In an interview with the BBC on January 26, Disney chairman Bob Iger promised—presumably ominously—that his company will continue to make Marvel and Star Wars movies “forever.” From what I can only assume were the depths of a black hooded cloak that covered everything but his nose and lips, Iger elaborated, “I don’t know how many [more films]; I don’t know how often.”
Of course, the first of the new Star Wars films debuted in December to almost universal approval. The Force Awakens was in the line of the main movies, but Disney has also planned an “Anthology” line of spin-offs. The first, Rogue One, is set to premiere this winter.
However, it’s the next spin-off that has many Star Wars fans deeply concerned. Announced in July of 2015, the second Anthology movie is slated to tell the story of “how young Han Solo became the smuggler, thief, and scoundrel whom Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi first encountered in the cantina at Mos Eisley.”
At first glance, this seems like a wonderful idea. Han Solo is undeniably one of the most popular Star Wars characters, and his background is among the least explored—at least in the new canon. There’s certainly a lot to cover there, and everyone knows that Star Wars prequels have never gone wrong before. Why, then, are fans appalled by Disney’s decision? There are numerous reasons, but three top the list.
With Harrison Ford gone from the Star Wars scene for good—and given that he’s 73 years old besides—the directors are going to have to cast a new actor for a character that has essentially become synonymous with Ford. Even worse, few of the actors on their shortlist seem like they could pull off the swaggering young Han Solo that Ford portrayed so well.
There are also narrative reasons why the Han Solo Anthology film is a bad idea. Part of Solo’s allure in the first place is his mysterious background. We know that he completed the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, and references have been made outside the films to the fact that he rescued Chewbacca from slavery, but the average Star Wars fan knows little else. How he became the laid-back, cowboy-esque smuggler we all know and love is something that few are truly interested in exploring. A prequel film threatens to irrevocably upend the sense of cool and mystique that define Solo.
As well, Han Solo has always been the ordinary guy of the original trilogy. He was neither raised as royalty like Leia nor gifted with supernatural powers. He’s succeeded because of grit, determination, and a deep desire to do the right thing even if there’s no benefit for him. His arc begins in a moral gray zone, but shows how anyone can become a hero through sheer perseverance—a true Star Wars story. Any prequel film would have to morph that natural arc and build him into a hero beforehand, when at the start of A New Hope, Han is actually just a regular, and even relatable, person.
So, if the idea of a Han Solo film were tossed out, what would replace it in the Anthology line? I’d argue for a movie featuring Obi-Wan Kenobi, set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. This film would avoid all the issues Solo’s film creates. For starters, Ewan McGregor, whose performance in the prequels as Obi-Wan has been widely praised, has said he would “be happy to go back” to the franchise.
At 44, McGregor is the perfect age for an Obi-Wan Kenobi film set in the deserts of Tatooine during Luke’s youth. This time period is somewhat uncharted territory, which gives filmmakers a chance to explore a number of interesting scenes. We could watch, for example, Obi-Wan reconnect with his old master Qui-Gon Jinn and receive a more thorough explanation of the “Force ghosts” that feature heavily in the original trilogy. We’d also get a chance to see his adventures protecting Luke, including his arguments with Owen Lars.
Perhaps most interestingly, we’d discover the missing link in Obi-Wan’s character development. While he was always a cautious character, and had become even more sober by the end of Revenge of the Sith, the wisecracking and brash Kenobi of the prequels has totally disappeared when A New Hope rolls around. What caused this immense personality shift over almost two decades? Telling this story would allow filmmakers the opportunity to create a truly artistic work, tracing Obi-Wan’s grapple with guilt and helplessness as Luke grows up alone, and as Anakin continues to ravage the Galaxy in the guise of Darth Vader.
The potential that an Obi-Wan film has to tell a deep and compelling tale is something the Han Solo movie lacks. That, alongside the difficulties with casting a new actor and the chances of ruining one of the fandom’s favorite characters, should be enough to make Disney think twice about the Solo solo film and perhaps turn a Kenobi one instead. Yet again, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope.
Marc Daalder is a writer and student living in Massachusetts. He attends Amherst College and spends his spare time tweeting, blogging and writing fiction. He has been published in In These Times, the Financial Times, and the student publication AC Voice.
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