Star Wars has always dealt heavily in fan service and winks to the audience after the initial trilogy, but the latest trailer for the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars story takes that impulse to its absolute lowest point. If you needed to be reminded that this movie is about Han Solo — yes, that Han Solo — holy gosh, you will be absolutely reminded. It will be hammered into your skull.
The trailer does nothing to teach us new things about the character or where he came from. It’s not interested in bringing in any new insight to the character, or showing anything we already knew in a different list. It’s about reinforcing things we already understood, and then saying that it remembers them too. It’s a safe strategy for a series like Star Wars, but that reliance on repeating things to an audience that has repeating them to each for the past few decades is likely part of the reason the enthusiasm for this film seems so low.
Remember how much Han Solo likes blasters and trusts them? Look at the scene where he gets a blaster! Remember that Chewbacca is really old? This is where Han Solo found that out! You know the Millenium Falcon? Look at it when it was fresh, and here’s a scene hinting at the card game where Solo canonically won it from Lando.
He should assume everyone will betray him, although later he’ll be betrayed! He’s young so he has a good feeling about this, instead of a bad feeling about this! I’m surprised he never looks at the camera to say “When in a gun fight, always make sure you shoot first” before giving everyone a literal wink. It’s that bad.
I also can’t be the only one who immediately thought of the train level from Shadows of the Empire, a game starring a character named Dash Rendar, who is basically another Han Solo. All of these images come from other places within the canon, which makes the vast universe of Star Wars look and feel impossibly small. The only way Lucasfilm seems confident in showing you something new is to make it an echo of the past.
Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian feels like the only character who isn’t doing cosplay. Woody Harrelson comes across like they expect you to be impressed that it’s Woody Harrelson, and I guess I am? I’m not sure who the character is supposed to be, but that’s certainly Woody Harrelson.
Rogue One was able to at least partially avoid this trap by avoiding well-known characters from the main series, outside of that creepy CGI Tarkin and the distractingly digital Princess Leia, but that’s impossible for Solo. The marketing materials probably didn’t need to hammer the point home with this much ferocity though, and the whole strategy makes it feel like the movies assumes we’re stupid.
Star Wars will always trade on the past — even the originals assumed classic imagery from movie serials and archetypal stories was soaked into our brain — but Solo may have found the limit to how often it can be recycled and sold back to us this blatantly.
Also, please don’t try to pretend Chewbacca might die. We know he doesn’t. That’s a silly edit in a trailer that assumes we know and recognize so much from the other Star Wars movies. Han Solo is also in no danger here, because we already know how and when he dies.
The last two mainline Star Wars films were heavily criticized for referencing the original films too often and too heavily, but at least they moved the story forward and introduced characters with a perceived future in the series. Solo stars people we know won’t die interacted with people we know aren’t going to be around in Han Solo’s future. The stakes are low, making it nearly impossible to care.