Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Solo: A Star Wars Story!
Solo: A Star Wars Story's big surprise was an appearance by the presumed-dead Darth Maul. But was he the best choice for the surprise appearance, or were there more suitable contenders within Star Wars canon?
The young Han Solo movie covers a lot of familiar events in the scruffy-looking nerf herder's life story. In addition to his first meetings with Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian, director Ron Howard's film covers the moment he took possession of the Millennium Falcon and not-so-subtly conveys many of the character traits he would develop more strongly in the decades to come. However, in a move that likely left casual fans more than a little perplexed, the film does squeeze in a surprising cameo from a longtime fan favorite: Darth Maul.
Throughout Solo, the film teases the mystery of who Paul Bettany's crime lord Dryden Vos is truly working for, and after Qi'ra kills him, she assumes his role in the criminal organization known as Crimson Dawn and convenes with Maul (once again played by Ray Park; this time voiced by Sam Witwer) via hologram.
To many, Maul was presumed dead following his bisection at the hands of young Obi-Wan Kenobi way back in Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace. Of course, that's not quite true: he returned in both Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels to menace both the Sith and Jedi in his quest for victory. But, as the return was only in TV shows, his big screen appearance stirred up some confusion among moviegoers, begging the question of whether the film should have opted to reveal a different Star Wars villain behind Crimson Dawn.
- This Page: Characters That Could Replace Darth Maul
- Page 2: Surprise Characters Who Would Be More Fitting Than Maul
Darth Vader: Crimson Dawn Is A Criminal Front For The Empire
Taking place roughly a decade before A New Hope, Solo very clearly embraces the fact that the Empire has its hands in everything. Han, much like Luke Skywalker hoped to in that film, even winds up joining the Imperial army early on simply so that he can get flight experience. Given that Crimson Dawn is said to have some Imperial links, it wouldn't be out of the question for this to be some form of ruse the Empire. Vader's not above using the crime world either, as seen by the bounty hunters in The Empire Strikes Back, and if Crimson Dawn is as powerful as Dryden makes out, there's an easy reason as for why they're doing this.
However, positioning Palpatine (or especially Vader) as the brains behind Crimson Dawn would have lacked the shock factor that the filmmakers were clearly going for, largely because the Empire's role in the world of Solo already looms so large. Moreover, a brief but memorable role for Vader would have run the risk of feeling too repetitive after his standout sequence late in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Still, an Imperial presence here would have easily tied Solo into the larger tapestry of the main saga.
Jabba: Crimson Dawn Is All Part Of The Hutt Clan
Now, Han and Chewie are presumably already heading to Jabba the Hutt at the end of Solo, and, given the time gap between the Star Wars Story and A New Hope, they're going to have a long-standing smuggling relationship before Han drops a shipment and ends up with a price on his head. Considering that's on the horizon, it could have been brilliantly ironic storytelling for Qi'ra to be about to get wrapped up with the Hutt clan herself. At the beginning of the film, Han and Qi'ra are very similar in nature, and even when their paths diverge, they both find themselves having to get their hands dirty to survive. If Solo: A Star Wars Story had ended on both of the former lovers finding themselves allied with Jabba the Hutt, the film could have really sold their parallel paths to self-destruction - and directly set up a Solo 2.
A Jabba twist fits within the canon too, with the Hutt clans essentially set up as rivals to Crimson Dawn. To have him talking to Qi'ra would essentially reveal how corrupt and singular the galactic underworld really is while telegraphing to the audience - but not Han - just how deep trouble our protagonist will soon be in.
Boba Fett And An Entrance Into The World Of Bounty Hunters
So far, we're assuming a direct swap for Maul, but did Solo: A Star Wars Story have to write itself in a whole of the big boss? It couldn't be as some great crime lord, but if Lucasfilm wanted a forward-thinking character to appear who had links to Han and Star Wars' future, you can't get much better than Boba Fett.
Given the familiarity that Han has with Boba Fett in Return of the Jedi, it very much seems like the two have a history, perhaps one that Solo could have teased for a potential sequel or in James Mangold's recently-reported Boba Fett film. Indeed, the timing of that news could have easily dovetailed from Fett's appearance in Solo, possibly as another Crimson Dawn emissary.
Of course, this one's a little controversial. Boba Fett has always felt like more of a freelance type, choosing to take on one-man missions rather than leading a criminal syndicate himself, and as much as fans associate him with Han, a cameo may not have worked for narrative reasons; as it stands, Han and Chewie are en route to Tattooine for a job, and it's fair for fans to expect that their paths will cross with Boba Fett at some point then.
Cad Bane: Another Clone Wars Alum
Even Boba Fett is not going to fit, there's still room for other bounty hunters in Han's origin. Indeed, two characters - Bossk and Aurra Sing - both get namedropped with direct links to Beckett, and there's plenty of other contenders (Sing would work if she wasn't already dead).
If Maul is in part meant to herald the direct bridging between Star Wars movies and TV, then The Clone Wars offers up a pretty strong contender in the form of Cad Bane. A brand new character for the cartoon, Bane became a mainstay thanks to his striking gunslinger look (something that would be at home in the western-styled Solo) and impressive ability to hold his own against clones and Jedi alike. He even has links to Maul that could pave the way for the former Sith's appearance in a later movie. Like Boba, he would be an odd pick as a crime lord, although it's not as out of the question as with Fett.
Of course, the reason Lucasfilm wouldn't choose Cad Bane is one of notoriety: Maul is known well beyond the TV show and so conjures up an immediate reaction, good or bad. And, ultimately, that's why Solo: A Star Wars Story went with Darth Maul. There may be better options, but none would be as shocking.