Solo: A Star Wars Story, the second film in the Star Wars Anthology series, was screened at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival on May 14. The film focuses on the life of Han Solo before the events of the franchise’s first film, A New Hope (1977). While Solo was played by Harrison Ford in the original Star Wars trilogy and 2015’s The Force Awakens, the new film stars Aiden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!) in the role.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a stand-alone installment in the franchise and will be released worldwide in selected countries, including the United States and India, on May 25.

Solo: A Star Wars Story.

The Hans Solo spin-off had been in the works long before Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 and the Star Wars Anthology series of stand-alone films – the first of which was Rogue One (2016) – was announced. In July 2015, Disney announced the making of a Hans Solo film. “The story focuses on 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,” Disney said in a statement.

The story of Solo: A Star Wars Story will follow Solo’s life and times right before the events of A New Hope where the cynical, swashbuckling character reluctantly becomes a part of the Rebel Alliance’s efforts to fight the evil Galactic Empire.

Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew (above) and Aiden Ehrenreich and Joonas Suotamo (below) as Hans Solo and Chewbacca. Image credit: Lucasfilm.

In Solo: A Star Wars Story, fans will get to witness the early days of the camaraderie between Solo and Chewbacca, his co-pilot, friend, and fellow smuggler. Chewbacca’s bromance with Solo has been one of the most loved elements of the franchise. Chewbacca was played by Peter Mayhew in the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy’s Revenge of the Sith (2005). Mayhew’s body double Joonas Suotamo shared the role with Mayhew in The Force Awakens, before taking over the character in The Last Jedi (2017). Suotamo will reprise his role in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Billy Dee Williams (left) and Donald Glover (right) as Lando Calrissian. Image credit: Lucasfilm.

One of the supporting characters of the franchise who went to achieve cult status over the years is the smuggler Lando Calrissian, played by Billy Dee Williams in the original trilogy. Prior to the events of A New Hope, Solo and Chewbacca procured their iconic starship, the Millennium Falcon, from Lando after winning a card game called Sabacc. Lando’s first appearance occurs in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) where he plays a key role in fighting the main antagonist Darth Vader’s forces. In Return of the Jedi (1983), Lando is made a general of the Rebel Alliance, and once again, becomes the pilot of the Millennium Falcon.

Lando is being played by Donald Glover in Solo: A Star Wars Story. The film will also look at the infamous Sabacc card game at the end of which Lando lost the Millennium Falcon to Solo.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018).

The road to Solo’s stand-alone feature from script to screen was ridden with production troubles. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were initially directing the project before they were fired by the producers citing “creative differences”. Report suggested that Lord and Miller, known for their self-referential, quirky comedies like the 21 Jump Street films and The Lego Movie, were steering the film into a comedic space, while the producers had envisioned it as a Western with heist film elements.

Veteran director Ron Howard, experienced at handling big-studio projects, was hired to direct the film after Lord and Miller were fired. Howard reportedly received a four-minute standing ovation following the screening of Solo: A Star Wars Story at the Cannes Film Festival.

The new film sees the addition of a number of new characters. Leading them as Solo’s romantic interest is Qi’ra, played by Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen in the Game of Thrones television series). Speaking about her character, Clarke told Entertainment Weekly that Qi’ra and Solo grew up together as “comrades... pals, partners in crime.”

Qi’ra, in the film’s promos and posters, comes off a mysterious and glamorous character. “She has a couple of guises, but essentially she is just fighting to stay alive,” Clarke said. “If you’ve got a really glamourous lady in a really sordid environment, you kind of know the glamour is hiding a few rough roads.”

Emilia Clarke as Qi'ra in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Image credit: Lucasfilm.

Woody Harrelson joins the film as Tobias Beckett, a career criminal and mentor to Solo. With Tobias and Solo, screenwriters Lawrence and Jon Kasdan reportedly attempted to recreate the mentor-apprentice relationship between the pirate Long John Silver and the young Jim Hawkins in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island. On Beckett, Howard said, “Well, he [Tobias] really shapes Han really more than anybody, as Han comes to realise that in a lawless time he needs to try to come to terms with some kind of moral code.”

Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Image credit: Lucasfilm.

The villain is the crime lord Dryden Vos, played by Paul Bettany. The trailer introduced the character as a man with a scar on his face, but initially, Dryden Vos supposed to be a “half-mountain lion, half-human”, according to actor Michael K Williams (Omar Little in The Wire television series) who was supposed to play the role. While Lord and Miller were fired from the project, Williams was let go as well as he reportedly could not join the film for reshoots. Howard reworked the character as a human as opposed to the Lord and Miller’s plans of making Vos a motion-capture alien.

Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Image credit: Lucasfilm.

While Disney and Lucasfilm have been committed to releasing a Star Wars film each year in the month of December since 2015, Solo: A Star Wars Story’s release in May disrupts the routine. The next Star Wars film, Episode IX, directed by Colin Trevorrow, will be released in December next year. The producers have not announced what will be released in 2020 and beyond, however.

Among consideration for possible Star Wars films, according to rumours, are stand-alone films around characters like Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

However, a number of Star Wars projects have already been announced, with no tentative release date, cast or plot details. Rian Johnson, the director of The Last Jedi, will helm a fresh trilogy. Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and DB Weiss will write and produce a series of Star Wars films. Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Jungle Book) will write and executive produce a live-action Star Wars series for Disney’s streaming service.

Solo: A Star Wars Story. Image credit: Lucasfilm.

Solo: A Star Wars Story was marked by negative buzz throughout 2017 following the firing of Lord and Miller. However, reports have been mostly positive about the film following the screening at Cannes. While Twitter has been abuzz with enthusiastic responses to Solo: A Star Wars Story, some have been cautious about reading the positive reception to the film as definitive, such as The Atlantic’s David Sims who noted that the audience had had to sit through some downbeat movies about farmers for days before the arrival of Solo: A Star Wars Story, so they may have overdone the fanfare.