Galaxy of Speculation: 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' and Han Solo!

With the first major reveal from the next chapter in the Star Wars saga, December's Episode VIII, slipping its way into big news this week, as the Rian Johnson-directed epic confirmed its title to be The Last Jedi, the anticipation for the late 2017 has only grown more tantalizing. While the title of the highly cryptic follow-up to The Force Awakens may spark much speculation on its own, more Star Wars news also sparked the intrigue of fans this month -- concerning a certain solo film souring into theaters Summer 2018. Read here as I breakdown just what December's The Last Jedi could entail, as well as just what newly-cast actor Woody Harrelson has in store for the 2018 Han Solo film:

Before I dive into the mysterious title tease of this year's Episode VIII, I briefly wanted to discuss the exciting casting news surrounding the untitled 2018 Han Solo film. While the plot details of the film -- centering around a younger version of the space scoundrel Harrison Ford made famous back in 1977 -- remain deep in the shadows, rumors have circulated constantly on just what the ambitious (and slightly controversial) project might entail. Now, as not only actor Donald Glover and Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke, but also Woody Harrelson, join the cast alongside newcomer Alden Ehrenreich, the stand-alone Star Wars project is shaping up to be quite exciting. With Glover taking on a younger version of Solo's shifty compadre Lando Calrissian, and Harrelson confirmed this month to be playing the leading scoundrel's mentor, details on the direction the film could take are beginning to fall into place.

While some may remain quite protective of their favorite charismatic space crook, I have high hopes that not only will Alden Ehrenreich breath a new life into the famous character, but also that the film will explore a deeper and darker side of the scoundrel we know and love. With the news of Harrelson playing Han Solo's mentor, Garris Shrike, the speculation on what the film might explore has ventured even deeper into the Star Wars lore. A name plucked from the 1997 novel The Paradise Snare, Shrike became a mentor to Solo after raising him as an orphan. While the novel and its contents may not be strictly canon in the films, Harrelson's character could take on a very similar form of Shrike, one that remains pivotal in the evolution of Han Solo's character. Whether this is explored in flashbacks or simply fleshed out in some other way, the anticipation of seeing just how Han Solo became the charming criminal he was should be enough to hold my interest until next year.

While the Han Solo film might be what feels like lightyears away right now, the massive film that's on everyone's mind is the 8th episode in the Star Wars saga. With the first tease of the film resulting three simple words, the internet has already exploded with eager speculation as to what they could mean. With a certain sinister vibe to its new crimson title card, and the words "The Last Jedi" plastered in white lettering across an eerie deep space background, there is already so much fans can conjure up in their ever-speculating minds. One of the major elements already in question is who exactly the so-called "Last Jedi" truly is. While the now-exiled Jedi Master Luke Skywalker is the obvious choice -- as his character carried that title with him ever since The Empire Strikes Back -- there also spawns a number of other candidates -- including newcomer to the Force, Rey, the former Jedi student-turned-Sith acolyte Kylo Ren, as well as a handful of other possible combinations.

Of course, while the title of The Last Jedi might hint to a single lasting hope for the galaxy in a character we've met or are going to meet, the word "Jedi" could also very well stand for a group of Force-sensitive beings. With 2015's The Force Awakens calling to the fact that the Force is very much alive, even as the First Order reigns over the galaxy, The Last Jedi could see the resurgence of ancient Jedi societies, once thought to be forever lost. An intriguing prospect on its own, the next chapter in the Star Wars saga could be souring towards a plethora of fascinating places, places possibly explored in other media in the space-age franchise.

While further intel on everything Star Wars might still remain under-wraps until later in the year, both the casting news and title of these upcoming projects are enough to keep myself, and the fans, guessing. With 2018's ambitious Han Solo film equipping a talented cast to spin a new story that could have its hand in the past, and this year's Star Wars: The Last Jedi teasing a darker and highly cryptic plot of Jedi and the Force, the future of this epic franchise shows no signs of slowing down.

What are your thoughts on the latest news on both The Last Jedi and the untitled Han Solo film? Which one are you most excited for? Let me know in the comment section below, and come back soon for more news on where the Star Wars franchise could be headed. 

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