The second installment of the non-chaptered, stand-alone Star Wars “stories” has been released. Like with Rogue One, my expectations for Solo: A Star Wars Story was different than what I expect from the actual chaptered Star Wars saga films. By different, I also seem to mean somewhat lower. Rogue One was marketed as a heist movie set in the Star Wars universe and that was what I expected to see. I also did not want to see any lightsabers or Force users with the possible exception of Darth Vader. Rogue One mostly met those expectations and Darth Vader certainly delivered. With Solo, my expectations were strangely identical. I wanted a fun heist film with no lightsabers or Force users. Did I get that? Well, be warned, SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!
Let me repeat this because it bears repeating. Spoilers ahead! If you don’t want me to ruin the one real surprise in the film, do not read any more.
Okay, you have been warned!
I wanted a fun heist film with no lightsabers or Force users with the possible exception of maybe Darth Vader. Did I get that? No, Solo: A Star War Story did not meet that pretty low expectation. It almost did. It very nearly did. I was enjoying this movie as a very fun heist film set in the Star Wars universe with some great twists on famous Star Wars lines when the rumored cameo appeared and just took me completely out of the film. How the fuck did Darth Maul get in this film? The dude was sliced in half and fell into a bottomless pit by Obi Wan decades earlier. Being sliced in half is the universal sign that a character is dead. With the possible exceptions of Deadpool, Wolverine, or the Highlander, one just does not survive being sliced in half and thrown down a bottomless pit. This would be like bringing back Uncle Owen and having him walk up to Rey on Jakku in The Force Awakens. Who cares if we saw Uncle Owen burned to the literal bone in A New Hope, fans liked Owen so maybe we should bring him back to life. Honestly, this just ruined the whole movie for me.
Now, I get that the Clone Wars cartoon had Maul rescued by his brother or something in season four episode whatever, but that’s a cartoon. In cartoons, they can get away with things that live action feature films can’t. A cool character died in a film and you want to bring that character back in a cartoon, that’s fine. But bring that character back in a feature film after said character was sliced in half and fell into a bottomless pit and it just doesn’t work. It takes us out of the film and takes away all the stakes. From here on in, no one stays dead in Star Wars. Han is flying through an asteroid belt, who cares? If he dies, there will be some ridiculous way to bring him back. No stakes, now anyone can come back to life no matter how horrible their death was or how ridiculous it would have to be to bring them back. Solo: A Star Wars Story was a live action film, not a cartoon… at least it wasn’t supposed to be a cartoon.
Okay, that was only like thirty seconds of the movie. So what about the rest of the film? I liked how we start with Han on Corellia working small scams badly. I liked how he is forced into service to the Empire for three years. That is a pretty long time for someone who really couldn’t care less about what is going on in the galaxy though. I didn’t really understand why he stayed as long as he did. I thought he just wanted to get off of Corellia. Plus, it doesn’t seem like he actually learned anything from his three years of service. When we see him deserting, he is essentially the same character he was when he entered.
Meeting “Captain” Beckett and his crew: Even though his crew die fairly quickly, we get the feeling that they have been together awhile and so their deaths have genuine meaning to us as an audience. Rio Durant, for example, is a fun character who I instantly fell in love with. His death, while necessary, was also sad — Such a great character. However, he reminded me a lot of the character of Gune from the animated film, Titan E.A. Come to think of it, Beckett reminded me of Captain Korso from the same film.
Val was to Beckett what Qi’ra could have been to Han. We got the sense that Val and Beckett had been together for a while and for her to sacrifice herself for a large heist seemed strange at first until Beckett revealed that this heist was their way out. Val wasn’t sacrificing herself for the money, but rather for Beckett’s freedom. When Han drops the shipment (a nice foreshadowing to Han dropping Jabba’s shipment year later), Beckett isn’t furious because of losing “the big score,” but rather because it means that the death of his love was in vain and that he was still indebted to Dryden Vos.
With no mention of the rumored, Wookie “life debt,” we get the pairing of our two heroes. While that is certainly a break from what Star Wars fans had been told all our lives, it was never actually stated in any of the films and frankly, I think it was a good move. I like that Chewie is paired with Han out of genuine friendship and not due to some sacred Wookie oath. While it is true that without Han, Chewie might still be “the beast” in the imperial pit, that doesn’t necessarily mean than Han saved him. More accurately, they saved each other as they will end up doing time and again from this point forward throughout their lives.
I love Beckett. He is a great mentor for Han. Someone who sometimes has a good heart, but sometimes just wants to get paid. Beckett brought Han and Chewie onboard when he didn’t have to. Sure there are rationalizations for doing so, but the bottom line is that he did it because he liked them. He saw something of himself in Han. It reminded me of the beginning of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, when we saw young Indy (also a younger version of a character principally played by Harrison Ford), mentored by another treasure hunter. Just as that treasure hunter gave Indy his signature hat, Beckett gave Han his signature blaster.
Enter Lando Calrissian. That old smoothie is doing what he does best. He is cheating at cards and being flamboyant. I love how he pronounces the long “a” in Han and how Han corrects him, but that his correction never takes. It addressed the age old question no one cared to ask, why does Lando pronounce Han’s name wrong in Empire Strikes Back? There is also a mention of Lando not liking mining colonies that I found amusing considering that Cloud City is mining colony. Still, the line seemed a little forced, but I guess I will give it to them anyway.
Of course at one point Lando comments that he hates Han, to which Han responds with his now famous line, “I know.” This is an interesting reversal of the iconic dialog… as is Han’s comment that he has a “good feeling about this.”
I was not particularly a fan of Lando’s droid, but not for the reasons some many conservative snowflakes were. I couldn’t care less about L3-37’s activism. I didn’t really see anything in Lando’s ESB character that would lead me to believe he was a droid-lover… if you know what I mean. Sure he had Lobot, who was somewhat droid-like, but that isn’t nearly the same thing. I think Lando would have been a lot more into the idea of joining the Rebel Alliance in ESB, if he had suffered the loss of an activist droid. That part just didn’t work for me. It just isn’t in his character. It also seemed like the writers were trying to hard to give the droid a memorable personality even though that personality just didn’t fit with what the droid was doing.
I liked Qi’ra, for the most part. We are lead to believe she had to do some pretty disturbing shit to get off of Corellia and let’s be honest, fucking Dryden Vos was probably among them – which is why I was somewhat surprised he would order her on a probable suicide mission with her former love interest. Maybe he thought she was already plotting to kill him or something, but there was no hint at that and it just seemed strange.
As for the Falcon, I don’t understand how Han will be able to afford all those “special modifications” and yet never replace the escape pod, which seems to be the main thing that separates the look of this Falcon from the one we all know and love from the Saga. This just seemed like an excuse to make a new toy. This Falcon is the same Falcon all the kids love, but it’s different so you have to buy this one.
Also missing from this film is the famed Battle of Taanab. We are told in ROTJ, that Lando made some sort of awesome maneuver at this battle and yet we are led to believe that after this film, Han and Lando never really see each other again until ESB. I could be wrong about that. Who knows, maybe they will have years of adventuring and all that time, Lando keeps his anger and frustration about losing his sex robot and ship in check. But I kind of don’t think so.
Despite these mostly nitpiks, I movie was mostly fun. Although, it checked all the boxes in a predictable way, Han the scoundrel, Han leaves Corellia, Han joins the Empire, Han meets Chewy, Han meets Lando, Kessel Run, etc. There were not a whole lot of surprises in this movie. But that aside, it was a fun heist movie with no lightsabers or Force users… except of course, Darth Maul. Again, this really ruined the whole thing for me. There was no reason for this scene to be in the movie. None! I get that the crime syndicate is called Crimson whatever, but really? Darth Maul? They could have had the Emperor or Vader or create a new character entirely. In fact, I heard that “the boss” was left ambiguous until last minute and that Maul was Ron Howard’s son’s pick from a list of possible candidates.
When I had heard they were going to have a cameo of an existing character, I had just assumed it would have been Maz Kanata or old Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Jabba the Hut would have made sense and they even alluded to him toward the end. For the record, we already know that Darth Vader isn’t above hiring bounty hunters, so having him on that holo-image would have made sense.
One more thing that I should call attention to. Enfys Nest commented that the money from the heist would go towards starting the Rebellion. Hello? The Rebellion had already been around for a while. Sure, they didn’t have Luke Skywalker blowing up Death Stars yet, but they were already quite organized. Maybe Enfys should have said that the money would help to fund the Rebellion instead of “starting” it. There were just some weird choices here.
With that said, the movie struck a good balance between humor & seriousness and between mirroring & ‘membering. Like with Rogue One, here was a movie that pretty much told us what we pretty much already knew, but with some added characters and backstory that we didn’t really need. Over all, I think I will give these “Star Wars Stories” a score of 0 for 2. Neither Solo nor Rogue One have impressed me. If it weren’t for how awesome The Last Jedi was, I would say that Disney can’t do Star Wars right. But that film was the greatest film ever!
Check out my reviews of these other Star Wars stories and films:
Rogue One: A Jedi’s Review
The Last Jedi Burns The Sacred Texts of Star Wars: An Analysis
Analysis: The Force Awakens
Oh, I also interviewed the founder of the Church of Jediism:
The Force as Religion: PW Talks to Jediist Daniel Jones
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