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Do We Really Need Another ‘Star Wars’ Movie About the Death Star? (Commentary)

Director Ron Howard teases a photo from the ”Star Wars“ Han Solo movie that looks Death Star-like — maybe they should start calling it ”Death Star Wars“

It looks like yet another “Star Wars” movie is going to feature the Death Star. That’s starting to seem like the only “Star Wars” idea anyone has.

Director Ron Howard, who took the helm of the upcoming Han Solo spin-off film from Phil Lord and Chris Miller back in June, teased fans with a “Star Wars”-y image from the film today on his Twitter account. Fans will recognize the elements — there’s an Imperial control console and one of those long, shiny, beetle-like black Imperial helmets.

It’s hard to say for sure because the galaxy far, far away is a big place and the Empire did a lot of things at scale, but the implication a lot of people are reading into the shot is that it’s teasing the Death Star’s appearance in the untitled Han Solo movie.

People are guessing Death Star for two reasons: First, the control console shown in the picture is nearly identical to the one seen in “A New Hope,” when Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) head to the detention level to rescue Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). We’ve only seen that particular kind of console in two places: The Death Star itself, and the facility that housed the Death Star plans on Scarif in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

Next, the black helmet is one worn by Imperial Naval troopers — basically, soldiers who go around on Imperial starships but who are not Stormtroopers. Wookieepedia, the wiki for all things “Star Wars,” cites those black helmets as first appearing on fleet troopers who served in the Death Star.

It’s true that we don’t know for sure Howard’s image teases a return to the Death Star. Most Imperial stuff in “Star Wars” looks more or less the same, so this could potentially be a Star Destroyer, a shipping yard, or any number of other vehicles or space-places that a galactic government would need to govern galactically. But as far as fans are concerned, the place they’ve seen this stuff before is the Death Star. And that’s a place we’ve been again and again.

The Original Death Star has already been the primary threat in two Star Wars Films (“A New Hope,” and “Rogue One”) and it made what amounts to a foreshadowing cameo appearance in two others (“Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith”). And a Death Star has threatened the galaxy still two more films — the second Death Star in “Return of the Jedi,” and the even-scarier-Death Star from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” called Starkiller Base.

Apparently the Empire only ever had one big idea, and everyone in the galaxy was involved in it in some way. And here it is again, in yet another movie, bringing the number of movies in the franchise to feature at least an appearance of a Death Star or Death Star-like evil space base to Eight. Out of 10. The only two that were Death Star-free are “The Phantom Menace” and “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Aren’t there any other ideas for “Star Wars” to explore than this one brand of superweapon?

The main trouble with the continued expansion of “Star Wars,” and of the prequel trilogy that creator George Lucas added before he sold the rights to Disney, is that the more that’s added to the “official” “Star Wars” story, the more its galaxy contracts rather than expands. Yoda was friends with Chewbacca. R2-D2 belonged to Padme Amidala. Anakin Skywalker constructed C-3PO. Han Solo’s son is Kylo Ren. The more time goes on, the less the galaxy of “Star Wars” feels like an actual galaxy. It’s more of a single family that keep screwing up and getting a lot of people killed, with a bunch of nobodies sitting around on boring planets in the background, gathering scrap metal or farming moisture.

And now it appears even Han Solo’s mysterious backstory is getting the same treatment.

That wasn’t always the case. Han’s life before he walked into the Mos Eisley cantina in “A New Hope” was somewhat fleshed out in the old “Star Wars” Expanded Universe that was relegated to the non-canonical “Legends” moniker after Disney bought Lucasfilm. He originally intended to become an Imperial pilot. He even attended the Imperial Academy (the same place Luke was dying to go before Stormtroopers incinerated his parental guardians). But Han went AWOL after saving Chewbacca from slavery (which is how they became best friends), and they ended up eking out a living as interstellar smugglers.

‘Han Solo’ is expected to develop the new official backstory, and it’s not much of a stretch to think Han’s Imperial service history might be tweaked slightly, to put him on the early construction of the non-moon space station.

But there’s so much more that could be explored in “Star Wars” other than “the Death Star again.” Wasn’t the entire Galactic Empire doing anything other than designing and building this one overwrought resource-sink of a space station? Was there anywhere the Empire actually ran a decent, non-completely evil government? What is life like for a regular Imperial citizen? What was the attraction to joining the Imperial service?

With a new “Star Wars” movie coming every year, there’s plenty of ability for Disney to start opening up the universe of “Star Wars,” rather than further contracting it. If Lucasfilm isn’t ready to start telling stories of people who aren’t Skywalker and Pals (or Skywalker and Pals-adjacent, like in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”), it could at least start giving the “Star Wars” universe additional stakes and more flavor. We know how that whole Death Star thing shakes out. Let’s see what else the Empire might have gotten up to, and something else that could make the galaxy quake in terror.