Movies

Movie review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

There’s been a lot of dubious buzz over the last several months about Solo: A Star Wars Story. A lot of folks have been concerned about the change in directors, and about whether the movie would deliver a cohesive story. It’s only been out a week, and there’s buzz now about OHNOEZ DID IT FLOP, apparently because it hasn’t made quite as gigantic a pile of money as The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have done.

With all this negative buzz going around, you could easily conclude that the movie sucks. I am delighted to report, Internets, that this is not the case.

As y’all know I’m a lifelong fangirl for Harrison Ford in general, and for Han Solo in particular. So I was absolutely expecting to come into this movie all Judgy McJudgypants. Because of my Ford fangirldom, but also because of my longstanding love of the Han Solo backstory novels by Brian Daley and A.C. Crispin. The Crispins in particular are near and dear to my heart, as I relied upon them heavily for inspiration when playing Han on Star Wars MUSH back in the day.

Happily, while this movie’s story is of course different in the minor details (while getting the major ones generally right), its spirit felt entirely like those novels. It was just generally fun in a way we don’t usually get with Star Wars flicks. By which I mean, we’re not dealing with galaxy-shaking stakes here. This is an origin story, a heist-flick-in-space, with the Empire only a background presence rather than the main point.

And while Alden Ehrenreich isn’t Harrison Ford, I am now happy to accept his take on Han. Also, Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian is absolutely glorious, and so is the droid L3.

All in all, if you’re a Star Wars fan–and especially if you’re a Han fan–go see it!

Now let’s have a swing past the Spoiler Mines of Kessel, shall we?

The few things I didn’t like

I’m a little torqued that they killed off Thandie Newton’s character Val so fast, though at least she wasn’t technically fridged, so yay for that I guess? I was also slightly disappointed that she didn’t show up later as part of a massive doublecross.

I was also slightly disappointed at the distinct lack of detail about what exactly Qi’ra did that was so awful. Her dialogue in that scene with Han in Lando’s cape closet (hee hee, more on this below) certainly shows that she believes Han will stop being so open and loving with her if he knows what she did. So now I’m all “oookay honey how many younglings did you kill?”

Likewise, we’re told that Dryden Vos rescued Qi’ra from “a dangerous situation”, without any particulars on exactly what that situation was. I mean, aside from the whole “orphan trying to escape from the clutches of Lady Proxima, and then getting intercepted in the starport trying to get out without an ID chip” thing. Because yeah, Qi’ra’s entire existence on Corellia appeared to be a dangerous situation, which was the whole point of her and Han wanting to flee in the first place.

So I feel like I’m missing some backstory here. I want a novel or at least a novella to fill in this gap!

Also, while I did like Woody Harrelson’s character, I feel like “Tobias Beckett” is an insufficiently Star-Wars-y name. πŸ˜€ (Okay yeah I’m still a bit Judgy McJudgypants here!) I say this fully cognizant of names like “Luke” and “Owen” and “Ben” in the canon, too.

And while I’m snarking on names, let us also point out the obligatory Apostrophe to Make Her Name Look Space-Opera-y in “Qi’ra”, shall we? If her name is pronounced “Kira”, why not just spell it that way? And now I totally want to know whether apostrophes are supposed to be a feature of Corellian names, or what. Because there sure isn’t one in “Han”.

The things I was a bit confused about, and/or want more data on

I was a little surprised that Corellia is apparently entirely industrial. Of course, I already knew in the abstract that Corellia was a source for ships; it’s right there in the dialogue of A New Hope, when Han first meets Luke and Ben and the droids: “I’ve outrun Imperial starships, not the local bulk-cruisers, mind you. I’m talking about the big Corellian ships now.”

But given that, I hadn’t quite envisioned the Corellia we see in this movie. Which is a pretty gray and bleak place. I freely grant though that this is very likely due to my experience reading the now-decanonized Extended Universe novels, as well as roleplay I’ve done set on Corellia for the aforementioned Star Wars MUSH.

On a related note, I was also a bit surprised that we got so little detail about Han’s family as we did. I’m not entirely sure we needed that, mind you. But given that we see Han tell Lando about his father having worked as a shipbuilder, this does make me real curious about when Han is supposed to have lost his parents. Clearly it happened when Han was old enough to know what his father did for a living, but that’s all I was able to glean from that.

I also note that Han very specifically tells the Imperial recruiting officer he has no people, and he gives the officer no name. Which suggests to me a couple of different possibilities. One, Han lost his family under painful circumstances above and beyond just “they were killed” or something like that. He also doesn’t tell Lando in the later scene on the Falcon that his father is dead, just that he’s on poor terms with him.

I have seen news that there’s supposed to be a forthcoming YA novel about Han and Qi’ra’s backstory. I sense this novel’s presence in my library in the near future. πŸ˜€

Lastly, when I go see this movie again, I’m going to have to pay closer attention to the dice. I did see Han and Qi’ra pass them back and forth, and that Han considered them lucky. What I didn’t see is whether they were involved in the two scenes of Lando vs. Han at sabacc. I keep seeing references to the dice being the ones Han won the Falcon with, but sabacc is a card game, not a dice game.

(Did anybody see if the dice were involved with the game at all?)

The things I really liked

Donald Glover’s Lando is resplendent and glorious. His space cape game is entirely on point. And I must wonder if he went straight to Billy Dee Williams for a direct infusion of smooooooooth to play the role!

I positively adored L3. I loved her lofty assertion that Lando was in love with her. And even though her conversation with Qi’ra about Lando and Han was, I think, the only conversation any of the female characters had by themselves in this movie, I still adore that conversation just because L3 is so awesome.

But more importantly, I was absolutely delighted with her ferocious support for droid rights. And the whole “I dunno, go free your brothers and sisters!” triggering of the revolution on Kessel.

And while we’re on the topic of the female characters, I also quite liked that the leader of that pack of marauders, Enfys Nest, turned out to be a) a young woman as well; b) kind of adorable, she had freckles for fuck’s sake; and c) a baby Rebel!

Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos was surprisingly excellent. I think this is the first time I’ve seen him do a villain! One of the many reaction posts I’ve gone back to read now that I’ve seen the movie described him as not so much chewing the scenery as tongue-kissing it, and yeah, exactly. He was smooth and charming but with a repellent creepy edge. And I took note of those weird red veins on his face that kept growing more pronounced when he was angry! When I looked the character up on the Star Wars wiki, I found he was described as a ‘near-human’: a species close to human but not actually. So I wonder what his species actually was!

Han!

As mentioned, yeah, I’m down now with accepting Alden Ehrenreich as our new Solo. I like that he captures the feel of the character without specifically trying to channel Harrison Ford–though it did not escape my attention that he did nail certain mannerisms. His gun stance, and his propensity to point the finger, for example. πŸ˜€

I really liked that this was a younger, somewhat less cynical Han. One that could actually say things like “I’ve got a really good feeling about this” and actually mean it. Yet by the end of the movie, when he shoots Beckett, I also saw the echo of the smuggler who’ll later plug Greedo in Mos Eisley. Oh my yes.

And I also have to admit that I saw a few echoes of Mal from Firefly, in no small part because of Han wearing a brown jacket through this movie instead of a blue one or a black vest. Which amuses the hell out of me, given that I also kept seeing Mal as Han Solo 2.0. And really, this entire plot was one that wouldn’t be out of place in the ‘Verse, for that matter.

I liked that he kept pestering Beckett to show him how to do the spinning thing with the blaster. And while “you’ll be betrayed by the exact same person who’s telling you to trust no one” trope is one you can see coming twelve parsecs away, I did still like the rapport Beckett and Han built up. Almost a shame Han had to shoot him. πŸ˜‰

Han and Chewbacca

What’s not to love here? <3

I loved, loved, loved that Han actually spoke Chewbacca’s language at him. (And I think I never actually knew what the Wookiee language is called: Shyrilwook. Or, I should say, one of the Wookiee languages, because there are apparently three!) And that his vocabulary was horrible but understandable, which totally makes sense for a human who is just not built to speak a language that mostly consists of growling and snarling! It was just surprising and delightful to see a primary character in Star Wars actually attempting to speak another species’ language. Star Wars should do more of that.

It was also great to see Chewie acting to save some fellow Wookiees on Kessel–though I suppose they must not have been his immediate family or tribe. Because if they had been, would he have still gone with Han? We didn’t get any mention of Chewie opting to come with him because of the life debt, which has always been part of the Han and Chewie canon. Longtime fans know about this, but I wish it’d been made a little clearer.

Still though it was great to see other Wookiees! I loved how Han quickly introduced himself to them as “Chewie’s friend Han”, too. πŸ˜€

And Chewie ruffled Han’s hair. YAY. <3

Han and Qi’ra

Partway through this movie, Paul turned to me to point out that the actress playing Qi’ra is the same actress who plays Daenerys, the Khaleesi, in Game of Thrones. Which was pretty awesome.

And I did like the character in general, despite all the nitpicks I did further up this post. I couldn’t ever quite get invested in their romance simply because I knew it was going to end badly. But I was not expecting her to actually bail on Han the way she did, and report in to her dead boss’s superior.

Which of course brings me to…

Holy crap Darth Maul?!

I totally did not expect Darth Maul to show up in this movie. And only after we got home and I looked it up did I find out that the character was in fact un-killed-off as of Clone Wars, which I have not watched!

There’s a boatload of backstory involving him that I knew absolutely nothing about, apparently. Including him grafting what was left of his bisected body onto robot legs. Which I will also now have to look for on a second viewing of this film, because I missed the legs. I was too busy being distracted by the whole “holy shit Darth Maul?!” thing.

Dara thinks Qi’ra is going to wind up being his apprentice. Paul and I were less sure about that. Either way it’s clear Qi’ra is going to get more power in Crimson Dawn and I am now very, very curious about her eventual fate. And whether we’ll see that show up in novels, too. If so, I am ON BOARD.

All in all

Great fun. Definitely going back for more. πŸ˜€

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