Han Solo was almost reintroduced in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in a much different way, with the space pirate drunk at the cantina. This was one of the ideas that Lucasfilm had while working on the first movie from the latest trilogy and concept artist Christian Alzmann has shared an image of what that could have looked like. Solo was first introduced in the iconic cantina scene from A New Hope, which would have been a cool callback, but J.J. Abrams might've figured that it would have been a little over the top.
In Christian Alzmann's The Force Awakens concept art, Han Solo can be seen sitting at the cantina with a few aliens who have allegedly had too much to drink. Their table is littered with glasses and Solo is the only one sitting upright as the two aliens are clearly passed out. Strangely, there's no sign of Chewbacca, but he could be off somewhere, possibly buying another round or flirting with the locals. While sitting at a cantina looks like fun, Solo does look a little rough around the edges, which is similar to how he was introduced in The Force Awakens.
In the final version of The Force Awakens, Rey and Finn meet up with Han Solo and Chewbacca after they escape Jakku in the Millennium Falcon. Han and Chewie have a tracking device set up on the iconic ship and are easily able to capture it back. Much like how a cantina scene would have introduced the character, the movie went out of its way to note that the duo had been down on their luck in the years after Return of the Jedi. Han and Chewie were on the run yet again when Rey and Finn first meet them.
While we know how Han Solo was going to be introduced in a few different ways, it appears that his exit from the Star Wars franchise was always going to be the same. Harrison Ford has long talked about his displeasure about working on the past installments, but has somewhat come around over the past few years, even going as far as to help out Alden Ehrenreich with Solo: A Star Wars Story. J.J. Abrams has said in the past that the decision to kill off Solo was what gave the movie its guts.
The Force Awakens did surprise a lot of people when Kylo Ren killed his father. The decision, like any decisions made in the Star Wars universe, is still argued about now, nearly four years after the fact. However, Harrison Ford was excited about the idea as a way to finally add closure and it's a fate that he had wanted since Return of the Jedi. But, one has to wonder which introduction he might have preferred. Would the cantina scene have been Ford's choice? Maybe someday we'll get to ask him. Until then, you can check out The Force Awakens concept art below, thanks to Christian Alzmann's Instagram account.