Em­pire con­tribut­ing edi­tor Ian Freer on why we should have faith in Han Solo’s new shooter

Empire (UK) - - PRE.VIEW -

IN 1969, 14-year-old Ronny Howard made a two-minute movie called Cards, Cads, Guns,

Gore And Death. It’s about a gam­bler who goes all in, then comes out fir­ing, killing, among oth­ers, Howard’s brother Clint in a blood (well, ketchup) bath. Shoot­ing first, it seems, is in Howard’s genes, which is just as well — the di­rec­tor of

Frost/nixon is now helm­ing Solo/greedo. An­nounced on 22 June, Ron Howard’s takeover of the so-far un­ti­tled Han Solo film, fol­low­ing Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s de­par­ture over “cre­ative dif­fer­ences”, is ru­moured to be built on pro­ducer Kath­leen Kennedy and Lu­cas­film’s feel­ing that the tone was too flip, not

Star Wars-y enough. Their choice of re­place­ment comes with a long his­tory with the Lu­cas­verse. Learn­ing of Lu­cas’ idea to com­bine Flash Gor­don and 2001: A Space Odyssey on the set of Amer­i­can

Graf­fiti in 1972, Howard saw A New Hope twice on its open­ing day, di­rected fan­tasy Wil­low from Lu­cas’ idea and had pre­lim­i­nary dis­cus­sions about di­rect­ing a pre­quel. “I im­me­di­ately said, ‘Ge­orge, that is your uni­verse, your galaxy,’” he re­called in 2015. “‘You should be do­ing it.’”

Fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of Lord and Miller, Howard’s ap­point­ment sent the Twit­ter­sphere into apoplexy, de­rid­ing it as ret­ro­grade and safe. But in a lot of ways he is sim­ply con­tin­u­ing a lin­eage of Star Wars di­rec­tors. Howard is a crafts­man in the same way Irvin Ker­sh­ner, di­rec­tor of The Em­pire Strikes Back, was. Like Lu­cas and Ker­sh­ner, Howard stud­ied film at USC School Of Cin­e­matic Arts. Re­cently his touch has been a lit­tle off (In

The Heart Of The Sea, In­ferno), but over his ca­reer he has de­liv­ered strong per­for­mances (Chris Hemsworth’s James Hunt in Rush is a model of Solo-es­que swag­ger), de­vel­oped a clas­si­cal style that suits Kennedy’s ref­er­ence point of Fred­eric Rem­ing­ton’s Wild West paint­ings (look at Far And Away’s land rush), and knows how to jug­gle comic re­lief and — that oft­for­got­ten Solo qual­ity — sin­cer­ity. Think of the mo­ment in A New Hope when Solo, watch­ing Luke go off to blow up the Death Star, says, “Hey, Luke… may the Force be with you.” It’s straight-faced, corny, per­fect Star Wars — and pure Ron Howard.

So, will Howard stretch the very fab­ric of what Star Wars could be? Prob­a­bly not. With eight weeks of shoot­ing and a ge­nius Os­car-win­ning edi­tor in JFK and Gla­di­a­tor’s Pi­etro Scalia (him­self a re­place­ment for Chris Dick­ens) to seam­lessly stitch dis­parate footage to­gether, can he de­liver a per­fectly tai­lored Solo-es­que waist­coat? Never tell him the odds.


Above: Ron Howard, a Han-dy bet. Left: For­mer di­rec­tors Chris Miller (bot­tom left) and Phil Lord (sec­ond from right) on set with cast mem­bers Woody Har­rel­son, Phoebe Waller-bridge, Alden Ehren­re­ich, Emilia Clarke, Joonas Suo­tamo as Chew­bacca and Don­ald Glover.

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