The expansion of the Star Wars universe is welcome news. George Lucas' creation has taken on a life of its own, providing an intergalactic treasure chest of untold stories and interesting characters. Us lucky fans will be introduced to the hidden wealth of unexplored people and locations in Gareth Edwards' upcoming anthology, Rogue One.
One thing we won't get to see, however, is Alden Ehrenreich's debut performance of a young Han Solo. Despite speculation that the swashbuckling smuggler may make a cameo appearance — there were strong rumors the reshoots were to capture scenes with Ehrenreich — Edwards has recently ruled it out. That's it then — case closed.
Noooooooooo Han Solo
The knee-jerk reaction is one of disappointment. While it's hard to envision anyone other than Harrison Ford playing the role, Ehrenreich appears to be a perfect fit, and now we know he's going to feature in his own solo trilogy it seems to make sense to include him in Rogue One. After all, the narrative in that film stretches to touching distance of the original, A New Hope (1977).
However, following the initial disappointment, I've had time to reflect, and the more I think about it the less it makes sense to include a young Solo. In a nutshell, it boils down to a yearning for famous cameos in the Star Wars franchise, and whether such cameos serve the narrative in a way beneficial to the overall project.
Firstly, it's important to note that famous cameos aren't necessarily a bad thing. I don't think there will be a single person in this galaxy who isn't stoked to see Darth Vader back on the big screen. Especially with the news that this'll probably be the darkest imagining of the character we've seen.
But there's a habitual desire among fans to expect certain characters to appear, regardless of how they fit. As well as Vader and Han Solo, Rogue One alone has been linked with Princess Leia, Boba Fett and even Chewbacca. And while we love these characters, attempting to fit them in a new narrative could be more trouble than it's worth.
A Risky Project
But any familiar faces in Rogue One need to be carefully positioned. The spin-off is an intriguing concept, but also a risk. It's the first live-action attempt at placing the focus elsewhere in the Star Wars universe, while still being closely linked to the original trilogy. Led by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the film will follow a team of rebel fighters in their attempt to steal the plans to the Death Star, events that are referenced in the original crawl.
With anticipation high, the pressure is on. The leading cast deserve their time to shine, and an appearance from a young Han Solo could detract from that. Amidst the fanfare caused by breaking down how well Ehrenreich steps into Ford's shoes, the nuances and performances from the rest of the cast could be overlooked.
It's for this reason that Luke Skywalker didn't feature heavily in The Force Awakens (2015), for fear of overshadowing the likes of Daisey Ridley and John Boyega as Rey and Finn respectively. When talking to io9, scriptwriter Michael Arndt explained that process:
"It just felt like every time Luke entered the movie, he just took it over. Suddenly you didn’t care about your main character anymore because, ‘Oh fuck, Luke Skywalker’s here. I want to see what he’s going to do'."
Saving Luke until the end avoided any unnecessary scene-stealing, allowing the two new recruits to flourish. By the time Rey finally meets Luke, we've already been on a journey with her, and feel like we know the character.
In some ways, the scrutiny of Ehrenreich's performance would be even greater. The 26-year-old is taking the reins of one of cinema's most beloved roles, so soon after Harrison Ford's final appearance in last year's successful Episode VII.
Ehrenreich Deserves The Chance To Prove Himself
On the flip-side, Ehrenreich also deserves the opportunity to show what he can do across a full feature film, rather than attempting to stamp his authority during a limited cameo appearance. It's for the same reason the Marvel Cinematic Universe spent time on solo ventures for the likes of Iron Man and Captain America, before its first Avengers movie.
Logistically, it also makes sense; the butterfly effect in shared universes could result in weighing down the creative opportunity with Han's solo movie, with the intricacy of how events link together needing careful consideration.
While it does mean we'll have to wait until 2018 to finally see what Ehrenreich has to offer. Until then, we can appreciate Rogue One for what it introduces us too, including a sprinkle of evil Darth Vader, as well as giving a chance for Jyn Erso and the rest of the crew time to establish themselves.
As they say, good things come to those who wait.
Do you think we expect too many cameos in big franchises?