Han Solo likes to avoid any imperial entanglements … except for that time he nearly joined the Empire.
That’s the main thing we learned from the Super Bowl teaser for Solo: A Star Wars Story, which dropped during the game’s first quarter Sunday.
The 45-second spot was technically a teaser for a longer trailer set to land Monday — and as such, it went heavy on aesthetic, and light on plot and dialogue.
Young Solo, played by Alden Ehrenreich, doesn’t even get to answer a question about his name; the movie’s logo does that for him. He simply looks at the viewer through the bars of what is presumably an Imperial holding cell.
The only line Ehrenreich speaks, with a reassuringly Harrison Ford-like mumble-drawl, is to an Imperial recruiting officer.
“I’m going to be a pilot,” murmurs Ehrenreich, when asked which branch of the service he wants to join. “Best in the galaxy.”
So is Han on the edge of joining the Empire in this movie, which is set roughly a decade before the events of the original Star Wars?
That would make sense to fans who remember the old “Legends” novels, erased from canon by Lucasfilm in 2014 but still explicitly available for script writers like Solo‘s Lawrence Kasdan to cherry pick from.
In those books, Han cleaned up his smuggling act as a young man. He entered the Imperial academy only to be kicked out when he saved his new friend, Chewbacca the Wookiee, from being whipped by another officer.
Similarly, Solo reveals how Han and Chewie met in the new official movie timeline, as shown by that tentative Wookiee arm on Han’s shoulder at the end.
Which is not to say that Kasdan (who co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens) is slavishly following the plot of a bunch of old books.
There are likely more than a few surprises in this script — and it’s entirely possible that Han’s conversation with the recruiting officer is part of some long con.
One thing we know about Solo: it’s a heist picture.
In any case, keeping Ehrenreich’s version of Han Solo in the shadows, viewing him from behind more than from the front, is a wise choice for Lucasfilm at this stage of the marketing game. It restores a big dose of mystery to the Han Solo character, and to this new interpretation of him.
Instead of revealing the man at the center of the movie, we get glimpses of the wider universe of Solo — its costumes, its sets, its supporting characters.
Two of these are worth noting. First of all, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian — not wearing the old smoothie’s blue cape from Cloud City, but … a fur coat?
Then there’s Emilia Clarke’s character, who’s called Qi’Ra. Beyond that little is known about her — but this old school, film noir-esque framing sure makes her look like a sympathetic love interest.
And then there’s the interior of the Millennium Falcon itself, which we already know was Lando’s property before Han won it in a game of Sabacc.
The familiar corridor shown briefly is so gleaming white, you can practically inhale that new spaceship smell.
Which in turn reveals an uncomfortable truth about Han Solo: he may be the best pilot in the galaxy, but as Lucasfilm Story Group executive Matt Martin notes, he’s certainly not the cleanest.
Also squeezed into the teaser are explosions, blasters, droids, Star Destroyers, TIE Fighters and just about everything you’d expect from a Star Wars story. Finally there’s the John Williams score, which puts a dark, almost electronic twist on an element of that familiar Star Wars theme.
We’ll learn more with the full trailer tomorrow, but with this teaser the Solo marketing campaign is already doing point five past lightspeed.
Great shot, Disney/Lucasfilm. Don’t get cocky.