First official character/plot details for Solo: A Star Wars Story revealed

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Star Wars has traditionally always been a franchise built on secrecy. Even within that clandestine pedigree though, Solo: A Star Wars Story is taking things to a whole new level. The upcoming film, showing off the adventures of a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) before we originally met him in that cantina on Tattooine, is slated for release in four months time, and yet we got our very first look at it just a week ago when the first trailer dropped. Well, as predicted, the folks at Disney/Lucasfilm are definitely trying to make up for lost marketing time as a slew of new details have emerged over the last few days thanks to Entertainment Weekly.

The biggest detail many fans would probably like to know is “Why?”. Why do we need a Han Solo story when the biggest Han Solo story – his arc from cynical scoundrel to Rebel hero – already happened in the Original Trilogy? Well, it would seem that this movie explains why he became that scoundrel in the first place according to Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy.

He might be a little more immature, he may be a little less experienced, and he may hone his cynicism over time, but he’s very wary. He needs to gain the respect of the people he interacts with, even if they’re the lowest of the low.

Ehrenreich elaborated on this, explaining how this Han is nowhere close to the jaded smuggler Luke Skywalker meets in that cantina on Tattooine.

I think the main thing that’s different is that the Han we meet in this film is more of an idealist. He has certain dreams that he follows, and we watch how it affects him as those dreams meet new realities — realities that are harder and more challenging than he’d expected.

Kennedy continued, explaining that this “heist, gunslinger type movie” will see Han trying to figure out which side of the law he finds himself as he is forced to prove his worth to some people by stealing something (they’re not revealing what yet) from the rollercoaster-like train – it’s called the Conveyex – spotted in the trailer, only he doesn’t quite know if he’s doing the right thing.

I think that’s exactly what Han’s trying to do throughout the film… [trying to figure out who’s good and who’s bad.]

When it comes to the good, top of the list is definitely Han’s Wookiee best pal Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). In the now-defunct Expanded Universe stories, Han was an Imperial cadet who was kicked out after he disobeyed orders and rescued a distressed Chewie, thus prompting the Wookiee to declare a life debt to the young Correllian pilot. Solo: A Star Wars Story appears to be picking up some of those narrative threads, but even if the details turn out to be different, Han and Chewie’s bromantic relationship won’t be. Screenwriter Jake Kasdan, who co-wrote the script with his legendary writer dad Lawrence Kasdan (Empire Strikes Back, The Force Awakens), explained.

To me, this is a love story between Han and Chewie. Their relationship has always been my favorite part of the saga, and the fact that only Han understands what Chewie is saying, I find a very funny possibility for comedy.

When it comes to characters that may have been both good and bad in Han’s life, we have two candidates, one very familiar and the other a very important newcomer. In the case of the former, that’s Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), the smooth talker from whom Han would one day win his iconic ship – the Millennium Falcon – but who would also betray him to Darth Vader in Cloud City before redeeming himself by blowing up the second Death Star. That complexity of morals, which was just starting to take shape at this point, is something that appealed to Glover about the character.

I always like seeing younger characters when they are in younger times because it tells a lot about how they got to where they are. Like, when I was a teenager I felt like I knew a lot, but I didn’t. By the time we meet him in Empire Strikes Back, he owns the city already. [Laughs] So, I wanted to show the person he was before that was even possible. Like, I don’t even know if he thought that was possible at the time.

He likes to know his way in and out of any situation that he’s in. Lando likes rules because he’s somebody who is in a position to benefit from rules. He’s smart enough to figure out a way to like get out of things, like loopholes, And I think Han is more of a rule breaker and he can kind of get away with it.

As for the other potentially morally-grey person in Han’s life, we have Emilia Clarke’s Qui’Ra, a name you should probably start remembering immediately. Described as a “femme fatale”, Qi’Ra is seen in the trailer to clearly mean a lot to Han besides for just being part of the crew used on this heist. A whole lot more, as Clarke explains.

Well, they grew up as comrades, essentially. They grew up as pals, as partners in crime. There is obviously the romantic side of things. But they grew up together. So they were kids together. And the beautiful thing about this Han Solo story is it’s highlighting all of the most brilliant aspects of Han Solo the character and characterizing those aspects in characters that he meets on his journey to becoming who he is.

That’s kind of the story, really. You are seeing all of these different elements that make up who he is through the people and the interactions and the relationships just as we all do as human beings. We are simply the embodiment of our experiences, essentially. You see the beginnings of him, this loveable rogue. You get it fine-tuned throughout these relationships, and Qi’ra is one of those relationships that has an impact on him as a character. I mean, hopefully [laughs] — if I have done my job. And within that relationship, the thing that you see with Qi’ra is that she an enigma.

They are both doing what they’ve got to do to survive. And that is Qi’ra the whole the movie. The whole way through, she is surviving. And surviving in the underworld that we know to be [filled with] smuggling, aloof gamblers, wrong-side-of-the-tracks nasty ones. …There are loads of different gangster-y elements running through it. It has been really fun to put Qi’ra in that. She has a couple of guises, but essentially she is just fighting to stay alive.

As enigmatic as she may be, if she was this important in Han’s life you may have thought we would have heard of her before now. Well, that is, until we remember that due to the old EU no longer being there, this movie is essentially retconning what we know of Solo. Also, it may imply that there’s a very ominous reason about why the older Han wouldn’t want to talk about her.

Something must have happened to affect him as a person, but for us fans not to know about her. Twists happen, and there is this great idea of trust — and who do you trust and how do you trust? And which side of the tracks are either character from — or going to?

Speaking of characters Han may or may not want to trust, we have the criminal brains behind this heist in the form of Woody Harrelson’s Tobias Becket and Thandie Newton’s Val (so no, not Saana Starros, despite me getting my hopes up). Described by the Kasdans as “such a charismatic character” who was inspired by the character Long John Silver in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island – a world-wise career criminal who hasn’t really made it big – Becket is a mentor to the young Han. Or at least he is forced to be.

Han sort of forces himself into Woody’s life. It starts a relationship that has an enormous impact on what kind of person Han will be.

Director Ron Howard elaborated by saying that Becket “really shapes Han really more than anybody, as Han comes to realize that in a lawless time he needs to try to come to terms with some kind of moral code”. And it’s through Han’s relationship with Becket that he crosses paths with the criminal’s longtime partner Val, who is a mysterious character who “carries a massive blaster that’s only slightly more intimidating than her scowl”

I will say at first glance, she doesn’t necessarily have total faith in Han — as a lot of people he meets in his life tend to feel about him. She’s a little sceptical of this kid when she meets him. And her relationship with him goes in, I think, an … interesting direction.

Well, that’s quite the tease, and the filmmakers were not willing to spill anymore. What they did reveal though is exactly who Paul Bettany was playing in the movie. And yes, it’s another criminal. Well, not just another criminal as his Dryden Vos is being likened to The Godfather. Think Jabba the Hutt in his all-controlling criminal empire, only instead of being a giant slug with a penchant for eating live animals, Vos is charming and debonair as Jon Kasdan explains.

It’s a sort of combination of class and swagger and real danger which I think is a fun thing, and he absolutely inhabits it. He’s way deeper in the crime world than anyone else that we meet in the movie.

There are two interesting facts about Bettany’s Vos though. Firstly, longtime fans will definitely recognize the last name, as Quinlan Vos was a famous Jedi who starred in many Star Wars novels and comics. Alas, before you start brainstorming theories, the filmmakers say the names of the characters are just a coincidence. Secondly, he should totally be a completely different person. Originally Michael K. Williams was set to play Vos and had already completed shooting all of his scenes when Lucasfilm had to replace original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller due to a disagreement about the direction of the movie. When Howard came in as a replacement and wanted to reshoot scenes to realign the movie with Lucasfilm’s vision, Williams was not available due to a commitment on another project and the decision was made to recast completely with Bettany.

As for the final primary cast member, she may also be not what you would have expected. As we suspected, British actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge will indeed be playing – via motion-capture – the droid glimpsed in the trailer and also flanking a caped Qui’Ra above. Named L3-37 (yes, old school gamers, Star Wars has gone l33t), she’s Lando’s partner as the duo apparently “get each other” due to both being “self-made”. In L3-37’s case, that’s literal, as this unique droid has been building upon and adjusting her original design herself over the years according to Jon Kasdan.

She’s a self-modified droid. The idea is that she’s sort of a mutt, if you will, of various parts of different kinds of droids who has improved upon herself. She’s a complete individual in the galaxy. We wanted to have it be a completely different kind of droid than you’ve ever seen in the movies. And we definitely wanted it to be a female. We thought it was more than time for that.

The female, in this case, being Waller-Bridge, the star/creator of Amazon’ Fleabag. That humour that the actress is known for will be coming through strongly with L3-37, but unlike the dry and acerbic wit of Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO from Rogue One, Waller-Bridge’s droid is no “stick in the mud”.

Phoebe, herself, is hilarious. The effect that she will appear in is amazing, but she comes through very strongly even with this astounding [CGI], both her humor and her physicality. If you meet Phoebe, she’s one of these people you just fall in love with immediately.

[L3-37’s] AI is way up there in terms of IQ. She’s capable of some pretty interesting conversations. And Phoebe is hilarious and brilliant and really helped bring that character to life in ways that are funny and surprising.

Even more surprising was that Jon Kasdan revealed that the character was based on people he and his father knew.

 She’s an absolute engine, not just for comedy, but for point of view, and she’s got a very strong personality. Much like women in my life and Larry’s life that have just made their will known to us, she isn’t subservient. L3 is subservient to no one, which is a fun kind of droid to write.

Phew, that was a lot of info to get through. Especially for a movie that had none just a week ago! Well, you can probably expect more before Solo: A Star Wars Story releases on 25 May.

Last Updated: February 12, 2018

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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