Lucasfilm announced last year that Han Solo, the gruff antihero of the Star Wars franchise, will be getting his own spinoff adventure in 2018. It will be directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the talented duo behind 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie. It will be co-written by Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote two of the three original Star Wars films, as well as last year’s The Force Awakens. And, we learned today, the talented young actor Alden Ehrenreich will don the iconic black vest.
It will probably be very entertaining and make lots of money for Disney, which owns Lucasfilm. But really, we don’t need it. I, for one, don’t particularly want it either. You may disagree.
According to Lucasfilm, the story “focuses on how young Han Solo became the smuggler, thief, and scoundrel whom Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi first encountered in the cantina at Mos Eisley.” In other words, it’s an origin story.
The 26-year-old Ehrenreich, who the New York Times dubbed “a young Jewish prince of the Palisades,” was reportedly selected after an intense search process in which 2,500 candidates were considered. He is best known for his role as Hobie Doyle, the scene-stealing cowboy actor with elocution issues (video) in the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar! He’s singularly excellent in the role, conveying a range of Solo-esque traits, from humor to charisma to machismo.
Ehrenreich was discovered at the age of 13 by Steven Spielberg when the director saw a bat mitzvah video he had made with a friend. It’s a story that rivals even the original Solo’s own big break—Harrison Ford was a failed actor turned self-taught carpenter when he caught the eye of George Lucas, who cast him in American Graffiti and soon after, in Star Wars. Ehrenreich is, by all accounts, a great choice to play Han Solo.
But we still don’t need the film.
I say this as an admirer of both the Star Wars films and the character of Han Solo. My aversion to the film’s existence is that, by definition, it can’t take any substantive storytelling risks (even if Lord and Miller take risks in style and tone). It can’t be something new. It lacks any sense of wonder.
We already know at some point in his life, Solo meets Chewbacca and first flies his beloved spaceship, the Millennium Falcon. We don’t need to see it happen. All the film can do is connect these dots, moving us toward an inevitable conclusion.
I’m not naive to how Hollywood works—as long as Star Wars movies continue to accumulate a vast sum of wealth (and, to a lesser extent, continue to be fun and entertaining), then Disney will continue making them. But this only serves to perpetuate the prequel-sequel-spinoff-reboot Hollywood conveyor belt.
Because I am a Star Wars fan, an obsessive moviegoer, and a sheepish slave to Hollywood’s marketing prowess, I will see the film. I’ll probably like it. You probably will too. It may well get good reviews and win some awards, and it will certainly make lots of money. Then we’ll do it all over again with a spinoff movie for Yoda, who will probably be played by motion capture specialist Andy Serkis (Gollum in The Lord of the Rings). That will probably be good too.
But here’s a novel idea: What about writing a new movie? With all new characters?
At some point, Han Solo was just an idea in some guy’s brain. Now, through the magic of film, he’s Han Solo. Instead of recycling its greatest hits over and over, Hollywood should aspire to do more of what it used to.
Image by Bago Games on Flickr, licensed under CC-BY-2.0.