When it comes to telling the story of how Han Solo became Han Solo, there are some marks Solo: A Star Wars Story is expected to hit. He and Chewie will have to meet and team up. Han will have to meet Lando and win a Corellian YT-1300f light freighter in a game of Sabacc. At some point, the Kessel Run will be made in under 12 parsecs. And Han Solo's gold dice will have to hang from the Millennium Falcon ceiling. But what's the significance of Han Solo's dice? Where do they come from, and what's the big deal?
The dice were originally not a big deal on the set of Star Wars. They were an extra piece of set dressing, thrown in by set decorator Roger Christian. Christian wrote about the process of designing Star Wars in his autobiography, Cinema Alchemist: Designing Star Wars and Alien and explained the inspiration behind them. George Lucas' previous film had been American Graffiti, a film which was basically the Dazed & Confused of its day, all about teenagers and the car culture of the 1960s. Harrison Ford (and Ron Howard) both starred in it, and one can draw a direct line from Ford's drag racing character Bob Falfa to Han Solo.
Falfa had a skull and crossbones which hung from the rear-view mirror of his souped-up 1955 black Chevrolet 150, and Christian was inspired to do the same in the Falcon. But a skull was deemed "too rock and roll," so they went with a play on fuzzy dice, with little gold dice.
Fans think the dice are going to be a staple of Solo, as they are clearly hanging from Bob Falfa's, I mean Han Solos' souped-up Corellia version of a Chevy. But at least here, they make sense. They stand out as set dressing, and they do what they are supposed to, which is recall the drag racing car culture of Lucas' youth.
On the Falcon, you hardly even notice them. Seriously, check out the picture below, and see if you see them. (If you're having a hard time, they're hanging directly between Luke and Obi-Wan's head, above a foot above them.
That's the thing about the dice: They weren't very noticeable, which is why no one should be surprised when the Star Wars sequel arrived, Empire Strikes Back, the dice had been totally forgotten about by the new set decorator. They weren't in Return of the Jedi either. The dice were a footnote, lost to history.
That is, until Star Wars: The Last Jedi came along.
Han's death at the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a big deal, especially because Harrison Ford was not coming back in any fashion, not as a Force Ghost or anything. Director Rian Johnson decided the film needed some sort of shorthand symbol for him, it would help represent Luke and Leia's grief, as well as their letting go. He went with the dice.
In The Last Jedi, the dice take on this oversized importance, as the representation of Han, with characters handing them off to each other, from Rey to Luke, Luke to Leia, who then leaves them behind for Kylo to see.
That The Last Jedi just so happened to be the film which arrived right before the Solo film is a coincidence. Johnson didn't build the dice up so Howard could grab the baton and run with it. But Howard was in American Graffiti. He, perhaps better than anyone, understands why the dice were used in the first place by Christian back in 1977. So there's a pretty good chance Howard will use them to the utmost here too.
Solo: A Star Wars Story opens in theaters on Friday, May 25, 2018.