Han Solo movie: Is there a dis­tur­bance in the Force?

With Han Solo MIA at Dis­ney’s D23 Expo, there may be a rip­ple in the galaxy

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Brian Truitt

It might not yet be time to call in the X- wing strike, but that dis­tur­bance we’ve all felt in the Force isn’t quite gone.

The past few years have been a golden age for Star Wars fans with the awe­some­ness of The

Force Awak­ens, a com­mit­ment to spinoff films like Rogue One and even a new fo­cus on the fran­chise’s fe­male icons in the dig­i­tal se­ries Forces of Destiny. April’s Star Wars Cel­e­bra­tion, which in­cluded an emo­tional trib­ute to Car­rie Fisher and un­veiled an epic first trailer for The Last Jedi ( in the­aters Dec. 15), left this Star

Wars lover on a Cloud City high. Which is why the Star Wars pre­sen­ta­tion Satur­day at Dis­ney’s D23 Expo was so im­por­tant. Things have been go­ing squiffy lately with the young Han Solo an­thol­ogy movie planned for next sum­mer, and the fran­chise isn’t ex­pected to make an ap­pear­ance next week at Comic- Con. Un­for­tu­nately, Han and his pals were glossed over at D23 to make way for The Last Jedi.

In­stead of be­ing in trou­ble with Jabba the Hutt, our fa­vorite Star

Wars smug­gler has had to nav­i­gate through an as­ter­oid field of PR is­sues of late: Direc­tors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller left the film star­ring Alden Ehren­re­ich last month, mere weeks be­fore shoot­ing was sched­uled to end, and Os­car- win­ning film­maker Ron Howard was hired to fin­ish the still- un­ti­tled project — a solid and fine choice, but a safe one.

Howard wasn’t at D23, nor was any­body from the cast — not Eh-

ren­re­ich, Don­ald Glover or Woody Har­rel­son. The Last Jedi,

though, brought the big guns: writer/ di­rec­tor Rian John­son; Force Awak­ens holdovers Daisy Ri­d­ley, John Boyega and Gwen­do­line Christie; plus new­com­ers Beni­cio Del Toro, Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran.

John­son shared black- and­white shots from the set and talked about hit­ting pubs with Ri­d­ley. Boyega and Christie play­fully faced off, hint­ing that Finn and Cap­tain Phasma will re­visit some bad blood. And Mark Hamill re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion by just step­ping on­stage. ( That’s what hap­pens when you’re not only a Star Wars leg­end but also an of­fi­cial Dis­ney one.)

The Last Jedi wasn’t the one we were con­cerned about, how­ever. No­body’s go­ing to say no to a boss be­hind- the- scenes video from that movie — and it’s al­ways great to see a hooded Ri­d­ley wield­ing a lightsaber as Rey. But still no ti­tle for Han Solo? No Howard com­ing out to say: “Ev­ery­thing’s per­fectly all right now. We’re all fine here, thank you”? The new live- ac­tion The Lion

King had its Cir­cle of Life scene ready to show, but noth­ing of Ehren­re­ich in Solo garb in the Mil­len­nium Fal­con with Chew­bacca?

No other spinoffs were men­tioned at D23, so we hope Lucasfilm brass isn’t rethinking let­ting up- and­com­ing direc­tors shake things up. Hon­estly, that’s why a lot of Star

Wars fans were look­ing for­ward to Lord and Miller, the guys be­hind the bril­liant The Lego Movie. Film­mak­ers like them and John­son, who grew up with Star Wars as a sem­i­nal part of their lives, are the fu­ture of this fran­chise.

There’s no rea­son to lose all faith in the galaxy far, far away yet. We’ll be all be freak­ing out in five months when The Last Jedi melts our col­lec­tive faces off. But, as that leg­en­dar­ily scruffy nerf herder once said, “Great, kid. Don’t get cocky.”

In­stead of be­ing in trou­ble with Jabba the Hutt, Han has had to nav­i­gate through an as­ter­oid field of PR is­sues of late.

JONATHAN OLLEY

LUCASFILM

The ad­ven­ture con­tin­ues for Rey ( Daisy Ri­d­ley) in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which blasts into the­aters Dec. 15.

JONATHAN OLLEY

It hasn’t been such smooth sail­ing for the team be­hind the much- an­tic­i­pated and still- un­ti­tled Han Solo an­thol­ogy movie planned for next sum­mer.

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