WARNING: This post contains major spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story. Proceed with caution.
If you saw Solo: A Star Wars Story on its opening night, you — like me — were probably taken aback when one unexpected character hit the screen. No, not Clint Howard, I’m talking about Maul (AKA Darth Maul). Like with everything else these days, I have to assume there were some rumors about this appearance but I sure didn’t see any (I think more fans were expecting Obi-Wan instead). It would also seem I wasn’t alone in my ignorance as someone in my preview screening actually yelled “WHAT?!” after Maul’s scene.
But enough about the big surprise itself — what does it mean? The obvious answer would seem to be future spin-offs, although it’s not clear exactly what kinds of spin-offs. Does Maul’s appearance suggest a straight Solo sequel? An origin story of his own? Or perhaps even a Qi’ra headlined film? Going back to the Obi-Wan theory, perhaps Maul will play a role in that project? In any case, this reveal and tease for the future reminded me of some other massive, can’t-miss franchise: Marvel.
While Marvel is famous for planting these easter eggs in their after credits scenes, it seems to be that Star Wars did about the same thing — just a few minutes before the credits rolled. In fact, had this been a Marvel film, it’s easy to imagine how the scene after Dryden’s death could have been trimmed to save Qi’ra’s call to the Sith Lord for a post-credits surprise. Of course, had Star Wars gone that route, I suspect fans would have been up in arms about the saga “copying” Marvel (who by absolutely no means invented the post-credit scenes, FWIW). However, in this case, Solo seemed to navigate the middle ground — kind of in the same way it avoided the “should spin-offs have opening crawls?” debate by towing the line.
Another interesting thing to note about Star Wars’ Marvel-esque reveal is the connection one could make to another surprise found in Avengers: Infinity War. Take a villous, red-faced character many presumed to be dead, put him in a hood, and watch fans flip out as he shows said red face to the world. Come to think of it, both Red Skull and Maul also appear in what is chronologically the first entry in their franchises (Captain America: The First Avenger and The Phantom Menace, respectively). Clearly I’m kidding with this one, but it is somewhat ironic.
When you get down to it, there are a lot of question to be asked about Maul’s presence in Solo. Namely, I’ll need people smarter and more well-versed in the timeline (or intergalactic medical technology perhaps) to now explain to me where this scene takes place in relation to Anakin’s story. Additionally, fans of Star Wars Rebels must be wondering about that show’s impact on canon given Maul’s fate on the program. To that point, it did seem like Maul’s infamously awesome double lightsaber in Solo seem to bear more of a resemblance to the one he wielded on Rebels than in The Phantom Menace.
Those important questions aside, I just have to wonder if Star Wars — which is already a cinematic universe of its own — is dipping its toe into the Marvel model and whether we’ll see more large arcing crossovers in their future spinoff features. Even with a long list of films, television shows, and more already in the works at Lucasfilm, it seems it may be a small galaxy after all.