The Star Wars franchise has a problem, a fixation with the past that it can’t seem to let go, holding back its potential for future expansions. After 40 years and a dozen films, the dysfunctional Skywalker family remains the primary driving force (if you’ll excuse the pun) for every Star Wars project to-date. So far, fans haven’t rebelled but there have been grumblings.
Many fans were hoping that the many rumored Star Wars “anthology” films (Boba Fett, Yoda, Obi-Wan, Jabba the Hutt) could provide new storytelling avenues, but these films remain stuck in limbo. Consequently, the power and uniqueness Rogue One, a supposed stand-alone film, was blunted by the presence of Darth Vader and Princess Leia’s surprising cameo. In other words, what started off as a war film set in the Star Wars universe resulted in just another splinter of the Skywalker family’s struggles.
The continued focus on the Skywalker clan essentially relegates every other Star Wars character or storyline to a subordinate status. Regardless of whether the focus of each film is placed directly upon Luke, Leia, Anakin, or any of their descendents, nothing moves in the Star Wars universe without the thumbprints of someone named (or related to) Skywalker. In other words, LucasFilm is suppressing or subverting its own ability to tell fresh, new stories.
Consequently, there was a lot of excitement surrounding the Han Solo spin-off film, which fills-in the backstory of everyone’s favorite galactic smuggler and scoundrel. The key distinction with this film was the focus on a non-Skywalker character and his non-Skywalker relationships.
That was the case until today. According to ThatHashtagShow, a source close to the film’s production revaled that scenes were recently shot involving… wait for it… Darth Vader himself. It’s unclear whether this is just a cameo or something more, but once again the long shadow of Skywalker looms large.
Vader’s presence also raises questions about this film’s antagonist(s). Vader will always be the elephant in the room when it comes to Star Wars villains, so his appearance suggests that Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) is stuck dealing with the Empire, at least to some degree, which frankly robs this film of the opportunity to define new or unexpected threats. Even if there is another villain in the film, they will be overshadowed by Vader.
Because Star Wars has existed since 1977, there are essentially three generations of fans — original trilogy, prequels, post-Lucas — who must be appeased. So, to an extent its understandable that LucasFilm would want to maintain connections to its core heroes and villains, but at a certain point (hopefully soon) those connections need to be severed in lieu of new directions — otherwise, Star Wars becomes James Bond.
The Han Solo spinoff should represent a break with the past, giving its filmmakers the opportunity to explore new corners of the Star Wars universe. This may still be the case — there’s still a lot we don’t know about this film — but the inclusion of Darth Vader reminds us that Star Wars has a problem with its own past, a reliance upon the struggles of one core family, which it needs to address before fans grow weary and begin tuning out.
The Han Solo spinoff movie hits theaters on May 25, 2018.
Directed by Ron Howard (Splash, Apollo 13), screenplay: Lawrence Kasdan, Jon Kasdan, music composed by John Powell. Starring Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, Woody Harrelson as Beckett, and Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca.