Why Solo Is Confusing as a Star Wars Fan

Having seen Solo: A Star Wars Story twice now, and trying to figure out what the movie made me feel and why, it made sense to put it into a list of things I did and did not like about the film, in all its spoiler-filled glory. So here goes:

Liked: The Performances

For a movie that was a 70-30 split between directors, all of the performances really stand out. Pre-Air Force One Harrison Ford is almost impossible to emulate convincingly, so Alden Ehrenreich not even trying was the right choice, and he’s charming and adorable enough to make it work. Donald Glover’s Lando is much closer to a Billy Dee Williams impression, but works for the posturing character. It would also be easy to overlook Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra, considering how little there is to the character on paper, her presence makes the character work more than it should.

Disliked: The Story

Solo’s biggest problem is that it falls into the prequel trap. It feels like the opening ten minutes or so of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where River Phoenix portrays young Indy getting his whip, hat, and Harrison Ford chin scar, but stretched into a two hour film. And while that sequence is a bit silly, it works with the pulp roots of Indiana Jones, especially as the transition into adult Indy makes it seem as though the whole thing is a dazed memory during a probable concussion.

But here we get Han and Chewie getting together, Han’s name (likely the most egregious of all), Han’s blaster, and the Falcon. Han is a character in search of an identity, but these things seem to just happen to him, rather than his actions getting there. And while I normally try not to complain about the film we didn’t get and engage with what we got, I can’t help but feel like structuring Solo like a superhero origin film rather than “a Han Solo adventure” makes it suffer because the film has to imbue with meaning the things that are familiar. Jeff Cannata of the /Filmcast said it well, when he said a movie about how he got his current clothes and car is just boring, because there are few everyday objects that carry such personal meaning.

Liked: The Look

The last few Star Wars films have been very human-centric, and and the only non-human supporting characters introduced in the post-Lucas era have been droids BB-8 and K-2SO. And while there’s not an alien among the main cast, the fact that there are so many new aliens and creatures filling up the spaces our characters inhabit make it go along way in moving Star Wars closer to the original film and the puppet-heavy Return of the Jedi.

I also enjoyed the cinematography, especially the way Bradford Young uses dark elements to make the light seem even more localized. It fits into this corner of the Galaxy Far Far Away, but it’s a shame the laughably low standards for theater projection these days are making it look overly muddled. This movie will look fantastic on your iPad or high-end TV.

Liked: Expanded Universe

Having come of age in between the original trilogy and the prequels, I spent a lot of times with the novels, comics, and video games that filled in the gaps, especially since when I was introduced to Star Wars in 1990 or so, we weren’t going to get more movies. And while wiping it all away was mostly necessary, Solo contains more nods to the old Expanded Universe than I ever thought we’d get in a new Star Wars film.

Disliked: The Tones

This one is tricky. Solo has a lot of abrupt tone shifts, which may be partially from its production and director change, but must be considered as a choice for the finished film. Tone shifts can be great and add surprising depth to a film, but the pacing of Solo is so hurried that the audience does not have time to process the shift in tone. The death of L3 is the primary example I am thinking of, where an emotional moment for Lando is buried in the edit, and the departure of the character feels like it is contrived based on what happens later, and not a sacrifice made through her agency.

Disliked: Universe Implications

I don’t like that this movie makes me feel like the Millenium Falcon is Lando’s ship. In part because of the tonal shifts, I don’t like that a droid uprising (which instigates a wider slave uprising) introduces a whole mess of complications to this universe, but is played mostly for comedy. Are we supposed to care about droid freedom, or think it is funny that they are smashing consoles with their limited movements? This is obviously a huge part of L3’s character, and the film’s tone suggests that we are not to take her cause seriously, despite the fact that she has a pretty good case for droids needing rights (especially because there is no counter argument in the film). It’s a science fiction story in a fantasy universe, and the film has zero interest in using it as anything but a plot point in a larger scheme.

Liked: Train Job

Every space western needs a good train heist, and this was probably my favorite sequence in the film. And it introduced Enfass Nest, who is a better character than Boba Fett or Captain Phasma.

What did you like or dislike about Solo: A Star Wars Story?

Author: Ryan Silberstein

Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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