The Han Solo anthology movie is a peculiar beast. On the surface, it seems like a questionable idea that shines a glaring spotlight on Hollywood's trend of choosing the rebooted or the reimagined over original screenplays. But chip away at the outer layer, and below lies an alluring concept that will have most Star Wars fans excited at the prospect of seeing one of cinema's coolest heroes back on the big screen.
The level of expectation is based on the charisma of the character, portrayed so memorably by Harrison Ford across the original trilogy and last year's The Force Awakens. Yet the film also seeks to provide a different perspective, while standing apart from the main saga; a tough challenge for directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
In an interview with Collider, Bradford Young — the cinematographer on the as yet unnamed Solo solo — provided some insight on the vision the creative trio share when it comes to taking a step back into the #StarWars universe and exploring Alden Ehrenreich's younger interpretation of the character. As well as explaining the directing duos "real interesting story [and] photographic ideas," he said:
"We’re doing our own thing, that’s why we’re there. Phil and Chris are there to bring what they bring to their films, their very unique vision, their perspective on story and they asked me to come bring what I bring, and so just for that it won’t feel like any of the other films.
Young revealed the support of #LucasFilm is making a final product that — while having roots deeply planted in the soil of the Star Wars universe — also feels separate. He added:
"It’s gonna feel like a Star Wars film, but we’re definitely gonna break some rules, and we’re encouraged to do that. Visually, narratively that’s a good mandate. They really are about, from what I’ve seen so far, supporting up and coming artists, artists who have a strong vision and voice and perspective, and they really wanna permeate the films with those kinds of voices.
So it’s interesting, very interesting. Not what I thought it would be, that’s for sure. I’m pleasantly encouraged and pleasantly surprised.”
Does Rule Breaking Fit Within The Star Wars Universe?
While from the perspective of filmmaker a freedom to push boundaries and play with expectations is an attractive option, does this really translate to a final product that will satisfy fans? There is an issue at play, highlighting both the paradox and rough terrain of anthology movies.
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Fans will want to see the character respected, and portrayed in a way that retrospectively adds something else to Harrison Ford's portrayal. This is also a byproduct of the fragile and interconnected Star Wars galaxy and the consequential butterfly effect that comes into play, possibly constraining the creativity or ability to truly express something unique and original.
Yet Young's comments seem to reflect the opposite, a film that is distinctly cut-off from the main saga, different in tone and appearance — despite being set directly between Revenge of the Sith (2005) and A New Hope (1977).
Admittedly, having a strong identity could work well with the first anthology, Rogue One. It's on the opposite end of the spectrum in the sense that although the plot is known — to an extent — all of the characters are completely new. This gives director Gareth Edwards the chance to tell the story through fresh sets of eyes, within the paradigm of a defined conclusion that cannot be altered.
#HanSolo, though, is a character whose idiosyncrasies are well known. While #RogueOne adds character to the context of A New Hope, events in the Han Solo movie will add context to a character, and one who has been beloved for almost four decades. The way in which events have shaped his personality is a subject much more abstract, and a great responsibility that fans of Star Wars will no doubt be quick to judge.
The Signs Are Promising
It isn't all bad though. Young's expression of "breaking rules" is almost fitting with the character of Han Solo, an arrogant non-conformist. Phil Lord and Chris Miller have made habit of providing unexpected hits with exactly the same formula; the success of 21 Jump Street and its sequel 22 Jump Street was based on its ability to play with expectations, using them to the film's advantage, while also providing a likeable storyline.
Young also has an admirable CV, having worked on Selma (2014), A Most Violent Year (2014) and the upcoming, highly anticipated Arrival. The fact he is impressed with the vision is reassuring. In terms of cast, Ehrenreich appears to be an inspired choice, and the inclusion of Donald Glover as Lando is a big plus mark, considering the actor's talent and subversive interpretation of the industry (see Atlanta for details).
If it delivers, the movie could enhance our understanding of Han Solo's psyche, improving our view of him in the original saga. Plus, considering his death at the hands of Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens, it also breathes more life to a character that could easily be consigned to history.
However, while the news from behind the scenes suggests that this movie will be well made, will deliver something interesting to watch, and will provide an interesting interpretation of Han Solo, simultaneously it also appears that fans of Star Wars may have to throw away all expectations to fully enjoy the smuggler's origin.
Should the Han Solo anthology try to be unique? Or fit the mould of the Star Wars universe?