Perhaps even bigger news than the announcement of Episode VII, and the rest of the new trilogy to follow, was the news last year that Disney also wanted Star Wars spinoff movies to help expand George Lucas’ onscreen universe in a major way. Since then, it’s become clear that Disney will be taking “the Marvel approach” to that galaxy far, far away, creating new interconnected movies and possibly TV shows to spawn an even-more-connected multi-media universe. While nothing has been confirmed about the storylines or characters those spinoffs will focus on, there was word that they will be origin stories involving the likes of Yoda or Boba Fett. Now some more fuel has been dumped on that fire, with hints that we might get a Han Solo origin film in 2016, the year after Episode VII is slated to hit.
The Las Vegas Guardian Express is reporting on an investor’s conference in Beverly Hills where Disney chief financial officer Jay Rasulo allegedly got specific about the spinoff films, saying a Han Solo flick will be slated for 2016, with — assuming it’s successful — films focusing on Yoda and Boba Fett to follow in 2018 and 2020, respectively. Assuming they stick with the plan of releasing the origin films in between the Episode entries, that would suggest they plan for us to get Episode VIII in 2017 and IX in 2019. This obviously isn’t the same as a Disney confirmation via press release, but it does suggest that the company isn’t sitting on its hands when it comes to moving forward with broadening the onscreen Star Wars universe.
One piece of solid information we’d heard about the spinoff movies was that they were being written by Empire Strikes Back veteran Lawrence Kasdan and X-Men: First Class’ Simon Kinberg. Kasdan has since been shifted up to co-write Episode VII with director J.J. Abrams after the departure of previous writer Michael Arndt. Of course, Kinberg is a very busy boy these days given that he just signed a three-year deal to oversee Fox’s X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises. Whether that will mean he’ll have to decrease his involvement on the Star Wars front remains to be seen.
It’s not surprising that Rasulo also explained that these prequel/origin movies will be allotted smaller budgets than their numbered-episode brethren. That only makes sense, given that they’ll be Disney trying something new. If they set the box office on fire, the further spinoffs that will inevitably follow might get more money to play with, but let’s not forget that a $200 million budget is no guarantor of quality. It’s perfectly possible to tell a great Star Wars tale on a smaller budget, and something like a standalone Solo or Fett movie wouldn’t inherently require the sweeping galactic stakes and scope of the core films.
Of course, the biggest obstacle is casting a young Han Solo. Trying to stand in the shadow of Harrison Ford in his prime is no task to be envied, but given Disney’s expansive approach to their newly acquired fictional universe, it’s not terribly surprising to see them going down that route. From a business standpoint, stories with existing characters are, at least theoretically, seen as less risky than going with a complete unknown. And while I completely agree that finding the right person to nail Han Solo’s roguish personality is going to be critical, it’s hardly the first time this sort of thing. It’ll be great to see Ford returning in the new trilogy, but in a world where we’ve seen tons of people play Batman or James Bond, it’s mainly just surprising it’s taken this long for somebody else to be given a chance at filling Solo’s stripey pants. Maybe the new guy will be good, maybe he’ll be bad, but either way Disney certainly has its work cut out for it. (Then again, they could always call Jennifer Lawrence.)
And while I think “origin stories” are one of the least interesting things you could do with the notion of Star Wars spinoff movies, I do think there is potential in seeing the adventures of Han back before he crossed paths with the Rebel Alliance. I loved reading Brian Daley’s “young Han” books back in the day — Han Solo at Stars’ End, Han Solo’s Revenge (both published in 1979), and Han Solo and the Lost Legacy (1980) — and if done right, a Solo movie could be a cracking good time. I think it’s probably pretty unlikely we’d get straight adaptations of Daley’s books, but you never know. Or hell, take things back a step and show us the adventures of a young Lando Calrissian back when the Millennium Falcon was his baby…
What do you think? Are you excited by the idea of a Han Solo spinoff movie?