The latest trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story ends on a moment that should raise the stakes pretty high. Chewbacca, the kindly and fierce Wookiee that we’ve known and loved for over 40 years, has his furry head hanging out a window of a fast-moving ship, and a large rock is right in front of him, thiiiis close to turning him into a fuzzball without a head. This ought to be an adequately tense cliffhanger. But then, you’d have to do more than suspend your disbelief to wonder whether or not Chewbacca’s going to get out of this jam. You’d have to forget that … well, you’ve known and loved Chewie for 40 years, and that he’s alive, well, and very much in control of his head as of last December, when he nearly ate a Porg in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In short, the new look at Solo may hit some appropriate beats for an action-movie trailer, but it doesn’t remove the fact that it’s a prequel with far less suspense than the alternative.
This problem isn’t unique to Star Wars, but the huge franchise is emblematic of the common stumbling point. How exciting can a story be when it tells audiences something whose ending they already know? Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ran into a similar problem in 2016, but largely swerved around it for two reasons: almost all of its characters were new creations, and they almost all died. That solves the conundrum of wondering why, in the 1977 Star Wars, we only get a brief bit of lip service to the Rebel spies who steal the plans for the Death Star. And think of the Star Wars prequel trilogy from the early 2000s; it had plenty of issues, from dialogue to poor performances, but chief among them was the awareness that Anakin Skywalker would always become Darth Vader, no matter how hard he fell in love with Queen Amidala.
Now, in just six weeks, we get Solo….
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