Solo: A Star Wars Story is yet another chapter in the expanded Star Wars universe to make it to theaters. It’s not a part of the official, episodic saga, but as an anthology film, it lives in official canon alongside Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Solo brings us the story of Han Solo getting his first taste of the greater universe outside his home planet of Corellia. In the overall timeline, it happens somewhere around 10 years before Star Wars: A New Hope.
There is plenty of fan-service in Solo, which features Han’s first interactions with such memorable characters as Lando Calrissian and Chewbacca. But there is also one huge reveal at the end of the movie that rights the Star Wars universe’s biggest wrong. Let’s take a look at some frustrating Star Wars history, this major Solo shocker (page 5), and what it may mean for future movies (pages 8 and 9). Major spoilers for Solo ahead!
The Phantom Menace was a disaster
After Star Wars: Return of the Jedi in 1983, there were 17 years without a new movie. George Lucas released the “Special Edition” into theaters in 1997, with mixed results from fans. It was nice having the movies back on the big screen, but the CGI additions were often a bit hard to look at. Despite that major warning, fans were extremely excited that Lucas was planning a prequel trilogy that would focus on the fall of Anakin Skywalker and rise of Darth Vader and the Empire.
In 1999, Episode I finally made it to the big screen: Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. And what a major disappointment it was. Fans were crushed, being forced to watch 8-year-old Anakin running around and yelling, “Yippee!” Jar Jar Binks brought a new level of animosity from fans that hated the CGI of the Special Edition, as well. The prequels were off to a horrendous start, minus one bright spot.
Next: What fans loved about The Phantom Menace
The one really cool thing about Episode I
There is one really awesome character from The Phantom Menace that fans were dying to see in the theater, and that was Darth Maul. This was the new bad guy for the franchise, which suddenly found itself needing one. Like Darth Vader, but with black and red face paint, devil horns, a double-bladed lightsaber, and ninja fighting moves. How could you not be excited about Maul?
The end of The Phantom Menace is extremely underrated, and in fact is probably one of the top lightsaber duels in the history of the Star Wars franchise. Seeing Maul fighting both Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) is an absolute joy, and the only thing that takes away from the battle is the fact that you had to drudge through 90 minutes of Jar Jar and podracing to get to it.
Next: An unfortunate mistake
Darth Maul met an untimely end
But Lucas’ excellent lightsaber duel between Maul and the two Jedi is followed by a major mistake. After Maul kills Jinn, Kenobi cuts the Sith Lord in half and watches as the two parts separate and fall down a shaft. Darth Maul, it would appear, was dead and would not be returning to the big screen. This was one final letdown for Star Wars fans who desperately wanted anything to like about The Phantom Menace.
How could Lucas give the fans such a cool villain, only to kill him immediately? The thought, at the time, was likely that leaving Maul alive would create a storyline between Maul and Kenobi when the prequels were supposed to be about Anakin and Obi-Wan, and the rise of Darth Vader. Palpatine remained the evil villain hidden in the background, with new bad guys that followed in the next two movies. But none of them captured the interest of the fans like Maul.
Next: More problems on the horizon
The prequel problems
Killing off Darth Maul wasn’t the only problem with the prequel trilogy. Lucas famously relied heavily on CGI, which makes them harder to re-watch years later as technology has progressed. The dialogue, which was never stellar in the original trilogy, is extremely rough around the edges. Following some solid performances from actors in The Phantom Menace, it felt like actors were phoning in their performances in the final two movies.
Then there was the decision to cast Anakin in the final two movies with a relative unknown, Hayden Christensen. There was a lot of criticism of Christensen’s performance at the time, and Anakin’s interactions with Natalie Portman’s Padme in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones were extremely creepy. Not at all believable for a love story. Despite having merit in helping create a greater Star Wars universe, the prequel trilogy was littered with mistakes.
Next: Solo fixes one error
Guess who’s back?
At the end of Solo Qi’ra kills the bad guy, Paul Bettany’s Dryden Vos, and appears set to get away with Han. But she sends her love ahead to save Chewie, knowing that escaping would only ensure that the boss’s boss — the true villain of the movie — would track her (and Han) down. We’re finally introduced to the big bad of Solo in these final moments, via hologram conversation with Qi’ra. Surprise! It’s none other than Darth Maul.
In the conversation, Qi’ra blames Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) for Vos’ death and is instructed to come to him on the planet Dathomir. It cleans the slate for Han and Chewie, who stays off the radar of the fallen Sith Lord and former apprentice of Darth Sidious. It’s a jarring realization that comes with just moments remaining in the movie.
It’s really cool that they brought Maul back, featuring shiny metal legs and still brandishing his double-bladed lightsaber. Ray Park, the original actor from The Phantom Menace, played the character on the big screen once again while Sam Witwer provided the voice. If there’s one complaint about how this is handled, it’s that Solo still had one really fun reveal left before the credits rolled. Seeing Maul alive and in a live-action Star Wars movie was a bit distracting.
Next: Why we actually knew Maul was alive
Maul’s survival was already established in canon
The majority of movie-goers will range on a spectrum from not knowing who Darth Maul is to being confused that he’s still alive. But in truth, Maul has been alive in the established Star Wars canon for several years thanks to Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Witwer’s voice talents. Maul’s hatred and strength in the dark side of the Force kept him alive, and then later he was restored to full health — with those pretty slick metal legs!
Throughout the course of The Clone Wars, Maul teamed up with his brother Savage Opress and took a seat at the head of a major crime syndicate called the Shadow Collective. Maul shows up again in the Star Wars timeline with appearances in Star Wars Rebels, but at this point, it appears he’s no longer leading the Shadow Collective or the Crimson Dawn. Between Order 66 and his re-appearance on Rebels, there are around 15 years where we don’t know what Maul is up to.
Next: Maul versus Kenobi, redux
One final battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi
One thing we do know about Maul’s story is how it ends. In the third season of Rebels, Maul learns that Kenobi is still alive and hiding on Tatooine. He heads to the planet to track down the former Jedi Knight, searching breathlessly for a needle in a haystack. The episode ends with a confrontation between the two, the old and broken down Maul against the aging, Alec Guinness-esque Kenobi.
The two engage in a brief battle, and one fun little Easter egg is that Maul attempts to get Obi-Wan with the same move that he used to kill Qui-Gon in The Phantom Menace so many years ago. Kenobi cuts right through the center of Maul’s lightsaber and right down his chest. Darth Maul dies in Kenobi’s arms on the Tatooine sand. His final words to his nemesis are that Luke Skywalker will avenge them, recognizing the Emperor as their common enemy.
Next: What this all means for Maul
Where Lucasfilm may go with Maul’s story
It’s hard to know what Maul’s appearance at the end of Solo means for his future in the Star Wars universe. You would have to imagine that they’re done with him in the cartoons, given that both Clone Wars and Rebels have ended and the bulk of his story has already been told on that medium. Is the cameo a tease for Maul: A Star Wars Story?
That seems more likely than Maul returning in a potential Solo sequel, given that having Han cross paths with a Sith Lord prior to A New Hope creates some possible plot holes. We can’t even fathom Solo surviving a meeting with Darth Maul, but how do you explain even getting the characters together? It would be like creating a Kenobi anthology film but having Obi-Wan go toe-to-toe with a young Snoke.
The other, less-fun-option is that this is just a cameo and a fun little nod to the diehard fans. Maybe Qi’ra, Darth Maul, and the Crimson Dawn re-appear as characters in a novel, comic book series, or even a new television series. If that’s the case, only getting a slight tease of Darth Maul returning to the movies will be a bit of a letdown. But that’s kind of what they did with Vader in Rogue One, isn’t it? However, there are other reasons why Maul’s appearance in Solo is important for Star Wars.
Next: Everything is different
This sets an important Star Wars precedent
Even if Maul isn’t going to return in later movies, this opens the door for other characters to appear on the big screen. Previously, Lucasfilm has been hesitant to bring characters from Clone Wars and Rebels into the spotlight. Sure, Saw Gerrera is one example, but he wasn’t exactly a major character from the cartoons and his role in Rogue One was minimal.
The previous problem was that the executives at Disney and Lucasfilm worried that fans would be confused by characters or plot points that don’t come straight from the live-action movies. Although Maul was introduced in The Phantom Menace, his survival and leadership role in the Shadow Collective are straight from Clone Wars. Bringing Maul back to the big screen shows the willingness of Disney to risk confusing some fans.
Many diehard fans have wanted an anthology movie featuring Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice from Clone Wars and a key Rebels character. While it may have been extremely unlikely before, an Ahsoka movie now seems entirely possible.
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