If you're reading this, it should go without saying that there are major spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and maybe even its successor, Episode VIII. In The Force Awakens, Han Solo offers anything to help his son, First Order soldier Kylo Ren — even his life. Ren, a Jedi-in-training turned to the dark side of the Force, runs his father through with his homemade lightsaber, and his father topples deep into the Starkiller base. It seems like a pretty unequivocal death, and one that consolidates Ren's alliance with evil, but a hint on IMDb indicates that Harrison Ford might not be gone for good. He's currently listed as "filming" Star Wars: Episode VIII, so could that mean Han Solo will be back for Episode VIII?
We know for sure that Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill will be back as the galaxy's most powerful siblings, Leia Organa and Luke Skywalker. Their names top the cast rundown on the film's IMDb page, following only Adam Driver as Kylo Ren and Daisy Ridley as Rey in the list. But much farther down, there's Harrison Ford's name, with the tiny headshot that has become synonymous with his most famous character. What does that mean?!
It would be a waste to bring back Han Solo for just a couple scenes in the new movie, right? (Just like it would be a waste to bring Kit Harington to the Game of Thrones set just to film him as a dead body, but that's a whole other conspiracy to consider.) Yet J.J. Abrams has also pretty bluntly stated that Han had to die in this movie to make way for the younger cast members and prove the stakes of the new trilogy. The Force Awakens doesn't just inhabit the shadow of the original movies; it literally deconstructs the mythic status of those original movies. "The only reason why Kylo Ren has any hope of being a worthy successor," director Abrams explained to UPROXX, "is because we lose one of the most beloved characters." Kylo Ren cuts his villainous teeth in the highest-stakes manner possible, by slaying a central, critical character. Michael Arndt added that Han Solo's extended story line — if he were to survive — would begin to feel like "luggage."
"He's not really evolving. He's not really pushing the story forward," Arndt added in the same UPROXX story. That would seem to indicate that Solo won't be back for future movies, but the filmmakers' statements leave a giant question mark on the cast list for Episode VIII. (Also, Harrison Ford reportedly made 50 times the sum of his younger cast mates, so that's added incentive to kill off his character. That, and Ford's apparent demand that Han Solo be killed off in Return of the Jedi. His character's death seems like a foregone conclusion.)
Even so, could IMDb tell a lie? Perhaps Han Solo will appear in flashbacks, Force memories, or holograms. There are any number of inventive ways to keep Harrison Ford in the cast without actually bringing his character back to life. (It attaches a steep price tag to what is essentially a cameo appearance, but it seems more rational than a massive twist that somehow brings Han back to life.) Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Yoda all returned as "Force ghosts" in Return of the Jedi, and though Han Solo has never indicated Force-sensitivity, he might make an appearance in that style. One theory, outline on Slash Gear, hypothesizes that Han, like many characters before him (including Luke himself and Darth Maul in The Clone Wars), improbably survived being skewered by a lightsaber and dropped down a massive air shaft. (It's worth noting that in an Episode I scene that parallels Solo's Force Awakens death, the lightsaber alone is enough to take down Qui Gon Jinn.)
Han Solo probably didn't survive. But that doesn't mean Harrison Ford will leave the franchise behind. During a panel shortly after the release of The Force Awakens, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy let slip that "all the cast members you see here tonight will be in it as well" — and Harrison Ford was among those in attendance. The new trilogy hedges its bets by retaining all the original cast members, and therefore all the appeal of the original movies, while giving its new characters the ability to forge their own fates. Han Solo's death-but-not-death is the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too of the galaxy far, far away, and it means a fan-favorite character might return to see another couple hours of movie time.
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