WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story, in theaters now.
As many fans expected when Disney and Lucasfilm announced the Han Solo origin movie, Solo: A Star Wars Story is all about space heists. These criminal activities are, after all, what shaped Han into the swindler, smuggler and overall enemy of the Empire we first came to know in 1977's A New Hope.
Coincidentally, as Ron Howard's movie details a series of Han's early exploits, the film's biggest heist, which eventually provides Han a career-defining moment, is actually put into play by a scheme lifted straight from two films in the original Star Wars trilogy -- one that involves using everyone's favorite Wookiee, Chewbacca, as a prisoner.
The first time audiences saw this plan enacted was in A New Hope, when the Millennium Falcon was captured by the Death Star after finding Alderaan destroyed. As Obi-Wan Kenobi went off to disable the tractor beam holding their ship, Luke Skywalker (acting on crucial information from R2-D2) realized Princess Leia was imprisoned on the satellite, and then concocted a plan with him and Han disguised as Stormtroopers. They navigated the Death Star, faking the transfer of Chewie as their prisoner to the holding cells near Leia. They did free her, sadly losing Obi-Wan along the way, but eventually, they made it back to the Rebel Alliance at Yavin IV.
Years later, a more experienced Luke repeated this plan, this time to rescue Han from Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi. After Han was frozen in carbonite at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Luke had Leia infiltrate Jabba's palace on Tatooine (disguised as Boushh, a dead bounty hunter) with, you guessed it, Chewbacca as her prisoner; as Jabba had a bounty out on both him and Han. The rescue mission didn't go quite as planned, but thanks to the heroics of Luke, now a Jedi Master, the heroes achieved victory in the sand dunes of Tattooine.
Clearly, using Chewie as a trojan Wookiee works, and Solo shows a young Han and his partner employ this deception for the first time in its biggest heist; stealing coaxium (a highly sought-after fuel source) from the heavily-guarded Kessel mines.
Here, Qi'ra (similar to Leia's role in Return of the Jedi) pretends to be a prison warden, and brings in Chewbacca to the Kessel internment block. But this time, Han's included as a prisoner as well, because for this particular mission to be successful, they'll need all hands on deck. The Kessel transfer officers buy into the duplicity, and as the duo are taken to their cells, Lando's companion droid, L3-37, hacks the compound's mainframe (similar to R2-D2 and C-3PO on the Death Star in A New Hope).
She acts as the brain of the operation, with Han and Chewie breaking free of their shackles and acting as the muscle, loading up the coaxium to be stolen. In the midst of all this, L3-37 -- a strong-willed, political activist -- initiates a massive prison break, which ironically turns out to be a welcomed distraction. Sadly, in their escape, she'd die too, a la Obi-Wan on the Death Star, as our heroes subsequently make the famous Kessel Run.
So, it's three for three when it comes to heroes in the Star Wars universe deceiving their opponents by using Chewie as misdirection. With the plan being so successful in Solo though, it makes you wonder why Han wasn't the one to come up with it years later when he met Luke in A New Hope.
In theaters now, director Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story stars Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra, and Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca. They’re joined by Thandie Newton as Val, Phoebe Waller-Bridge L3-37, Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos, and Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett.