Warning: if you have not seen The Force Awakens, spoilers ahead.
At the beginning of 2016, a disgruntled Star Wars fan from São Paulo, Brazil, took to the social action site Change.org to express his dissatisfaction over the directorial choice over the as-of-yet untitled Episode IX movie. The fan, named Yuri Luiz, expressed his malaise over the decision to have Colin Trevorrow (whose most recent credit includes another blockbuster sequel, the 2015 summer box office hit Jurassic World) helm the untitled 2019 film with a petition to bring a new director on board.
His alternative? George Lucas.
"Put the father of the franchise as director of Episode IX," Luiz wrote — and apparently, many agreed. The petition garnered over 23,000 signatures, all of which purportedly either unhappy with the choice to have Trevorrow continue the franchise, or to "make an epic farewell between [Lucas] the Father of Star Wars and the whole universe of the galaxy far, far away."
Like some of the backlash the continuation of the Star Wars franchise has received, the incident presents a striking parity between the reinvigoration of the Star Wars universe for another generation. While the critical and commercial success of The Force Awakens leaves little room for arguing against the move to create more sequels with fresh new characters, there is still the question of which movies should be made, especially more than a decade after the disastrous prequel trilogy.
What it comes down to is a question of putting the past over the future, or vice-versa — and in the case of the upcoming "Young Han Solo anthology movie," it seems that the sins of the preambular fathers weigh heavier than those of the sons.
The anticipated Star Wars films that Lucasfilm and Disney have released details for tend to fall into two categories: expanded universe movies like Rogue One (which, as a spinoff, creates a parallel side-story effect with a group of characters who are, at best, loosely-affiliated with the ones we know) and movies like the untitled Han Solo project (which, like the prequels did with Anakin, take a character from what was before an unknowable point A to its conclusion, the point B that has played out on screen).
The questions of the Han Solo movie, and by proxy the latter category, according to both The Force Awakens and Han Solo screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan — the same person who wrote The Force Awakens — are entirely preoccupied with creating an origin to a series of quandaries that decades worth has more than illustrated:
"You know, [Han's] younger in this movie and that's fun because you have to imagine him 10 years earlier in his early 20s. What was he like before he hardened up? Before he had some setbacks? Before he put on this cynical coat? What got him there?"
However, when this comes from the same writer who relayed that the collective theme of the Star Wars narrative is "recognizing your potential and understanding what you're capable of," it's hard to synchronize the impetus of both storytelling motives. Like the precedent that Luke and Darth Vader's dynamic institutionalized, Kasdan's underlying concern is the idea of inheritance, "to understand what you've inherited, and what you like about that and what you don't like about that." Or rather: "Have you fulfilled yourself completely — or is it too late?" Lucas' failed prequels also tried to elaborate on this theme, and the redundancy of trying to extrapolate on something so perfectly packaged in Han's final scene between his own son, Kylo Ren, doesn't serve the franchise — it only weakens it.
So, then, what exactly would a Han Solo movie answer?
In his article "The World Doesn't Need a Young Han Solo," the Atlantic's David Sims tries to pinpoint the revelations the project would herald.
"Perhaps it'll concern Solo acquiring the Millennium Falcon, or meeting his pal Chewbacca, or making that infamous Kessel Run he keeps talking about," writes Sims, concluding that regurgitating a character who has already made such an indelible impression on decades of moviegoers would only lead to a particular paradox: the actor cast as the protagonist living up to imitating Harrison Ford's performance, or attempting to cast an individual mark that will be unpalatable for the fanbase paying for their tickets in the first place. It will, as Sims notes, encounter the same pitfalls as the prequel trilogy, "tripping over itself trying to explain every famed original character's background [and] unfortunately getting in the way of a coherent story in the process."
Han Solo is purely, in terms of late '70s and early '80s cinema, a hero of the era, with his surefire cockiness, throbbing masculinity and "lovable" misogynistic behavior. It's easy for modern movie-goers to idolize him for his better qualities, like his bravery and, as evidenced in The Empire Strikes Back, his dalliance with carbonite. This isn't to say that Han Solo doesn't deserve his place in the hearts of Star Wars fans, but to say that, like his death in The Force Awakens suggests, we have outgrown him.
The popularity of the new holy trifecta — Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron — runs parallel to the dimensions and strengths we need in our characters now. We need the example of Rey and Finn for those — like girls, women and people of color — who have never seen their heroic potential reflected on the big screen in one of the biggest franchises in history, and we need Poe to be, as the New York Times called him, "a next generation Han."
What makes The Force Awakens tick is that it doesn't try to delve into character backstory to give us the conclusions we already know — instead, it acts as a continuation, letting movies like A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi act as foundational building blocks, using them as the basis for a mythos that we don't already know the answers to, and introducing a new generation of characters that fit our evolving ideas of heroism.