origin stories

A Guide to Which Parts of Han Solo’s Backstory Do and Do Not Get Explained in Solo

Han Solo and Chewbacca in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Photo: Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm Ltd.

As all true cinephiles know, the best thing about origin stories is that they explain how every little thing about our favorite screen characters came to be. That’s what made the Star Wars prequels so good — we learned how Anakin Skywalker was conceived (immaculate conception by the Force), how Boba Fett got his armor (it was the armor of his dead dad, from whom he was cloned), even how the Emperor’s face became all wrinkly (he tried to use Force lightning on Mace Windu but it bounced off Windu’s lightsaber and onto him, like the space-fantasy version of that old grade-school rhyme about rubber and glue).

In that same spirit, the new film Solo reveals plenty about how the galaxy’s most charming smuggler got to be the way he is. But unfortunately, it does not explain everything. (Something had to be saved for the obligatory Solo sequels.) Here is a guide to which aspects of Han Solo’s backstory the movie does and does not explicate.

Warning: From here on out this post contains spoilers for Solo, though I assure you they are only very dumb ones.

His name?
Explained! Turns out that, like a medieval peasant, Han was not born with a last name. “Solo” comes from a helpful bureaucrat filling out paperwork for our hero, who’s traveling … alone.

His family?
Sort of explained. When we first meet him, Han’s an orphan, but we do learn that his father worked building starships on Corellia.

His childhood?
Explained! As in the previous canon, the movie’s version of Solo spends his childhood as a space version of Oliver Twist, performing low-level misdemeanors for a Fagin-type figure. (In Solo this ringleader is a female alien, instead of a human male.)

His time in the Imperial military?
Explained! Han’s stint fighting for the bad guys has been part of his backstory for decades. (In the old canon, he was a pilot for the Imperial Navy.) In Solo, he signs up with the Empire as part of a last-ditch effort to escape Corellia, and spends three years battling rebels in war-torn hellscapes.

His haircut?
Not explained! Alden Ehrenreich sports the same floppy ’70s do that Harrison Ford wore in the first film, though given that this film seems to take place around ten years before A New Hope, I would have been tickled if he’d been sporting a groovy Mod look.

His ability to pull off a stylish jacket?
Sort of explained. Han spends the whole film in a variety of dope jackets from Lucasfilm’s new fall collection, though where he got his great taste in outerwear goes unexamined.

His friendship with Chewbacca?
Explained! Just like in the old canon, Han meets Chewie while he’s a soldier for the Empire, and his desertion comes when he decides to free the captive Wookie from Imperial bondage. (Not like that.)

His ability to understand Chewbacca?
Not explained, though the movie does reveal that Han actually speaks a bit of Wookie, and isn’t just inferring the meaning of Chewie’s roars from context clues.

His iconic blaster?
Explained! Woody Harrelson gives it to him before a job, and he keeps it for the rest of the movie. The movie leaves unclear whether hokey religions and ancient superstitions are a match for it.

His affinity for vests?
Not explained. If we’re lucky, the sequels will include a scene where Han tries to figure how to keep his torso slightly warm while allowing his arms to swing about unencumbered.

How he met Lando Calrissian?
Explained! Lando’s the owner of the Millennium Falcon, which is the only ship in the Galaxy that is fast enough to pull off the job Han needs to pull off. Thanks to an introduction from Han’s ex Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), who has some kind of past with Lando, the two smirking rogues square off over a game of sabacc.

How Han made the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs?
Explained! As everyone has learned since A New Hope came out, a parsec is not a unit of time but a unit of distance, which has resulted in a lot of hand-wringing by the Star Wars brass about what exactly Han was bragging about. Solo follows the old George Lucas line about it being a boast about the Falcon’s navigational computer, which could chart a shorter path around a black hole, yadda yadda yadda. Anyway, there’s a funny joke about it.

How the Millennium Falcon ended up with its distinctive two-pronged nose?
I don’t think any Star Wars fans had ever asked this, but yes, it’s explained!

How he was able to think of the amazing Empire comeback — “I love you,” “I know” — so quickly?
Explained! As Solo reveals, it was one of his stock lines. After one character says he hates Han, our hero strikes back with a quick “I know.” Origin stories — you’ve gotta love ’em!

Every Part of Han Solo’s Backstory Explained in Solo