Solo: A Star Wars Story

It seems like no one loves this movie. And no one hates it. In fact, I can’t even seem to find any consistency on what people love and hate about it. Simply talking to my brother, the things he found annoying and the things I found annoying were almost completely disjoint sets.


But let’s break this down. Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is a street urchin in the misbegotten neighborhoods of Corellia, a ship-building world that’s mostly controlled by the Empire. His girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) and he have a plan to get off this planet and build a new life for themselves. That doesn’t work and everything Han does from that point seems to be in service of getting back together with Qi’ra.

There are some odd tangents, but the meat of the story is a series of heists to get some sort of magic fuel for a gang leader, Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). Coming along for the ride are a cape-wearing card hussler (Donald Glover), a cheeky robot (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), a world-weary smuggler (Woody Harrelson) and his wife (Thandie Newton). Also, some aliens.

There are a few laughs, and some exciting sequences, but I left the theatre feeling like I hadn’t really seen anything. I liked the characters in theory, and I thought the story was okay, but the whole was definitely less than the sum of it’s mildly disjointed parts.

That’s my “if this wasn’t a Star Wars movie” review.

To to the “this is a Star Wars movie” side of the review justice, I’ll have to veer into what could be considered spoiler territory. Now I know everyone who is a Star Wars fan has long since made up their mind if they’re going to see this. Nothing I say will change anyone’s mind. But if you’re just a casual movie-goer, you might enjoy the spectacle, or you might find it all kind of pointless.

On to the spoilers…

The things I liked about the film were some of the bits that fleshed out aspects of the things we’ve already seen. I liked the fact that Han’s on-the-nose last name isn’t a coincidence. I liked the fact that Han’s friendship with Chewbacca was forged in a life-or-death — and yet still hilarious — situation. I liked Qi’ra’s line: “That is a lot of capes.” These feel like pretty much organic explorations of Han’s backstory.

What I found more trying were the lengths they went to “correct” the flaws in the original films. The explanation for why Billy Dee Williams didn’t pronounce Han’s name correctly was a little too cute. The origin of Han’s desire to “shoot first” is pure fan-boy service. And I suppose it was inevitable that they were going to retcon the “12 parsecs” line from A New Hope by making clear that Han’s achievement in the Kessel Run was a short cut, and had nothing to do with time.

(Side note: I understand that in the original screen play for Star Wars, the line was meant to be gibberish from an overeager Han, and Obi-Wan was supposed to respond to it as such. Which would have been such a better result over all.)

The film was filled with these little tidbits, most of which I didn’t care about one way or another. What did Chewbacca do the first time he played that little hologram board game? Where did Han get his blaster? What were Lando’s thoughts on mining colonies before he managed Bespin? Who first suggested the Han take a job with Jabba the Hutt?

Some of the fan service I liked. Some I didn’t. But I could forgive it all if the story was more interesting. The war sequence when Han was actually in the Empire were rushed and pointless. The heists weren’t sufficiently heisty. And the final confrontation had way too many reversals.

Let’s look at Qi’ra. To the uninitiated, she’s a romantic interest for Han. But we know he’ll have forgotten about her by the time he meets Obi-Wan and Luke on Tatooine. Which means she’s certain to die a heroically redemptive death at the end of the next film. (Assuming of course there is a next film.)

The only backstory piece that I found intriguing and unexpected was the fate of L3-37. She dies to save her fellow droids, but then her brain is downloaded into the Millenium Falcon. This makes for some interesting reinterpretation of the previous films. At least once, the Falcon deployed it’s gun to shoot stormtroopers when it was not clear anyone had told it too. On more than one occasion, the ship wouldn’t work and responded to an admonishing blow. Were these moments of seeming “life” from the Falcon manifestations of L3-37’s latent personality? Maybe. That alone makes me want to revisit the original trilogy.

I’ll finish by slotting Solo into my ranking of the extant Star Wars films. (Minus the animated one, which I never saw.)

  1. The Force Awakens
  2. A New Hope
  3. Attack of the Clones
  4. Return of the Jedi/The Empire Strikes Back (tie)
  5. The Last Jedi
  6. Solo
  7. Rogue One
  8. The Phantom Menace
  9. Revenge of the Sith

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