Slight spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story ahead…
The run-up to Solo: A Star Wars Story saw the posting of many a think piece, but none is so near and dear to my heart as a literal “THINK” piece on NBCnews.com entitled, “Solo: A Star Wars Story gives Chewbacca more respect, but he deserves his own Star Wars story.”
Noah Berlatsky wrote:
The newest Star Wars film, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is aware that poor Chewbacca doesn’t get enough respect, and tries to rectify matters – sort of. Chewbacca’s motivation and background are filled in as they haven’t been through most of the rest of the films, and he’s also given some independence apart from his best buddy and captain, Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich). Ultimately, though, letting us see a bit more into Chewie’s furry head deosn’t really make him a fully rounded character. Instead it emphasizes that the script sees him, somewhat helplessly, as a pet.
And, over the years, many a Star Wars fan has mouthed a facsimile of: “It doesn’t matter who is in the suit…”
Not having seen the film as of yet, I can’t speak to his the Wookiee’s characterization in Solo, but the idea of Chewie as a pet seems counter to what Joonas Suotamo thinks, regarding how he plays the Falcon’s co-pilot:
My rule of playing Chewbacca: In order to play a character one has to embody the essence of the character, from the inner workings to the external behavior. Merely wearing the suit is not enough.
— Joonas Suotamo (@JoonasSuotamo) May 16, 2018
And, when he spoke to EW.com, Suotamo explained the training he received from the original Wookiee, Peter Mayhew:
We had a weeklong Wookiee boot camp where Peter taught me what he thought was very important for the character. That was so helpful, because we got to go over the flailing of the arms and the upright posture. The thing that stuck to me most was he told me to lead with the chest when walking. That was a very important thing for Peter. Because Chewbacca is a very proud creature.
Suotamo is very proud of his character, as well. But he has a sense of humor about the part, too; particularly as evidenced by this answer during a fan Q & A on Twitter.
— Star Wars (@starwars) May 12, 2018
The real-world hugging certainly serves to solidify the notion that Chewie serves mostly as a mascot. And, as Berlatsky explained, there’s not much — on the surface — done in the films to dispel that thought.
Chewie was in fact originally based on George Lucas’ beloved Alaskan malamute, and his main trait has always been loyalty. The first Star Wars film spends a good bit of time on the character arc of Han (then played by Harrison Ford), who goes from amoral rogue to courageous hero, in fine cowboy style. Chewie, Han’s copilot is along for the ride, but never has much in the way of input. When Han decides to abandon the rebels, Chewie goes with him. When Han decides to come back to rescue Luke, Chewie does that too. Sometimes he growls in dissent, but it’s always Han who makes the final decisions.
Hmmm. I am not sure I agree.
I, for one, always imagined Chewie to be more of a big brother or father-like figure; that if we could see the in-between moments of Star Wars, the Wookiee would be lecturing Han about his slipshod approach to loyalty.
Suotamo alluded to his character’s development during a recent interview on “The Star Wars Show”:
You had to ask yourself a lot of questions. How does this thing get its start. What are the relationships and the dynamics when [Han and Chewie] meet each other. What happens? … Chewie has always been a very task oriented character. He doesn’t carry any ego. He doesn’t let that define him, so he’s very loyal to his friends and that shows in his actions.
That said, and regardless of how we got there, I agree with Berlatsky’s assertion that Chewie deserves his own spinoff or show.
Simply put, there’s too much Chewbacca that remains untold…
“He’s [already] lived a life, but in the beginning of [Solo] Chewbacca has fallen on a rough patch,” said Suotamo to EW.com of the Wookiee’s place in the new movie. “We meet him in extreme circumstances.
“There are many more action-packed adventures for him to take on.”
And while we’re at it, could we please get Joonas Suotamo’s name on the posters? JB