Disney: Star Wars fans, please complete your pre-reading.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, there is arguably no better time to be alive. Disney are off and running after acquiring the famous franchise from our friend George Lucas and now, we lucky fans, are treated to at least 1 new galactic journey every year.
So, for the most recent effort, the boffins at Lucasfilm have reached into the barrel and pulled out one of the most beloved characters of all, Han Solo. Now many have given this idea full credit to Disney, but it was in fact George Lucas’s idea to do a Han Solo story before he handed off the franchise. Lawrence Kasdan even helped with the creation of the story with George. Making this movie, from a fan’s point of view though, was a risky move. Meddling, for lack of a better word, with such a character for some was taboo. Me, I didn’t mind it, I’m more of an open-minded Star Wars fan, and hey I don’t even hate the prequels. I know I know, they do have their problems, many of them, but I have my reasons and as Maz Kanata said, that’s a story for another time.
I don’t recall too many franchises in history ever worrying so much about their own fans as Star Wars does. Star Wars fans are a fickle bunch. So much so that they go on and on about the things they don’t like, even to the point of protest. The other day I was flicking through Twitter and I came across a Star Wars fan group that were legitimately putting forward a petition to re-make The Last Jedi. I’ll let you go digging up Rian Johnson’s response to it, it was fantastic! Having said that, when any Star Wars movie comes out, I do have a sense of worry, kind of like how I feel when my football team hits the field, I just want them to do well, I’ll enjoy the game later. I guess though that these fans are just going that one step further, or two steps perhaps, more than I do when it comes to the worry about where Star Wars goes from here. For some, it gets personal to a degree and if there are things that they don’t like, this is their way of responding.
Back to the new Solo movie, I loved it. My first viewing, there were a few after that, was as it usually is when I see a new Star Wars film, tense. "Please, please", I say to myself as I sit there in the theatre chair, please get this right. The second viewing though is when I get to watch the film in a more relaxed manner, and that was when it dawned on me that this film was very, very good. Alden Ehrenreich’s performance as the great man was terrific. I mean, give the guy a break. If anyone were asked to take on playing such a loved character, they’d probably struggle no matter who the actor, not to mention that that character was played by Harrison Ford originally. Those are some big black boots to fill. Discounts on Alden’s performance aside, he did a great job. As did many of the cast. The story was solid and so on, but that’s not my beef.
I remember the first screening I saw, watching a particular scene, Qi’ra, played by the lovely Emilia Clarke, plugs in a key type thingy into a computer hole and up pops a projection of a mysterious looking character. Great I thought, here is a classic move by the Star Wars writers, inserting something or should I say someone I hadn’t anticipated being in this movie. I had no idea who it was, but I remember being excited. The camera pans around and there he is, Darth Maul. I looked at the screen, turned to the people around me with a puzzled look and then back to the screen, yep, it’s Darth Maul. So, as you sometimes have to do when watching a Star Wars film, I began doing my calculations, doing a double take on when this film was actually set. So, once I had finished with my sums I then thought, how is this possible?
So, I get home and jump on to the internet looking for answers. Darth Maul was there, I saw him, or was it a distant cousin of his, some kind of relative perhaps? The last I saw of Darth Maul, Obi Wan had miraculously sliced him quite cleanly in half before he fell some distance to his death. Scouring through the many pages of the internet I learned that, no, he did not die, he in fact survived those 2 impossible fates and lived. I learned he travelled to another planet, received some spider-looking legs, later after that, he was gifted with more traditional style legs after yet another Obi Wan entanglement and now he gets around on a shiny new set of mechanical legs. Where did all of this occur and when? Well, in the connected Star Wars cartoons, The Clone Wars and the later series, Star Wars Rebels. I closed my laptop lid and thought to myself, "We have to do what now? You mean I had to have watched all of those cartoons to understand what was happening in the movie I’d just been to?"
So, what does this all boil down to you ask. Well, is it right that the audience has to do homework before entering a movie? Normally when you watch a movie sequel, or franchise sequel, having watched all of the previous movies is enough, what the Han Solo movie did breaks new ground. My automatic response was that this is craziness, we shouldn’t have to watch cartoons in order to understand what is going on in the film. I then think well, I’m a big Star Wars fan, so maybe I should know, but what about the non-crazy Star Wars fans, what are they to think of all this. For most, understanding what happened and when in a Star Wars movie is hard enough, now we’re asking them to also know the cartoon series as well in order to watch the movies. Maybe, however, the addition of Darth Maul was a reward to all those fans that put in the hard yards and have watched everything that exists Star Wars. Maybe. I tell you one thing, it certainly made a lot of people scratch their heads.
Daniel is a co-host of the Pearls of Fandom podcast. List to our discussion on this very topic in our SOLO podcast episode.
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