceasar! and those roles conditioned Ehrenreich to work with some pretty big names, like George Clooney and Cate Blanchett.
And there’s certainly no shortage of talent involved with Solo. Perhaps the biggest name on the bill is Woody Harrelson, a man who, much like the film’s director, got his start in comedy. However, he’s really come into his own as a dramatic actor in recent years and, in the process, he’s been nominated for three Academy Awards – Best Actor: The People vs. Larry Flint, Best Supporting Actor: The Messenger and Best Supporting Actor: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – though he has yet to take home the hardware. Speaking of hardware, his Solo co-star Donald Glover has won his fair share of awards.
Known as much on the screen as he is under his rap stage name Childish Gambino, Glover is arguably one of the most talented, and versatile, people currently in Hollywood. Not only has he earned several Grammy Awards nominations – and one win in 2018 – for his music, Glover is also involved with one of the best shows on television, FX Network’s Atlanta, a show that won the actor three Primetime Emmy Awards in 2017 for Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series. Oh, by the way, he’s also been in both The Martian and Spider-Man: Homecoming. We really cannot wait to see how he portrays Lando Calrissian – in fact, that might just be the reason we’re most excited for this film. It’s another iconic character, originally played by Billy Dee Williams, so much like with Ehrenreich, everyone will pay close attention to Glover’s performance. But if anyone can do it, he can.
Sprinkle in other highly talented actors such as Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones, Paul Bettany from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Jon Favreau from Swingers, and, well, why shouldn’t we be excited?
A BALANCED ATTACK OF NOSTALGIA
From the limited amount we’ve seen and read regarding Solo, it would appear as though the film will use nostalgia to its advantage, but maybe not quite as directly as Episode VII: The Force Awakens did because, we believe, Disney and Lucasfilm learned their lesson in not overdoing that element. Audiences will have plenty to teleport them back to the very first time they saw Star Wars, with the back and forth between Han and Chewbacca, the introduction of Lando and the Millennium Falcon – a ship that has become so iconic, it’s basically its own character in the film series. Not to mention, we will be treated to an extensive look at the ship’s appearance before it was “a bucket of bolts.”
And with all that nostalgia, there are new elements seemingly implemented into the film that offer more from a time period audiences are still very unfamiliar with at this point. Of course, there are new characters, new droids and even new planets but it still appears to have that old school 1970s kind of feel to it. Only time will tell if Howard and the production crew can pull it off but, if they did, the payoff will be huge.
Having said all of this, we understand that it seems highly unlike that Solo will be the biggest blockbuster of the summer – an honor that will go to something Marvel-related like Avengers: Infinity War or Deadpool 2 – but it will make a ton of money at the box office because of the Star Wars name. More importantly, the pieces are clearly in place for it to be one of the franchise’s best films and one of the best films of 2018, to be perfectly honest. If Rogue One was any indication to the standard of Star Wars stand-alone films, we are all in for another surprising treat.