I skipped SOLO in theatres, as I was not the least bit interested in seeing it, but I recently caught it at a friend’s place, who had bought the digital version of the film, so I am ending up reviewing it after all.
Right of the back, I want to mention that SOLO did not convince me to go see the next film in the series and so I will again be skipping whatever the next main line Star Wars film will be called in the end and will probably see it at some point after its Blu-ray release if any of my friends actually ends up buying it (because I know of one person, who is still interested in the franchise, as it stands).
Overall, SOLO is not a horrible film. It was relatively enjoyable, yet felt utterly bland and pointless. There were a few very sweet Han and Chewie scenes and the chemistry between Han and Q’ira was also very good. Alden Ehrenreich, to my surprise, performed Han Solo’s character very well. There were enough of Harrison Ford’s mannerisms to make the character feel believable, yet he put his own spin on the character, which also made sense, as this was supposed to be a far younger Han Solo. Woody Harrelson’s character, Beckett, was probably the most fun if a bit inconsistent as well. The soundtrack was also fantastic, with John William’s original theme setting the bar high for John Powell; but rest assured, he did not miss.
Unfortunately, these bits and pieces did not make up for all of the film’s flaws.
First of all, the film was incredibly dark; not story-wise, but in terms of its cinematography. Half the time, it was very difficult to see what was going on in that particular scene and the characters really just appeared as shadows. I know we are meant to be experiencing “the dark times” here, but I did not think it would be quite so literal.
Another flaw was the additional cast of characters. We are venturing into *SPOILER* territory now.
Much like Rogue One, we do not really get a lot of time to get to know any of the supporting characters, before they are killed. In fact, there is a lot of pointless death in this film that makes you ponder how it all fits into the comedic style of Lord and Miller (who got fired from the project and were replaced by Ron Howard, who re-shot half of the film at great expense). Beckett’s crew seems very professional and fun and they show what they can do, during their first heist, where they just waltz through the front lines of an imperial military campaign like it is nothing, just to complete a little heist. A few minutes later, they are all killed in an unspectacular fashion, because of a little hick-up in their plan. As is later revealed, they were murdered by members of the Rebel Alliance. Yet another example of why the Rebels suck in this new Disney era, first exemplified by Rogue One (I realise I never reviewed Rogue One, so I will deal with that one soon). SOLO and Rogue One give me the impression that it is Disney’s goal to tarnish the Original Trilogy and make it appear as if the Rebels were all a bunch of bloodthirsty terrorists and Kylo Ren was right in realising this sooner rather than later and joining the fascist First Order. I mean, what is our message here?
Lando doesn’t get to do very much in this film at all, except betraying Han and swindling him, which only makes it odder that Han would count on Lando’s help in Empire Strikes Back, as it should have been clear to him that he would betray him. The last scene also sees Han utterly humiliate Lando, by exposing his cheating and beating him fair and square, winning the Millenium Falcon. It was a pointless twist to have him lose to Lando the first time around, due to cheating and technically that also meant that Han still owes Lando a ship even if he did cheat to win. In any case, I do not see why Han would consider Lando a friend. The relationship seems very one-sided, with Han risking his life to save Lando’s disabled droid, while Lando keeps telling him that he hates him and abandons him in his moment of need. Also, wouldn’t Lando hold a grudge against Han for not only taking his ship, but also L3’s mind, who is stuck in the Falcon’s computer?
Lando’s droid is a whole other story. L3 is simply the worst. We first get introduced to “her” when she is trying to stop a pit fight between two droids (basically Robot Wars, but somehow less exciting, because Star Wars) and is appealing to their senses of identity and free will. Basically, the entire time, she is advocating for droid rights and for droids to be treated equally to living beings. Meanwhile, every other character can’t take her seriously and even she is surprised when her droid revolt works on Kessel. Does this mean Disney is now ridiculing social justice warriors or are they just to blind to see how ridiculous it all has become? It seems to me, they are expert at setting up things and then turning around and flipping the finger to whatever their core audience of the day is.
Last, but not least, Han and Chewie really do not get to do much at all. They are kind of there, but are mostly just along for the ride and reacting to things that other people throw at them. My biggest criticism here is not only the lack of agency that Han exhibits (much like Jyn Erso; now wouldn’t that be a great team-up?), but also his lack of character development. This film basically changes Han into the ultimate good guy. Yes, he shoots first, that is firmly established in the film, with Beckett even saying with his last breath: “It’s a good thing you shot first, while I was talking, otherwise I would have killed you.” Other than that, the film is all about how Han got everything he had in A New Hope (and those stupid dice from The Last Jedi get featured a lot, because of course they have to…). We get to see that he got his famous DL-44 blaster from Beckett and that he wins his ship from Lando in a game of Sabbacc. He also learned to fly in the Imperial Academy, although that bit was cut out of the film, so it is only mentioned in passing. He meets Chewbacca and reveals he speaks his language (which was a super cringe-worthy moment in the film) and then proceeds to explain to the audience he will call him Chewie, because Chewbacca is too long of a name and he does not feel like spelling it out every single time. Really? Was that necessary? Worst of all, Han apparently was only known as Han, despite knowing his father (who worked at a Corellian shipping yard, building YT-1300 freighters, like the Falcon). So the Empire gives him his last name Solo, because he is all on his own… That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard and really unnecessary and inconsistent. One also wonders, why Han kept using that name after the fact, especially since he never really was solo, he was with Chewie his entire life, not to mention a string of girlfriends and later his wife Leia. The film unfortunately has a lot of these inconsistencies, like for example the fact that Beckett loves his partner and trusts her implicitly, but also tells Han not to trust anyone and walks away from her grave without so much as blinking, yet taking the time to actually find his fallen comrades’ corpses and bury them atop a snowy mountain, while Han and Chewie apparently have an impromptu snowball fight (which was cut for good reasons…)
But Han’s character was butchered even more. In A New Hope, we meet Han as a sly, shoot-first ask questions later, type of suave smuggler and swindler, who only cares about himself, his money and his dog/Wookiee. His heart is only warmed by his encounter with the Skywalker twins and thus his character develops. After that, his character arc is finished and there is not much else for him to do. He rises from smuggler to rebel general and becomes the responsible hero. THE END. Not according to SOLO though. SOLO paints Han as that very same character already. Basically, Han is a teen or tween from the streets with a heart of gold. His entire reason for escaping from a life of crime is to fly away with his girlfriend Q’ira. After he has to leave her behind, he spends three years in the Imperial Academy, learning the ropes in the hopes of getting a ship and flying back to Corellia, so he can free her and fulfill their dreams. When he finally meets her again and realises she has already freed herself (albeit likely by going down a very dark path), he is ecstatic and instantly just wants to get back to where they left off three years ago. He doesn’t care about any of her dark deeds and is just too in love with her to see who she has become. Han then goes on to play fair and square at Sabbacc and lose, he selflessly risks his life for Lando and his droid and generally tries to be nice to everyone and help whomever he can. In the end, when he finds out the marauders are part of the Rebel Alliance, he actually teams up with them and helps them out. They of course try to recruit him and tell him he was meant for more (stupid unnecessary foreshadowing… Do you really think anyone who is watching this has never seen Star Wars before?). Of course he refuses, saying it is not his fight, although undoubtedly he just demonstrated it was and then he lets shine through that he may join the fight eventually anyways, rendering his decision to come back in A New Hope rather meaningless. His only character arc in this film is him learning to shoot first and not signing up for causes right away. At the same time, he still only ends up being a pawn in Q’ira’s plan to supplant her commander Dryden Voss and ascend through the ranks of the Crimson Dawn. Here is where it gets especially tricky for me consistency-wise.
Han and Chewie make off for Mos Eisley to work for Jabba the Hutt, meaning the film takes place very shortly before A New Hope, though not quite as close as Rogue One. Meanwhile, Q’ira contacts her new master, the artist formerly known as Darth Maul, who has to showcase his red lightsaber via hologram (wasn’t it supposed to only be blue???) so the last person in the audience understands who he is, even though he had been killed in A Phantom Menace. But in The Clone Wars he returned, only to later be killed again by Obi-Wan Kenobi in Rebels. And this is where the timeline starts to make no sense to me. Ben Kenobi killed Maul, when Luke was still a kid. We could see a short kid like silhouette in the distance in the Rebels episode Twin Suns, reacting to the name Luke. But in this film, Han is all grown-up and about to go to Tatooine. Either Han basically spent his entire life after this film working for Jabba on Tatooine until he encountered Ben and Luke in A New Hope, or there is some serious problem with Maul still being alive at the time of this film. The only possibility I see is that this plays shortly before Rebels Season 2, in which we first encounter an old Maul, stranded on Malachor (though I have no idea how he got there). However he looks much younger in SOLO than that, which means it is more likely that Han and Chewie really did not have any particularly interesting adventures between this film and A New Hope. All Han managed to do in that time is to let Lando’s shiny Millenium Falcon turn into an ill-maintained rust bucket. That part also makes little sense, as we saw the Falcon, or at least another YT-1300 freighter that was modified exactly like the Falcon in Revenge of the Sith, meaning these ships would all be quite old by the time SOLO takes place and replaced by the YT-2400, we know from the old Expanded Universe.
This essentially means Han’s story is only the parts we already saw on screen. There is no more mystery to the character, no hidden adventures or stories to be imagined, just a guy who did the Kessel run in under twelve parsecs, hung out with Jabba for a couple of years, before he ran into the Skywalkers, got into way over his head and ended up joining a galactic civil war, because of a girl and his innate sense of what is right, only to end up frozen in carbonite and eventually divorced and pierced through the heart by his crazy son’s lightsaber on a remote freezing death star planet. THE END.
Now is that not a fun story and character arc?