CAUTION: This recap and analysis from “Solo: A Star Wars Story” contains spoilers.
Han isn’t quite the man we thought he was.
Much of the movie, “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” is spent weaving Han’s backstory into a carefully navigated and risk-free origin story. But some of the richest moments in Solo come when Han (and the man playing him, Alden Ehrenreich) deviate from what we’ve learned about the character in the previous Star Wars movies.
Here are four things we learned while watching the making of the greatest pilot in the galaxy.
1. He fought for The Empire
The most surprising twist of the movie came when Han enlisted with The Empire with hopes of learning how to be a pilot. The reason made sense: he had no other choice. The movie glosses over Han’s years in service, but gives a good, quick summation — he obviously wasn’t a good fit.
Then another interesting twist: the empire named Han Solo. During the enlistment process, he is asked for his surname. Han admitted he doesn’t have one. The enlistment officer asked for Han’s “people.” Again, Han admitted he doesn’t have any. The enlistment officer gives him a last name: “Solo.” A new name brought a new life, which strangely began under the eye of The Empire, who can take some credit for the making of Han.
2. He has never really been “Solo”
Naturally, The Empire misunderstands who Han is. Turns out, “Solo” is a misnomer. The only time in Han’s life (that we’ve seen) when he’s actually solo is during his time with The Empire. That’s when his uppity and insubordinate qualities shine brightest in this movie, and he can’t seem to get along with these compliant, imperialist soldiers, which he deems “hostiles.”
Before joining the empire, he seemed to grow up with Qi’ra. Later in his life, Han started a family with Leia (though we know that doesn’t end well). But Han has a life partner: Chewbacca. In fact, The Empire introduces the most committed couple in the Star Wars universe. Han was supposed to be Chewy’s dinner. But cooler minds prevailed.
Sure, Han’s got famous lines like, “I work alone kid,” but he doesn’t really. He works as a pairing with Chewy, and has for as long as he’s been a smuggler. Frankly, Han owes his whole career to Chewy. Tobias Beckett would’ve abandoned Han if he hadn’t needed muscle for the first attempt at stealing a large supply of coaxium, the expensive energy source.
3. Han brought The Rebels to life
Han’s dance with the Rebel Alliance starts as early as the organization’s inception. In fact, Han financed the rebellion’s inception by donating a fortune worth of coaxium.
Even then, he was reluctant to join forces with another organization. It’s easy to see why. In the too-brief snapshot of Han’s time with The Empire, he clearly can’t function in a military setting where he’s forced to take orders. Even with the job offer of being a general, Han prefers the freedom of working without labels — working for himself (and with Chewy).
Only near his death does Han begin to accept his role as an important member of the organization. In the in-between, he can’t help himself but pursue a life in smuggling. That’s his comfort zone. It’s what he’s doing by the end of this movie, at the start of “A New Hope” and at the start of “The Force Awakens.”
4. He’s always been a hopeless romantic
Han isn’t as cool as he pretends to be. He cares deeply and loves deeply. “Solo” shows Han’s first love: Qi’ra (played by Emilia Clarke). And so begins a pattern of Han’s affection for incredibly strong women.
But what’s interesting about Han’s love for Qi’ra is the unreciprocated nature of the relationship. As Tobias said, “She’s a survivor.” Survivors put themselves first — Han, on the other hand, does not. That’s how he ends up dying in episode seven at the hands of his son, Kylo Ren. Han shows incredible vulnerability, upon which others can capitalize. Clearly, Qi’ra cares about Han, too. She let him live. But she wasn’t in a rush to find Han quite like Han was in a rush to find her after they got separated. She was happy to climb the ladder in corporate crime, rather than join him.
Han is a lover and and fighter. It’s fun to see further affirmation that Han can be more than just a space pirate. He’s more complex than that.