OPINION: Hans solo Star Wars film set to be a …… Western? But could this be exactly what the film needs to be a success?
“I've got a bad feeling about this”
Han Solo’s iconic line is just one from a library of quotes from Star Wars to have been quoted an infinite amount of times in the near forty years since the original film. Uttered by Solo himself or other characters including its original user Luke Skywalker in every single Star Wars film we’ve seen, it’s a phrase that a lot of Star Wars fans have been saying in relation to a certain project looming on the horizon like the Death Star in two years; the solo Han Solo film. While fears about it are understandable, there’s more than enough reason to be hopeful and, as we know, rebellions are built on hope.
The team behind the camera working on the film is certainly strong. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have been the toast of the town in recent years, with seemingly every exciting big budget project having their names rumoured to be attached.
The directors of the terrific The Lego Movie and the wonderfully subversive 21 Jump Street reboot series, they are easily the most in-demand pair in Hollywood today. Penning the film is Lawrence Kasdan, a Star Wars saga stalwart who wrote the screenplays for The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, and is co-writing the Han Solo film with his son Jon.
His legacy on Star Wars speaks for itself, and combined with the fact this film will be his last he will pen in the Star Wars universe, it’s a guarantee he’ll want to go out with a bang. Cinematographer Bradford Young is working on the film as well, another strong creative mind who has shot such visually distinctive films as A Most Violent Year, Selma and this year’s extraordinary sci-fi Arrival.
In front of the camera is where all the controversy has come from however. Han Solo is a character who has never been played by any other actor on screen- Harrison Ford is Han Solo.
Ever since his first appearance in the original film, Ford has made the character completely and utterly his own, with every facet and quirk of the dashing rogue being entirely natural coming from his charisma. So how could anyone possibly replace him, no matter how talented those working on the film may be?
Surely all the audience would be able to think of during the film would be “he just isn’t Harrison”. Supposedly there was a gigantic number of male actors between the ages of 16 and 35 were considered for the role, but in the end, it was the first person they screen-tested who won the part after all; a plucky actor by the name of Alden Ehrenreich.
Ehrenreich certainly isn’t a name that will ring any bells in the mind of most movie-goers. His breakthrough role however was in no less than a Coen Brothers’ film, Hail Caesar, the Coens’ love letter to golden age Hollywood cinema. Ehrenreich stole the show as a shy, loveable actor who is taken away from his comfort zone starring in cowboy films and cast by the studio in a costume drama, leading to plenty of fish out of water hilarity with Ralph Fiennes’ director (would that it were so simple). The role wasn’t anything like the Han Solo we know, but it proved beyond doubt that he is a capable, charismatic actor; to steal the show away from so many other talented people in Hail, Caesar proves how talented he is.
The rest of the cast and characters confirmed for the film also builds plenty of excitement. With Troy Barnes himself, Donald Glover cast as Lando Calrissian, Emilia Clarke recently confirmed in an unnamed female character role and Chewbacca confirmed for the film as well, all the elements are in place for this to be the right cast to get the story right. Donald Glover has all the talent in the world, between his television success in Community and Atlanta and his musical career as Childish Gambino, and he absolutely has the smoothness required to get Lando right. Emilia Clarke is no slouch either, being one of the key lead figures as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones for years now.
The only indication of what the story may be thus far has come from JJ Abrams, helmer of The Force Awakens, has intimated that the film will take place somewhere around ten years before the first Star Wars film. In this gap, there is a massive amount of story potential to explore, including his relationships with Lando and with Chewbacca (and the “life debt”), alongside possible early encounters with other characters like Greedo and Jabba the Hutt.
There have even been rumours that the film could cover Han winning the Millennium Falcon from Lando and the Kessel Run, which is instantly exciting. In fact, this week producer Kathleen Kennedy said that the film would be moving “closer to a heist or Western-type feel”, which is nothing particularly new- the Star Wars series has always been heavily inspired by the filmography of Akira Kurosawa, with George Lucas taking heavy influence from his filmic style and aesthetics within his films for his own series, from the grand scope and tone of the films to lightsabers themselves being the analogue for the sword of the samurai.
Han himself is a character from whom can be related stylistically to characters from Kurosawa’s films, from the fact he’s a bounty hunter, to him shooting first at Greedo (and he definitely did). Going back to the influences of one of cinema’s greatest filmmakers can never be a bad thing for the Han Solo film, falling more in line with a space-western motif for Star Wars’ own roguish cowboy.
It’s understandable that there are concerns around this film. Harrison Ford has made the role of Han Solo utterly his own over the years. But the right pieces are in place for this to be something very special indeed with the right people behind the camera and one of Hollywood’s most exciting new talents as Solo himself- you may think that Harrison Ford is irreplaceable as Han Solo, but Alden Ehrenreich deserves to be given a chance, he may just surprise you.