Ron Howard took over production of the as-yet-untitled Han Solo spinoff back in June, and since then he's been treating fans to a constant stream of set photos and enigmatic tweets. It's proved to be a smart move on Howard's part, encouraging fans to become more excited about the troubled spinoff, while ensuring chatter on social media remains positive.
The latest tweet, though, may well be the most revealing one so far. Take a look:
Welcome To Kessel
The photo clearly shows a spice mine. In the Star Wars universe, spice is an addictive drug mined on certain key planets. The most notable of these worlds are Ryloth and Kessel, but the odds are good that this is Kessel. The planet's been associated with Han Solo since dialogue in A New Hope, and both the red hue of the rocks and the architectural style of the mines are reminiscent of Kessel. We briefly saw the barren world of Kessel in Star Wars: Rebels; the episode 'Sparks of Rebellion' showed Kanan and his team free a group of Wookiee slaves from the spice mines.
It certainly makes sense to see Kessel in the Han Solo film. Before he ever became a friend to the Rebellion, Han was a spice runner. He'd collect illegal shipments of spice for criminal cartels like those belonging to Jabba, and no doubt became familiar with the slave world of Kessel.
In the old Expanded Universe, the spice of Kessel was actually a web spun by a race of tunnel-dwelling arachnids. These creatures are primarily composed of energy, and thus immune to blasters, although they're highly vulnerable to ion blasts. While we have no way of knowing whether or not the spice spiders of Kessel will transition over to the new canon, it's worth noting that James Robinson's C-3PO: The Phantom Limb has already revealed spice spiders on another world.
This photo raises some intriguing possibilities. First of all, you'll notice that the set clearly shows the interior of a spice mine. Given Rebels has already revealed that Wookiee slaves are found in the mines, is it possible Han will rescue Chewbacca from Kessel? Could that be how the Wookiee ends up owing Han a life debt?
The Kessel Run
More excitingly, this photo dovetails with earlier rumors that we'd see the Millennium Falcon used to ship spice. There have even been reports that the Falcon's "forks" can be used to attach it to a container unit, allowing it to transport shipments with ease before dumping them at speed if the Empire become suspicious.
If we do indeed see the Falcon transporting spice from Kessel, then it's likely that the film will show us the famous "Kessel run." Back in A New Hope, #HanSolo bragged that the Falcon once "made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs." It's always struck fans as an odd quote, given a parsec is a measure of distance, not of time. The old Expanded Universe explained this away by revealing that Kessel was surrounded by a black hole cluster, which meant that time and space would be compressed if you flew too close to the edge of a black hole.
This was a smart explanation, turning Han's boast into a compliment to his own piloting skills as well as to his ship's performance. That being said, while the new Star Wars canon has essentially duplicated the old galactic maps, we have no idea whether or not the black hole cluster will make the jump from the Expanded Universe.
Right now, all we can say for certain is that the Han Solo film will clearly feature the spice mines of Kessel. It makes perfect sense; realistically, there's no way to tell the story of Han Solo without visiting Kessel at least once. But how important a part will these mines play in this Star Wars spinoff? We'll find out in May next year when Han Solo flies into cinemas.