Because some of us don’t follow the whole franchise.
Many of you think these explainer posts are unnecessary. That we just do them for the clicks. But why do they get clicks? Because a lot of people must need explanations. Solo: A Star Wars Story is the kind of movie that might attract newbies to the Star Wars franchise. Or casual enough fans that don’t follow every corner of the IP through novels and animated series. Prequels can be enticing to newcomers by being set before everything else. Sure, Solo is mostly made for people already familiar with its title character and others making appearances, and certain fan-service moments and nods to things only mentioned in other movies will get them more satisfaction. But it can also work as a truly standalone effort.
Just ask my nearly six-year-old son, who has seen much of the original trilogy but not the prequels. He didn’t even have reason to ask who the guy with a red face and horned head was at the end of Solo, because to him Darth Maul is just another character he’s seeing for the first time in this movie. But the gasp from the audience does cause him and others unfamiliar with Darth Maul to wonder why everyone is reacting to him. So, quick thing: that’s Darth Maul on the holographic FaceTime with Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). And he’s again played in body by Ray Park. His voice is performed, not by Peter Serafinowicz as in The Phantom Menace, but by Samuel Witwer, who owns the role in various animated series and video games.
The next question, for those who have seen Darth Maul only in The Phantom Menace before now, is how is this character alive. Obi-Wan Kenobi totally sliced that fan-favorite Sith Lord in half in the first Star Wars prequel almost 20 years ago. Was that his brother or something? (No, his brother has yellow skin, not red. Also, he is in fact dead by this point.) The thing is, Darth Maul didn’t actually die in Episode I. Enough of his upper body was still intact to continue living, he got some robotic legs, and he kept on being his nasty self until just a couple years before the events of the first Star Wars (aka A New Hope) when he was killed for real on Tatooine by Kenobi — as seen in last year’s Star Wars Rebels episode “Twin Suns.”
What is he doing in Solo, which takes place roughly a decade before Star Wars? When not fighting Kenobi a number of other times over the decades or seeking to replace Darth Vader and take revenge on Darth Sidious (aka the Emperor), Darth Maul was head of The Shadow Collective, a brief alliance of criminal organizations such as Black Sun and (reluctantly) the Hutts, and maybe the newly introduced Crimson Dawn. When Qi’ra kills Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), she takes over as leader of Crimson Dawn and is now the person to deal with Darth Maul. Whether this means we’ll see more of her character or the Sith Lord again is up in the air. If we do get a Solo sequel, though, chances are good that we will.
There’s no certainty that Disney/Lucasfilm will make more Han Solo adventures on the big screen, even if some of the cast are contracted for a couple more features and Solo does set up a few things that we might see in future installments. Some of that can also just be winks and nods if nothing else is produced. There’s no cliffhanger here. Before he dies, Beckett (Woody Harrelson) mentions a job for someone on Tatooine that obviously means Jabba the Hutt. If it happens, Solo: Episode II would surely see the first meeting between Han Solo and Jabba and could depict the shipment drop that got the former into so much trouble with the slug-like gangster, leading to his being frozen in carbonite in The Empire Strikes Back.
And a movie involving the Hutts would surely have room for Darth Maul and Qi-ra to deal with them, as well. By the time of Solo‘s setting, the Shadow Collective is no more, but clearly Darth Maul is again leading something similar. The character’s life at this time hasn’t been explored in other media, except to place him trapped or in hiding between the events of Revenge of the Sith and a few years before Star Wars. His being head of another crime family alliance would seem to be above his grade of significance, as it’s been known, in this era, I would think (the holographic device does set him up to be sort of the Emperor or Snoke of a Solo trilogy, which is major), but the story people at Lucasfilm must have figured it all out better than my casual fan self. They wouldn’t allow a cameo just for the sake of a cameo, right?
Some are speculating that Darth Maul could also turn up next in the inevitable — maybe arriving in 2020 — Obi-Wan Kenobi movie. Perhaps he could also have some reason to appear in the newly revived Boba Fett spinoff and/or the possible Lando spinoff. But there’s not really any reason to have him show up in the former unless the movies are going to start adapting episodes of animated series in live-action form (something Disney is pretty happy with doing lately for other properties). Fans have already seen the final fateful duel between Darth Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Maybe the movie could open with that, however, before getting onto the supposed Yojimbo-inspired story involving Tusken Raiders, but that’d be pretty redundant.
Are there any other questions or things needing explanation from the ending of Solo? Not regarding Han’s winning the Millennium Falcon. Not regarding L3-37 becoming the Falcon‘s identity (though that could change the way you watch the other movies). There are a few things, however, that go a tad too swiftly in the final act of the movie, including the reveal of Enfys Nest (Erin Kellyman) as not just a woman but also more of a Robin Hood figure than villainous marauder. She explains that Crimson Dawn is not just a criminal organization but an ally of the Empire and a group that is causing harm to innocent natives on planets where resources are being exploited for the evil powers of the Galaxy. She and her band of merry pirates are starting a rebellion — the Rebellion, it seems. Also, there’s a theory going around that Enfys Nest is Rey’s mother.
But we just learned in The Last Jedi that Rey’s parents were nobodies. Just some junk traders who sold their daughter off for drinking money. Well, we do know that Enfys Nest likes to drink… Okay, we know she needs a drink at one point in one movie. A lot of characters enjoy alcohol. Still, that could be a lame hint that she’ll eventually become an alcoholic on Jakku who has left the Rebellion she helped to start — which is why we never hear of her during the events of the original trilogy — and had a little girl who turned out to be one of the greatest wielders of the Force we’ve ever seen. Maybe having a kid made her quit being a rebel. Maybe she later resented the kid for it and sold her off for drinking money.
The con at the end of Solo was also rather swift and simplistic for a movie that very well could have been something like The Sting, Matchstick Men, Nine Queens, etc., and really given us a surprise climax. We anticipated Beckett being a double-crosser the whole time given that he literally spells it out that nobody, not even he, should be trusted. So that’s not a twist, and Han’s fake-out with the fake fake coaxium isn’t enough of a twist. Think there’s no room for a con-man movie type mind-blowing twist ending? Don’t forget that Star Wars has one of the best plot twists of all time. I guess the fact that Qi’ra turns out to have crime boss aspirations and the reveal of Darth Maul took precedent, twist-wise. But Qi’ra is such an underdeveloped mystery of a character up until then that it’s not enough of a payoff to anything.
There’s also not clarity in how Han feels about Qi’ra at the end of Solo. Does he fully realize what’s happened? Is he heartbroken? There’s not really a sense from this movie that he’s evolved into the guy who sticks his neck out for nobody we meet in Star Wars. So, there has to be at least one if not two sequels to Solo (and we’re into that, even if this movie wasn’t the greatest). There has to be more between Han and Qi’ra. There also has to be more to the relationship between Han and Chewbacca. There should be more to the relationship between Han and Lando. At the end of Solo, Han is still a bit too happy-go-lucky and generous. He needs bigger betrayals and harder times. Next, Han has to become a real jerk.