Why the Han Solo Movie May Surprise ‘Star Wars’ Fans

In a world where one can’t throw a rock without hitting another cinematic universe, it can be difficult to get excited about any of the thousands of upcoming franchise entries. Amidst the crowd, however, one film stands out as something that might actually live up to all the hype that comes with it: The new Han Solo film, which is expected from Lucasfilm after the release of the next proper episode in the Star Wars series.

While there’s always reason to be skeptical of a new portrayal of a character so iconic, here are a few reasons why we’re expecting something more surprising than the usual cookie-cutter franchise fare from the new Han Solo vehicle.

1. The star

Alden Ehrenreich hail caesar

Alden Ehrenreich in Hail, Caesar! | Universal Pictures

Any Han Solo movie must overcome its one glaring flaw — it can’t have Harrison Ford. Ford bade his iconic character farewell with Episode VII, and even expressed his skepticism about a prequel, saying that “whoever is responsible for that film, and I’m not, will think through the issues and problems of doing such a thing” while noting he wouldn’t be giving any advice to the new Solo.

So who is the new Solo? Amidst a crowded field of high-profile contenders, Alden Ehrenreich was selected after impressing the folks at Disney and Lucasfilm. Those unfamiliar with Ehrenreich should seek out the Coen brothers’ recent Hail, Caesar!, wherein he steals the show as an earnest singing cowboy with all the quiet competence of Marge Gunderson. I’m confident in his ability to make this iconic role his own, particularly since Episode VII‘s strongest virtue was probably its casting.

2. Donald Glover

Donald Glover in The Martian

Donald Glover in The Martian | Fox

Donald Glover is a talented man. Beyond his role as creator and star of the acclaimed new series Atlanta, Glover has proven himself a capable comedian with his work on Community, as well as a great rapper under the pseudonym Childish Gambino. Rumors that he would play a young Lando Calrissian in the Han Solo movie were confirmed in October.

The film will reportedly show how Han won the Millennium Falcon from Lando, which honestly sounds like one of the unnecessary moments of fan service every prequel feels obligated to include. I’m far more excited to see Glover flex his comedic and dramatic charms in this galaxy far, far away.

3. The directors

Phil Lord and Chris Miller

Phil Lord and Chris Miller | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

If there’s one pair of directors who can take a misguided cash-brag and turn it into something extraordinary, it’s surely Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who are best known for directing the uproarious 21 Jump Street and the transcendental Lego Movie. The latter film actually featured brief cameos from some of the characters they’ll be overseeing as directors of the Han Solo prequel. Their sense of humor will certainly bring a lot of wit to a universe that has always thrived on cheesy quips, but it’ll be even more interesting to see what sort of substance they can bring to a franchise entry like this, just as they used The Lego Movie to share a larger message about the nature of childhood and creativity within imposed boundaries.

4. The writer

JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan talk on set of Star Wars The Force Awakens

J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan | Lucasfilm

That’s not even to mention returning screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, the man previously responsible for Episodes V, VI, and VII as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark. His voice might not be the most surprising in the Star Wars universe, but it’s proved reliable in the past, particularly where Han Solo is concerned. This film, Kasdan will be joined by his son Jon Kasdan as a writer. It will be the elder Kasdan’s last outing in the Star Wars universe, so hopefully he intends to make it count.

5. The cinematographer

Han Solo in Star Wars: A New Hope

Han Solo in Star Wars: A New Hope | Lucasfilm

Perhaps the most heartening news of all comes from the film’s cinematographer, Bradford Young who had this to say of the studio’s creative approach to the film:

We’re doing our own thing, that’s why we’re there. Phil and Chris are there to bring what they bring to their films, their very unique vision, their perspective on story and they asked me to come bring what I bring, and so just for that it won’t feel like any of the other films. And nobody at Lucasfilm is asking us to betray that, they’re saying ‘We’re in full support of what you do and we wanna make sure that we’re able to help you do it in the best way.’ It’s gonna feel like a Star Wars film, but we’re definitely gonna break some rules, and we’re encouraged to do that. Visually, narratively that’s a good mandate. They really are about, from what I’ve seen so far, supporting up and coming artists, artists who have a strong vision and voice and perspective, and they really wanna permeate the films with those kinds of voices. So it’s interesting, very interesting. Not what I thought it would be, that’s for sure. I’m pleasantly encouraged and pleasantly surprised.

That’s incredibly reassuring to hear, as many studios have handled their recent franchises using a streamlined process that demands that directors comply with certain creative mandates. For Marvel, that’s meant a string of reliable but increasingly blurred-together hits, while for DC, it’s meant two critical disasters that reek of reactionary studio meddling. A character as iconic as Han Solo deserves better, and it sounds like the studio is allowing Young, Lord, and Miller the freedom they need to do something interesting with Solo’s first starring role.

The film is slated for release May 25, 2018, only five months after the scheduled release of Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi.

Follow Jeff on Twitter @jrindskopf

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