The big cameo in 'Solo: A Star Wars Story' that raised more questions than answers
Some fans have not seen this character for a while in Star Wars films. But his return opens up endless possibilities for the franchise.
Even though the latest spinoff flick from a galaxy far far away opened to a disappointing weekend at the box office, there's still a fair bit of chatter on message boards, online forums and social media threads about all the easter eggs and references in 'Solo: A Star Wars Story'. In a movie full of soft punches and not too many surprises, there is one key cameo that raised eyebrows, raising more questions in the audience's heads that answering them, as a good origin story ought to. Subsequently, the discussion about the implications of this cameo have whipped up a small storm online as geeks and canonical puritans of Star Wars remain at loggerheads.
For those who haven't seen 'Solo: A Star Wars Story' yet, be warned: The point of discussion in this article is definitely a spoiler alert. In fact, it could very well be the biggest spoiler of the film. So, full disclosure...
In the third act of 'Solo: A Star Wars Story', our heroes have defeated Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) and his criminal syndicate, Crimson Dawn and Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is waiting for Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) to join him so they can fly away to another adventure in presumably a sequel to the film. However, Qi’ra sees Dryden’s death as an opportunity so she abandons Han and takes Dryden’s place as a leader in the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate, just to make sure that there's enough material to work on for the sequel. To make it official, she sends a message to Dryden’s boss, the overlord who heads Crimson Dawn who appears as a hologram. And that hologram is that of...drumroll...
Darth Maul. Darth. Effing. Maul.
Now of course, unlike most references through the film ('Han Shot First') the appearance of Darth Maul might require a slightly more familiar knowledge of the Star Wars canon from the film viewer, and not just the cinematic universe, but also the animated series. That would explain the rants of some viewers, who didn't get what the big deal was.
So here's an attempt at explaining the highly controversial cameo of Darth Maul in the new prequel.
We last saw the villainous Darth Maul in 1999’s 'Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace', where he cut down Qui-Gon Jinn before being cut in half by a young Obi-Wan Kenobi. By the looks of it, Maul is running a huge crime syndicate at this stage in the Star Wars timeline, and, yes, it would appear he will be working more closely with Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra in potential future Solo films.
So if your only interaction with the Star Wars universe has been the live-action movies, it would be understandable if you thought Maul had been dead for a long time. And of course, that would raise a lot of questions, including some about the exact timeline of the Solo prequel. If Obi-Wan actually sliced Darth Maul in two, and Solo is chronologically placed a couple off decades after Phantom Menace, how is Maul still alive?
If you've been paying attention to the larger Star Wars universe - specifically two animated shows that count as canon with the movies - you probably knew Maul survived his encounter with Kenobi on Naboo. If you paid close attention, you might have noticed that when Maul stood up to address Qi’ra at the end of Solo, the camera revealed some robotic limbs on his lower half. That's because unknown to most fans who know only the cinematic canon, the fallen Sith continues to live and is even a recurring character in two popular Lucasfilm animated series:' The Clone Wars' and 'Rebels.'
Darth Maul returns in season 4 of the 'The Clone Wars' after his brother, Savage Opress, finds him insane and walking on robot spider legs on the junkyard planet of Lotho Minor. After his mind is healed and he's given a new set of robotic legs, he goes on a campaign of vengeance against Kenobi. Later on, in 'Rebels', which is set a few years after Solo, Maul is stranded on the desolate world of Malachor, which he again escapes in search of Obi Wan, who he learns is on Tattooine. In a final duel with the Jedi master, Maul meets his end and dies. Now that indeed means that Solo's timeline fits around a decade before 'Episode IV - A New Hope'.
As is evident from the credits of Solo, the elusive villain no longer goes by Darth—that’s a Sith title worn by bad guys like Darth Sidious and Darth Vader. He’s just simply Maul now, and as was the case in some of his animated and book adventures, he has rebranded himself as a crime lord running something called the Shadow Collective, which includes groups named Pyke Syndicate, Black Sun, Hutt Clan, and now, as revealed in 'Solo: A Star Wars Story', Crimson Dawn as well. This provides a very interesting sub-plot that tells the story not from the overarching perspective of intergalactic politics involving the One State and the Galactic Rebel, but a very grassroots level that exposes the effects of the political turmoil on the average Joe, something previously addressed by the co-writers of the new prequel.
In a previous interview, Solo co-writer Jon Kasdan shared his thoughts on bringing Maul back to the big screen. “It was a sneaky ass process that I was fighting for all along,” Kasdan said. “I’ve [always] been a big Darth Maul fan. He was my favorite character in the prequel trilogy and I was determined that Dryden was not the top of the food chain. We both wanted the criminal underworld to feel way bigger than we could see in this movie. And that Han would be a minnow surrounded by sharks.”
Darth Maul (or just 'Maul' now) was originally brought to life by martial artist/actor Ray Park and voiced by Peter Serafinowicz in 'The Phantom Menace'. The Sith was later revived by Sam Witwer who voiced the character in both 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' and 'Star Wars: Rebels'. In 'Solo: A Star Wars Story', much to the delight of hardcore fans, both Park and Witwer played the part, as Park did the live-action performance and Witwer provided his signature voice
The implications of all this in the future of Disney's Star Wars ongoing franchise could be interesting. For starters, it's a clear sign that Maul's return to the live-action movies makes Solo the second Star Wars movie to fully acknowledge characters who've had a life in the Star Wars animated shows. Previous hints of this came in the form of Rogue One's use of Saw Gerrera, first seen in 'The Clone Wars', and a cameo by the droid Chopper from 'Rebels.'
Secondly, if the Solo spinoff series is indeed confirmed for two more editions, it's reasonable to assume that the interplay between Qi'ra and Maul will play an important role in the coming sequel. And if the chronology has to be honored, then there'll have to be some explanation that links Maul being deserted on Malachor. Could Qi'ra set up a trap for Maul and betray him to ultimately wash off the bad blood from her hands? It's a possibility.
There's also a strong possibility that the criminal underworld and the Crimson Dawn connection could spill over into the new Boba Fett spin-off film, reportedly to be directed by James Mangold. Since Fett's a bounty hunter by trade, it wouldn't be too farfetched for him to get involved with Maul's criminal organizations. At a stretch, Maul's return might even give us a live-action rendition of his epic final battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi, at least as part of a flashback or a flashforward. Would it be too much to hope for? Maybe. Maybe not!
All things said and done, it's fair to say that there was ample reason to introduce Maul back into the films. If Avengers could pull-off teasing Thanos for nearly half a decade and get away with it, surely Maul's re-entry into the Star Wars saga cannot be looked down upon as a bad idea. Although his brief stint in Solo could very well be dismissed as a plot-driving device, it could have just provided a massive chance for the Star Wars canons to cross over and weave more intricate stories in the near future.