Possible spoilers (we’re guessing, though) lie ahead for Rogue One, and for the Han Solo movie.
Han Solo is getting a spin-off movie. As part of Disney’s cinematic expansion of the Star Wars saga, a prequel film is now in development to explore the backstory of Harrison Ford’s iconic war hero/smuggler. The only cast member currently confirmed is Alden Ehrenreich, who has been handed some very big shoes/black leather waistcoats to fill as the new Han Solo.
Before you dismiss this movie as a bad idea, it’s worth remembering that Phil Lord and Chris Miller are the guys directing it. They’ve already brought us Cloudy with a Chance Of Meatballs, the 21 Jump Street revival, and The LEGO Movie. If there’s a pattern to be spotted across their filmography, it’s that they take ideas that sound like they should be awful and turn them into something special. Hopefully, they will see the same success with the Han Solo movie.
It should help that Lawrence Kasdan, the scribe behind The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens, is penning the script, with the help of his son Jon Kasdan (whose previous credits include Freaks and Geeks, Dawson’s Creek, and the 2012 rom-com The First Time). That’s a strong team right, with enough promise to hold our skepticism at bay and allow us to get excited about this one.
But what will the movie be about? What is the story of Han Solo’s youth? Here’s everything we know…
What We know About the Film
Rather refreshingly—in this, the age of tight-lipped filmmakers fearing studio snipers—the team behind the Han Solo movie has spoken a fair bit about it already. Chatting to the LA Times, Lawrence Kasdan described the writing process as fun “because you have to imagine him 10 years earlier in his early 20s. What was he like before he hardened up? Before he had some setbacks? Before he put on this cynical coat? What got him there?”
That quote essentially spells out when this film will take place and what it will cover. Unlike Rogue One (which is said—unconfirmed, of course—to finish five minutes before A New Hope’s opening scene), the Han Solo film is quite far removed from the Original Trilogy. A lot can happen in ten years, meaning that the new movie should open with a Han who isn’t yet the cocksure swashbuckler that we first met in the Mos Eisley Cantina. It sounds like the events of this spin-off film will chronicle how Han became the Han that we all know and love.
“It won’t be the thing you’re worried about”, Kasdan reaffirmed in a podcast interview with Empire. “It will not be like ‘here’s where he was born and this is how he was raised.’ I think what it will be is ‘what was he like ten years earlier?’ Maybe a little earlier, you’ll get a glimpse.”
Kasdan continued: “But what formed the person we meet in the Cantina? It’s not so much about his specific history. It’s about what makes a person like that. And he’s not fully formed in the Cantina…[Akira] Kurosawa once said the heroes are the ones that are still changing and the villains are locked and petrified into what they are. And Harrison embodies in Force Awakens someone who is still not settled on who he is.”
It seems fair to assume that Alden Ehrenreich’s young Han Solo will be put through the ringer a bit in his solo movie. Perhaps this 20-something Han will discover his awesome piloting skills over the course of the film, sending his confidence skyrocketing to cocky new heights and encouraging him to consider a career in smuggling sought-after goods for unsavory clients. Things will have to go south at some point, though, giving Han that cynical and sarcastic worldview.
One prop that we know is certain to appear is Han’s iconic DL-44 heavy blaster pistol. Co-director Chris Miller tweeted a picture of it on May 4th, saying that he couldn’t wait to get “shooting” (arf!).
What We Know from the Current Canon
We know a fair bit about Han’s history from the movies that already exist. For example, we know that he won ownership of the Millennium Falcon in a card game against Lando Calrissian. And we know that he was damn good at flying it, completing the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. Also, we know that Han had a history of working with Jabba the Hutt, but got in his bad books shortly before A New Hope (because he dumped an expensive spice shipment during an Imperial entanglement).
We could see some of these events in Han Solo’s cinematic spin-off. The business with Jabba seems least likely for inclusion, due to the aforementioned ten-years-before-the-Cantina-scene timeline, but the card game with Lando and the Kessel Run victory could potentially play out here. Perhaps, if we’re lucky, someone will explain once and for all whether parsecs are a measure of distance or time in the Star Wars universe. We can hope.
In the years since Disney wiped the Expanded Universe canon clean, a few facts about Han Solo’s past have been established. The canonical info book Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know clarifies that Corellia (a human world where lots of Imperial ships were built) is still Han’s home planet, as per the old canon. The also-canonical reference book Ultimate Star Wars explains that Han was born here during the waning years of the Galactic Republic and first turned to crime after being orphaned at young age.
The Absolutely Everything book explains how Han came to know his trusty partner in crime/walking carpet Chewbacca. In A New Hope, Chewie gets mad when Luke tries handcuff him “because it reminds him of his time as a slave of the Empire, which imprisons and enslaves many Wookiees. Chewie was rescued by Han Solo, and pledged a Wookiee life debt to him in thanks.” The book also mentions that many Wookiees were forced to work as slaves in the spice mines of Kessel. If you’ve seen the first episode of Star Wars Rebels, you’ll have seen these mines for yourself.
My point here is that Kessel (as in ‘the Kessel Run’) is an important part of Wookiee history as well as the site of Han’s most famous piece of piloting. Perhaps we’ll visit this mostly-barren planet, where the rich live in lush sanctuaries while slaves suffer in the mines, as part of Han’s solo movie.
In Marvel’s recent Star Wars comics, it was also established that Han Solo had a wife. Well, sort of. He “married” a feisty woman called Sana Starros during a sham of a ceremony, as part of an elaborate ruse to get revenge on a crime lord and make off with his money. Han quit town with Sana’s cut of the profits, leading her to hunt him down years later (in between the events of A New Hope).
In another branch of Marvel’s Star Wars output, it’s also established that Han and Chewie stored a lot of their illegal goods on an unnamed planet that is prone to huge electrical storms. This proved to be a handy hiding place from the Empire, so that could feasibly make an appearance in Han’s spin-off movie. The film will be set during the height of Imperial dominance, after all.
What They Could Nab from the Old EU
Before the Disney takeover, the Star Wars canon was a huge beast comprised of countless novels, comics, games, and other assorted tie-in materials. Most of this is no longer considered canon, but there’s nothing to stop it inspiring Disney’s chosen writers and directors on the cinematic side. Indeed, elements of Star Wars: The Force Awakens seemed to be inspired by the old Expanded Universe (EU) canon, now known as “Legends” canon.
The old EU canon—now classified officially as “Legends”—could indeed have some influence over the Han Solo movie. Much of it matches up to the aforementioned established facts from the new canon, including Han’s orphaning at a young age and the fact that Corellia is his home planet.
In the EU, Han begged on the streets of Corellia at the age of two and had no knowledge of his life before that. A bounty hunter and gang ringleader by the name of Garris Shrike took pity on Han and recruited the young lad to his criminal cabal. Han became a profitable conman while in Shrike’s employ, as well as bringing in extra income as a successful “swoop racer.” (Swoop races were the successor to pod races, with smaller crafts and plenty of danger.)
These were dark times for Han, though, as Shrike physically beat him to try and keep him in line. Shrike also claimed to have information about Han’s parents and his early life, but never revealed these to the young orphan. Han would eventually learn—in his adult life—that he was descended from the great king Berethron e Solo, who introduced democracy to Corellia. Han opted to keep this information to himself for the most part.
Eventually, Han escaped from Shrike’s clutches, but he soon ended up in the employ of something even more dangerous—the evil galactic Empire. Yep, the iconic hero Han Solo was once canonically a member of the dastardliest dictatorship in galactic history. He graduated from the Imperial academy at the top of his class and was awarded the rank of lieutenant, thanks in no small part to his skills with a blaster and as a pilot.
But, of course, Han didn’t last long in this job. On one of his first missions, he boarded a slaver spacecraft to find that a group of young Wookiee slaves had broken free. Among them was Chewbacca, who Han was ordered to skin. Han refused and ended up shooting his commanding officer instead. Chewie swore him a life debt. Han was dishonorably discharged and returned to smuggling with a hairy new ally at his side and a hefty bounty on his head.
Han was initially rather broken up about this turn of events, having fantasized about joining the Imperial army for a large chunk of his life. He hit the bottle and the gambling hard, eventually getting into a dangerous bar fight. Here, Chewbacca stepped up and saved Han’s skin, cementing the bond between the pair. Chewie and Han smuggled together for years, building up a sizable client base of Hutts and other slimy criminals before eventually winding up in the Mos Eisley Cantina just in time for a date with destiny.
There are other elements of Han’s EU backstory that I wouldn’t expect to see in a movie (such as Han taking a young orphan under his wing, dating a magician, and battling with Boba Fett years before they met in The Empire Strikes Back), but these basic plot points— Han growing up as a criminal, attempting to join the Empire, and eventually turning his back on them because of Chewie—could well play a part.
What We Probably Won’t See
You may already know that Han Solo nearly wound up in a different Star Wars prequel, years before the decision was made to give him one all to himself. George Lucas had considered introducing a young Han Solo in Revenge of the Sith. Ian McCaig was tasked with drawing up some concept art (see image above, a page scanned from The Art of Revenge of the Sith), and an early version of the script found room for a brief cameo from a ten-year-old Han.
“It’s not in the script anymore,” McCaig later explained, “but we were told that Han Solo was on Kashyyyk and that he was being raised by Chewbacca. He’s such a persnickety guy later on—he always has to have the best of everything—so I thought it’d be great if when he was a kid, he was an absolute slob.” Hence the long hair and the raggedy clothing.
As you can see in the image above, Han would’ve had a brief dialogue with Yoda. “I found a part of a transmitter droid near the east bay…I think it’s still sending and receiving signals,” says Han. Yoda responds with “Good. Good. Track this we can back to the source. Find General Grievous, we might…”
If you read the previous section of this article, you’ll know that these ideas conflicted greatly with the EU material (which was still considered canon at the time). Lucas was planning to overwrite the canon and establish Chewie as Han’s adoptive father and Kashyyyk as his childhood home. Giving Han a scene with Yoda also conflicts with the movie canon somewhat, when you consider that A New Hope-era Han didn’t believe in the Jedi or the Force.
Ultimately, this scene was cut, which seems like something of a godsend from a modern day perspective. Lord, Miller, Kasdan, and Kasdan can now make their Han Solo spin-off movie without being tied to Lucas’ Chewie-raised-Han-on-Kashyyyk idea. The new canon resource books, as we mentioned earlier, ignore this unused concept altogether and there’s no need for that to change.
This allows the new movie to explore the backstory of how Han met Chewie, if that’s a tale that the filmmakers want to tell. Admittedly, for all our guesswork based around the new canon and the old, the team behind the Han Solo movie could be cooking up something utterly unpredictable with no ties to pre-established facts.
One thing that did appear in Revenge of the Sith was the Millennium Falcon, which was seen landing on Coruscant at the same time as Anakin and Obi-Wan’s transport. This was many years before Han owned the ship, though—he would’ve been a kid at the time—so this easter egg probably won’t be addressed in the upcoming solo Solo movie.
To wrap things up—what do we know for sure about Han Solo’s solo adventure? Well, it will be set roughly ten years before A New Hope‘s iconic Cantina scene, and will deal with the events that “hardened” Han up and made him “put on this cynical [waist]coat”.
Unless they’re planning a few flashbacks/flashforwards, then, we probably won’t see Han’s criminal upbringing as an orphan on Corellia or his dumping of Jabba’s cargo just before A New Hope. Neither of those things line up with the “ten years before” timeline at play here.
From the current canon, we know Han had a sort-of wife that he stole money from. And we know that he saved Chewie from Imperial enslavement. It remains to be seen if Han himself, as per the old EU, was actually a part of this evil Empire. That could add a grand sense of scale to the film—an inside man turning against oppressors of galactic proportions—if they do go down that route.
Han won the Millennium Falcon from Lando in a game of cards, and later completed the Kessel Run in just twelve parsecs (not fourteen, Rey). Han and Chewie also had a secret hideout on an unnamed planet with electrical storms. These could end up being important details of Han’s impending film, or they could just continue to be fun bits of information for the fans.
For now, there is far more that we don’t know about the Han Solo movie than the things that we do. That is quite a nice situation to be in before going to see a movie, but it does leave us with questions. Who will the villains of the Han Solo film be? What’s driving the narrative? Will Chewie and Lando be in it? Will Han shoot first at any point? We’ll have to wait and see…