The trailers for Solo: A Star Wars Story reference a lot of existing Star Wars stories, including some odd deep cuts. But, the deepest cut is probably also the most obvious. Scenes of Han Solo racing speeders totally evoke American Graffiti, a movie that is indirectly responsible for the existence of Star Wars in the first place.
On Monday, writing on Jalopnik, Jason Torchinsky pointed out that Han Solo’s speeder in the new trailer looks kind of like a Sixties-era Ford Falcon. Which, if true, would make it a visual pun combining Harrison Ford’s name (the original Han Solo actor) and the famous spaceship the Millenium Falcon. But, there’s probably more to this than just a visual gag. Because Ron Howard is the director of Solo, he’s probably referencing a film Howard starred in as an actor: American Graffiti, written and directed by none other than George Lucas in 1973.
Before he became a filmmaker, George Lucas wanted to be a racecar driver. But, because a near-fatal crash changed his mind, the world was given the Star Wars franchise, Indiana Jones, and a quiet little film called American Graffiti.
Starring Ron Howard and Richard Defrus, the film was made in 1973, and takes place in 1962, despite it feeling like a Fifties movie. In fact, the critical success of American Graffiti is linked to Ron Howard starring in the 1974 TV series Happy Days, which actually does take place in the Fifties. It’s also notable that the phrase “jumping the shark”, originates with Happy Days. Desperate for ratings, the Fonz actually water-skied over sharks in a highly criticized fifth season episode.
The point is, George Lucas is sort responsible for creating the thing that in turn created “jumping the shark.” And, of course, Lucas has been accused of jumping the shark with Star Wars on more than one occasion.
What’s that got to do with Solo? Well, that pretty nifty speeder chase in the second trailer seems to be an obvious reference to the multiple drag race scenes in American Graffiti. And, guess who is driving cars really fast in that movie? That’s right, a pre-Star Wars Harrison Ford, as the low-level villain Bob Falfa does a ton of fast, dangerous driving in the film. Some of the shots of Ford in the driver’s seat and Alden Ehrenreich in his speeder look pretty similar, too.
So, is Ron Howard jumping the shark by including such an obvious reference to a four-decades-old collaboration between himself and George Lucas? We’ve only got a few months to find out.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is out everywhere on May 25, 2018.