Warning: In case you couldn’t tell by the title, this story is loaded with spoilers for Solo.
After 41 years and nine movies, Solo: A Star Wars Story finally gives our favorite flyboy, Han Solo, his own adventure. But even as young Han (played by Alden Ehrenreich) blazes his own trail through that far, far away galaxy, Ron Howard‘s new film remains very much tethered to Star Wars mythology. Follow along as the Yahoo Entertainment team digs up the best Easter eggs and in-jokes hidden beneath the high-flying fun of Solo. — by Ethan Alter, Adam Lance Garcia and Nick Schager
Roll the dice
First glimpsed hanging in the Falcon’s cockpit in 1977’s A New Hope, Han’s golden dice used to be a relatively unknown Easter egg that only eagle-eyed fans knew about. Force Awakens director, J.J. Abrams, was one of those fans and intended to feature them in his 2015 blockbuster, depicting Han hanging the dice back after taking the ship from Rey and Finn. (Although that moment was cut from the theatrical release, the dice were later featured heavily in The Last Jedi.) At the time, The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary stated that Han used those dice to win the Falcon. Solo instead reveals that they’re the pilot’s good luck charm. In an early chase sequence, he hangs them up in the landspeeder that he and love interest Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) highjack. Later on, when they’re separated, he gives the dice to Qi’ra, not recovering them until the reunite year later in the lair of Crimson Dawn boss Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). By the end of the film, they’re hanging in the Falcon where they belong — although bad luck will inevitably find Han again anyway.
A name, and a blaster
When Alden Ehrenreich’s hero first appears in Solo: A Star Wars Story, he’s referred to only as Han. It’s not until he attempts to escape servitude aboard a star cruiser that he gets his surname “Solo” — a gift from an Imperial spaceport official who chooses the moniker because, as you might expect, Han is traveling alone. It’s a moment that carries echoes of the Ellis Island immigration experience on our own planet, where immigrants from far-flung corners of the world were often given new names by the authorities as they passed through into America. Han later acquires another signature part of his Solo persona — his iconic DL-44 blaster — from his mentor, Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). Sitting around a campfire the night before carrying out the daring heist of a coaxium-filled train, Beckett presents his pupil with the laser pistol, which comes in handy during Han’s ensuing quest… including his fateful final showdown with his partner in smuggling.
March of the Stormtroopers
From doing laundry to pumping gas, everything seems cooler when “The Imperial March” plays underneath it. So it’s no wonder that the Imperial Army would want to use John Williams’s classic piece of music — also known as “Darth Vader’s Theme” — for their own purposes. While Han is evading capture in the Corellia spaceport, he’s distracted by screens that are playing Imperial recruitment advertisements scored to the familiar sounds of “dun dun dun dunta dun dunta dun.” Thanks to those ads and their killer theme, he enlists on the spot. Well, OK — there’s also the whole “trying not to get discovered and killed thing.”
Always let the Wookiee win (at holochess)
Chewbacca has learned a lot in his 190 years of knocking around the galaxy: how to fake a prison-cell fight, how to recognize a terrible Sabaac hand and how to co-pilot a Corellian YT-1300f light freighter. One skill he just can’t seem to master, though, is holochess — a board game where holographic creatures fight each other for players’ amusement or, in Chewie’s case, distress. Solo provides a glimpse at Chewie’s introduction to the game opposite his first opponent, Beckett, who experiences the board-swiping anger that the tall, furry creature is prone to unleash when he’s not happy about losing. The Wookiee’s sportsmanship doesn’t improve by the time of A New Hope, where R2-D2 (with help from C-3PO) engages Chewbacca in a game of Holochess, only to have Han inform the droids that “letting the Wookiee win” is always your best chance of keeping your arms attached to your body.
These Solo deep cuts cut deep
Like every Star Wars movie, Solo is getting its own visual guide. But the film itself is pretty much a visual encyclopedia of deep cut Star Wars references. Take Aurra Sing; a bounty hunter who was briefly glimpsed in The Phantom Menace and featured in several episodes of The Clone Wars animated series. Here, Beckett kills her by pushing her off a cliff, showing he was a man to be reckoned with. And when the smuggler is planning his train heist, his lover and partner-in-crime, Val, suggests hiring Bossk, the Trandoshan who was one of the many bounty hunter brought by Darth Vader to hunt for the Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back.
A few planets may sound familiar, too. At one point, Lando name-checks Felucia, where Jedi Master Aayla Secura died in Revenge of the Sith. And speaking of Lando, while infiltrating Kessel, Beckett wears the same undercover garb that Lando will don to rescue Han from Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi.
So many Extended Universe references, so little time
The so-called Extended Universe comprises most of the novels, comic books, and games created between the original trilogy and prequel releases and the re-launch of Star Wars with The Force Awakens. Those materials might no longer be considered official Star Wars canon, but Solo does cherrypick several key details from the EU. For example, Han and Chewie have their first meeting on Mimban, the muddy, war ravaged planet first described in Alan Dean Foster’s 1978 novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. And when Qi’ra mentions being trained in the martial art Teräs Käsi, that’s a shout-out to Steve Perry’s 1996 novel, Shadows of the Empire, as well as one of the worst Star Wars video games ever, Star Wars: Master of Teräs Käsi. While recording his autobiography, Donald Glover‘s Lando Calrissian mentions the alien race known as the Sharu, a direct reference to the 1983 L. Neil Smith novel Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu. Finally, eagle-eyed viewers will note a very special souvenir adorning Dryden Vos’s office: a crystal skull. No, we’re not talking Indiana Jones. This large, blue-tinted skull is a direct nod to the cover of the classic 1980 Brian Daley novel, Han Solo and the Lost Legacy. (Dryden’s den also includes full Mandalorian armor, not unlike the get-up worn by Jango and Boba Fett.)
Flight of the navigator
We always knew the Falcon was a unique ship, but we weren’t aware just how unique she is until a late-act Solo reveal. After realizing her dream of starting a droid uprising, Lando’s friend and co-pilot L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) becomes a casualty in her own war. While L3’s body shut down for good in Calrissian’s arms, her mind lives on inside the Falcon‘s circuitry. In order to help them survive the Kessel Run, the crew uploads the droid’s mind to the ship’s navigation system, and she charts a course that gets them through that deadly route in record time. Interestingly, while L3’s disembodied presence onboard the Falcon largely goes unremarked upon in Episodes IV-VIII, author Jason Fry alludes to it in his novelization of The Last Jedi, where R2-D2 shares some off-color jokes with the A.I. guiding the ship while flying to the final battle on Crait. Speaking of Artoo, Solo is the first theatrical Star Wars feature to completely omit the blue-and-white droid and his golden pal, C-3PO. (Even Rogue One featured them in a quick, but memorable cameo.) Fortunately, Threepio’s alter ego, Anthony Daniels, continues his streak of appearing in every Star Wars screen project. The British actor provides the voice of a Wookiee prisoner that Chewie rescues amid L3’s droid rebellion.
Going out for a Kessel Run
While A.C. Crispin described a version of the Kessel Run in her seminal Han Solo trilogy of novels, Solo features the first time Han’s record-shattering flight has been depicting onscreen. While the Maelstrom and the insane vacuum squid beast are original to the film, the gravity-sucking Maw comes straight out of the novels. First seen in Kevin J. Anderson’s 1994 book, Jedi Search, the Maw on the page was a cluster of black holes, whereas the Maw in the film is just one. Also in the novels, Han was able to make the run in under 12 parsecs by skirting the black holes and effectively warp space and time. Here we get something slightly similar, with Han going straight into the Maelstrom and skirting the Maw as a shortcut, all the while dodging early versions of those Imperial TIE Fighters. Ever the keeper of his own legend, he shaves a few micro-parsecs off his time by “rounding down” to 12.
The return of Weazel (and Willow)
Phantom Menace fans — yes, they exist! — will be thrilled to know that Solo includes not just one, but two reappearances by Episode I scene-stealers. In addition to a top-secret cameo by a certain Sith Lord (scroll down for more on that), Warwick Davis reprises his role as Weazel, the weapons dealer who attends the Boonta Eve podrace with Anakin Skywalker’s Toydarian master, Watto. By the way, Davis is celebrating a double anniversary with his Solo appearance. As the British actor reminded us via Twitter, it’s been 35 years since he made his big-screen debut as Ewok superstar, Wicket T. Warrick, in Return of the Jedi. And 30 years ago, he and Ron Howard, collaborated on the cult favorite ’80s fantasy adventure, Willow, which was produced by Star Wars mastermind, George Lucas. And it’s very possible that we’ll be taking a trip back to the village of Nelwyn sometime soon now that Howard has teased a potential Willow follow-up on his own Twitter feed.
Shoot first, ask questions later
The “Han shot first” controversy will rage as long as Lucas’s preferred “Special Edition” version of A New Hope remains in circulation… in other words, forever. But there’s no altering the fact that Han is the first to pull the trigger in his climactic Solo stand-off with Beckett. “Smart move, kid,” the older smuggler says as he dies. If only Greedo had thought of that move first…
Next Stop: Jabba the Hutt
By the end of Solo, Han has a smuggling career, a partner in crime, and a speedy ship. The only thing he needs is a mission, and, luckily for him, one falls into his lap courtesy of Beckett. Before they have their fatal stand-off, the older smuggler informs Han of a Tatooine-based gangster looking for a reliable crew of miscreants. With Beckett no longer eligible for the job due to a bad case of death, Han and Chewie decide to pilot the Millennium Falcon to that backwater desert planet to have a meet-and-greet with Jabba the Hutt. Presumably that will be the plot for the next (potential) Solo standalone film… unless a certain Sith gets in the way first.
Vader isn’t the only Sith Lord with serious lightsaber skills. As Solo reveals, Darth Sidious’s original apprentice, Darth Maul, is still alive and kicking—with cybernetic legs, no less! (Click here for a full account of how Maul survived The Phantom Menace.) In the closing moments of the film, Maul is revealed to be the real power behind the hyperfuel-smuggling crime syndicate, Crimson Dawn, which means he’s now Qi’ra’s boss. That’s gonna make her next reunion with Han even more awkward than this one.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is in theaters now.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
- ‘Solo’: An exclusive sneak peek at the concept art that inspired the ‘Star Wars Story’
- ‘Return of the Jedi’ at 35: The secret history of Leia’s golden bikini
- Boba Fett to get his own ‘Star Wars Story’