In 2018, we will get a standalone Han Solo movie, that is, right now, officially called Untitled Han Solo Star Wars Anthology Film (which is not a great title) and unofficially referred to at Lucasfilm as Red Cup (which is a better title). Christopher Miller and Phil Lord (who are great) will direct Red Cup and it will star Alden Ehrenreich, a human being who will soon be famous, but right now most people have difficulty pronouncing his name. (It will help when Lucasfilm officially announces his casting, which most people presume will be in July during Star Wars Celebration.)
Based on popularity alone, this movie makes a lot of sense. Han Solo transcends Star Wars. He’s a very popular fictional character, so much so that other filmmakers often talk about having a “Han Solo-type character” in their movies. Of course, they are always wrong. It’s almost impossible to recreate Han Solo because the actor playing Han Solo thought Star Wars was stupid. It’s a great formula.
It’s a little odd to get a prequel for a character so tragic, even if we don’t really think of Han Solo as “tragic.” And it’s true he’s not tragic as in the sense of a character whose bright-eyed optimism turns to darkness – Anakin Skywalker is a good example of that. But when we watch young Han Solo gallivanting around the galaxy, we already know that a bunch of terrible things will happen to him in his future. Honestly, if there’s one message Han Solo conveys, it’s to never get involved. When I watch Red Cup, I can already imagine thinking to myself, Don’t do it. Don’t you do it. Nothing but bad things ever happen to you. Go be a smuggler. Being a hero does not work out for you.
I mean, how else is a viewer supposed to read what the Han Solo character is telling us? Let’s look at what happens to Han Solo over the course of the four movies in which he appears:
In the original Star Wars, against Han’s better judgment, he accepts an offer to take Ben Kenobi and Luke Skywalker to Alderaan. Kenobi warns Solo that they need to avoid the Empire, but with the promise of 17,000 credits, Solo agrees to the job anyway. Yes, that’s good money and a lot of Solo’s work at the time involved avoiding Imperial engagement, but he also knew this was not the average business transaction. Han had just watched Ben Kenobi slice off the arm of Ponda Baba with a lightsaber. He knows he’s getting into something that probably has to do with the Rebel Alliance.
For Solo’s trouble, he winds up captured by the Death Star’s tractor beam and finds himself inside the most notorious weapon the Empire has ever created.
Later, Han does the smart thing by collecting his credits to pay off Jabba the Hutt. As we know, Han later comes back and shoots down a couple of TIE Fighters, clearing the way for Luke Skywalker to blow up the Death Star. Here, there’s no money involved. This is a true selfless act, and it comes back to haunt Han for the rest of his life. If Star Wars had wound up being a standalone movie, sure, this is fine. Han got himself a medal and all seemed okay with the galaxy. But that’s not how it ended for Han Solo.
Because Solo just had to be the hero, he’s now wanted by the Empire and he’s wanted by the galaxy’s version of the mob. Han Solo is now, probably, the most wanted person in the galaxy, so much so that he has to leave the Rebellion at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back after some sort of bad encounter with a bounty hunter on a planet called Ord Mantell. Of course, Han waits too long to go after rescuing Luke Skywalker from exposure on Hoth (this was nice, even though Han told an innocent Rebel soldier he’d see him in hell, for no reason) and then volunteering to investigate an Imperial Probe Droid (this was dumb). I mean, rescuing Luke… okay. But if things are that dire that Han needs to pay off Jabba pronto, then maybe someone else can go look at the Probe Droid. He already resigned! It’s not his problem anymore! Get out of there! Of course Han waits too long and Echo Base is shut down for any departing flights because the Empire is now attacking.