“I thought we were in trouble there for a second, but it’s fine. We’re fine.”
Solo – A Star Wars Story, 2018
It’s only a trailer and we should not maybe jump to any podracing winners podium just yet. But after its high profile and its potentially grievous production gambles and eleventh hour high stakes bets, Solo – A Star Wars Story looks to have – possibly – completed the Kessel Re-run with a sharp, kinetic, character based, simple, humoured and buoyant adventure suggesting how it was definitely Ron Howard that shot first. And last.
From western-minded guitar twangs accompanied by distant TIE fighters to analogue aliens, exchanges and spacecraft and a new mentor in the apparent guise of Woody Harrelson’s Tobias Beckett, one of the biggest Star Wars movie gamble since 1999 could well prove to be a high roller after all. Whilst some Star Wars fans are lamenting it is not Harrison Ford (it doesn’t have to be – and who says he ain’t in it?!), this proves that Lucasfilm Ltd’s newest movie title went for getting the younger Han right before worrying about mirroring a younger Ford. With a love story that is clearly about a man and his future freighter ship-to-be and less the ret-conned love affair between a scoundrel and Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra, Solo could well achieve what every new Star Wars movie has to get right at any cost – new worlds, new nuance and new storytelling in an otherwise familiar context. If any screenwriter is worth their Crait salt when it comes to understanding Star Wars, then a Kasdan is that. And Solo is boasting two this time round – Lawrence and son Jon.
Already, the vibe of Neil Lamont’s production design is the underbelly, the backstreet, the dive bar and the wretched. This is a blue midnight world of stolen cars, high stakes battles on low life gaming tables and boneyard politics. This is about the subterfuge of a society torn apart by industrialised tyranny. This is also a world wilfully tied to that of 2016’s Rogue One – Lamont production designed both movies, producers Simon Emanuel, Kathleen Kennedy and the late Allison Shearmur return, John Williams is on motif duty again, Pinewood Studios opened its hangars and backlots once more, and Glyn Dillon and David Crossman return to the costume cockpit. Add to that the editor of Oliver Stone’s JFK (Pietro Scalia) and the cinematographer of Arrival and A Most Violent Year (Bradford Young), the efforts of franchise first-timer and underrated composer John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon), and maybe Solo did indeed pull it all off in less than twelve production parsecs after all.
With less than a month to go before the fourth Star Wars film in three and a half years, the lack of information that riles some is actually the strongest dice on the baize right now. For any new movie to be due – let alone a forensically vetted one like a new Star Wars – without anyone really knowing the context, the antagonists and pulse of the tale is no bad thing. Part of the inadvertent glory of these new pictures is a total old-school lack of detail, casting, plot and outcome. When Rogue One so memorably became a literal baton handed onto 1977’s A New Hope, it achieved so partly because it kept its production cards close to its chest and resisted to endlessly herald a film the fans were already waiting for. With the possibility this is the last spin of the dice for on-off pals Lando Calrissian and Han Solo before the events of The Empire Strikes Back, maybe the movie about one of space’s most infamous smugglers also kept its hand held tight to its brown suede jacket and pistol holster after all.
Mark O’Connell is the author of Watching Skies – Star Wars, Spielberg and Us published in May 2018 by The History Press.
Solo – A Star Wars Story opens on May 25th 2018.
For a wealth of official poster art, alternative art and fan work, check out the Solo smugglers refuge and gallery on WATCHING SKIES’ new FB page.