Lucasfilm has fallen into the Disney streamline and is beginning to churn out intergalactic narratives from far far away at closer and closer time intervals. Now their latest film – Solo: A Star Wars Story goes up against the likes of Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War to get a piece of the box office pie. Star Wars has been on the decline frankly, given the disappointing outing of the latest film the Last Jedi in terms of numbers, and other things. So surely Disney will be looking to put things right with this latest spin-off. Well, let’s shove some of this hyperfuel in the tank and speed this along.
Han Solo’s origin is as you’d expect. An orphan cur of the unrelenting rough streets of some dirt-strewn backward home-planet. Where street smarts and wit and the art of the hustle was the only way to survive. But Han had a girl. Qi’ra. And with her he had a wild dream of escaping the mundanity of poverty and answering to a slum-lord overlord (a female version of Jabba with vampire-like sensitivities to sunlight). And he found his key to freedom, refined Coaxium aka hyperfuel. The substance that allowed for travelling the universe in lightspeed. Very volatile. And priceless.
But Solo is Solo, and the means by which he gets the fuel is by a botched trade-off, and ultimately his boss finds out, so its a quick race to get off world with his love. He manages to evade the clutches of his chasers but loses Qi’ra in the process. So feeling the pressure and the others closing in on his position in the crowded lobby, he does what every poor deluded person would – join the army. The Empire. Solo wants to be a pilot but ends up with the rest of the dregs on the ground evading blaster flier. It is here he meets the Wookie after being detained as a deserter. Kept Chewie like some gladiator pet in a pit. Fucked up. Good thing Solo knew a little Wookie language to talk himself out of ass-(b)eating.
And the guys responsible for getting Solo court-martialed were a bunch of imposters using the army as cover to pull off a heist job. And the fact Solo obsessed to joining the group even after this betrayal shows some serious low levels of self-esteem.
But as Solo joins the ranks of thieves and get drafted into a mission to steal refined Coaxium from a monorail transport, things go to hell when pirates attempt to hijack the hijack.
And, obviously failing, the thieves are now in debt to the Crimson Sun and baddie Dryden Vos – who turns out to have a hi-ranking official in the ranks known to Solo – Qi’ra.
Now working together, they plan on stealing Coaxium from the belly of the beast – a Coaxium mine on planet Kessel – (sound familiar!?) and have raw Coaxium refined themselves. So Solo, trying to pull off the greatest heist in Star Wars history (hey Rogue One was a heist type of movie wasn’t it?) he’ll learn the hard way that betrayal and circumstance have a way for unhinging desired outcomes of success and getting the girl.
Heroes, theoretically, do more action than reaction. Right? Good. Glad we agreed. But it looks like Solo, for the most part, is pretty much along for the ride. There is not any action purely spawned from him that I can remember. He literally falls off the screen and makes little to no lasting impression. His character is vastly lacking. Whilst in contrary, Lando seems to steal every scene he is in.
Charisma, wry wit and hilarious. But for Solo, we were constantly reminder by Q’ira that he was pretty much ‘a good guy’ even if he didn’t believe it. But guess, what, his goodness was never in question. He never did anything dubious in the film to anyone that didn’t deserve it. If he sacrificed, say, his girlfriend in what I can only describe as an intergalactic airport to escape the authority, then we could see Solo as a person willing to sacrifice others for his own safety. This would be more inline with the general sentiment felt about his character in the original Star Wars film. Loyal to no one but himself. Willing to betray confidence and retract from his word to save his own skin. All the while, deep down, being a man who really has a good heart.
Which leads to…
Revenge in film is the closest thing you can get to a physiological response on par with sex, except all the blood flows to your chest. But before this something has to happen. A transgression. A betrayal that opens the gate to well-deserved hate and rage and anger. Now with a guy who was to be essentially the vagabond of the galaxy, trusting no one but a woolly Wookie named Chewie, you would expect his origin story to be heaped with a betrayal so great he would go full turtle to become this withdrawn intergalactic vagrant. And it would have to be colossal. But who would be the betrayers was a painfully obvious state of affairs. Hell, we called it from the trailer. Woody Harrelson just doesn’t have a trustworthy look to him… aren’t I right? And as for Qi’ra, the love he so desperately wanted to save from the squalor of a home planet? Her betrayal of Solo, leaving him instead of running away to see the stars, was light betrayal. It seems Qi’ra leaving Solo (like he left her) felt more of a thirst for power and control over a newly acquired, Sith-aligned network and empire. Not somehow getting separated during a great escape. All of that to say her betrayal cost Solo nothing than unrequited love. Which about the same feeling you’d get being turned down by a girl in the club that promised you a dance before sneaking out. You’d be a Debbie-downer for a few minutes, but then you’ll remember there’s an open tab with free shots.
This has been the bane of all the spin-off films from the invention of the checklist that undoubtedly exists on the desk of Kathleen Kennedy is some Empire-esque/Star Dust situation room. The idea that every little reference made in Star Wars classic catalogue was worthy of some grande branch off in order to milk the franchise much like Luke Skywalker did to the poor prosthetic tits in The Last Jedi.
No, the Kessel Run reference wasn’t a burning question or enigma needed to be solved. Or how unbelievably gag-worthy moment Han received his last name. No one cares. Rogue One wasn’t free of these moments, but at least we had new characters to try and connect with and feel. Solo, however, feels near invisible in presence, and pretty much is not memorable.
Or how about inviting him to look up a ‘big-Shot Gangster’ in need of some tough SOBs based on Tatooine. An obvious reference to Jabba the Hutt. The Hutt Cartel is also referred to by Qi’ra as something to be feared as a young couple on the run. Next spin-off film anyone? And there are other moments that are pretty insignificant backstories and elements from classic Star Wars being drudged up with backstory in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Enfys Nest referring to Coaxium as “the blood that brings life to something new”, implying the first enclave of the Resistance. Or how about the reference to Rogue One with Scarif – the Imperial tropical paradise planet mentioned as an option to loot starship fuel Coaxium from. Dismissed very quickly by Beckett as an impossible option. Erso knows a thing or two about that one.
Just filled with moments that you’ll straight up miss, identify later on through a blog like this or catch yourself during the film and say ‘ah yeah’, then awkwardly look around and see no one cares for your Star Wars-specific knowledge.
Part of the mythical aura of Star Wars has always been the alien, grande vistas that had our eyes peering across the horizon with weird structures – both natural and intentionally-sculpted. Taking in the vastness of it all. And celestial planets that stood like God’s marbles against the star-speckled black velvet of space. Solo is not this. Take out any reference to Star Wars and you’ll have a decent watch for a Netflix film hailing from an independent film production house. But from Disney? Nope, sorry. Not cutting it.
No breathtaking images and vistas that arrested the eyes and the mind. It was pretty average on the sci-fi front. Even less average on the fantasy front. This could be due to the “Western” approach, but Christ, the Western genres are hella famous for their vistas.
Essentially, Solo: A Star Wars Story is Disney and Lucasfilm scraping the bottom of the barrel for content. Which obviously paints an even ugly picture going forward with the Obi-Wan Kenobi film said to be in the works. Or how about that Jabba The Hutt film? Boba Fett may be alright, but still. The gameplan we hypothesised was to milk the current universe – if you will – of all that it is worth before going forward with new characters, so we no longer have to make reference to, quite frankly, the old and (in the literal and filmic sense) the dying class of ’77. The spin-offs play another role we suspect. A catheter to shove new characters into what is the ‘origin’ of beloved Star Wars characters, essentially creating a ‘history’ that will appear deeper than it really is.
Ron Howard isn’t a bad director. But when the script has a wofully unimpactful Han or an even less impactful narrative, everything suffers. Join the army, join a group to heist fuel, go on another heist for fucking up the first one to pay off debts, end up giving it all to the desert pirate people – the aggressors in the film who turn out to be the marginalised peoples under the tyranny of the Crimson Sun.
And we’re not saying Han couldn’t be an awesome film. It’s just no one is thinking long-term about the effects these milker films are having on the mythos of the Star Wars brand. Part of the allure of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was it was the first in a long time Star Wars was back on screen. The Last Jedi sought to bring the return of legendary Luke Skywalker (despite being outdone by fucking Jumanji). Rogue One was the first spin-off of its kind under the Star Wars umbrella. See the connecting idea. They were firsts. Solo is not a first. Not summer blockbuster worthy. The lustre of Star Wars first is becoming less evident. There is a thing as building anticipation. Hell, I’d have waited for 2 – 3 years to release the next film. But that’s just me. I think fans are waiting for new stories. New scenarios. Something that evokes the same feelings of wonders but not necessarily hanging on to particulars that are in old films, or filling shallow ‘plot holes’ with scene-long footage. That’s just me.
Solo functions. But we don’t feel for him or any loss he experiences. They may as well just get a Lando film underway and call it a day. As, honestly, he was the highest moments in the film. And that’s emotively speaking with the loss of his ultra feminist revolutionary droid to his funny quips accepting his role in the Kessel job and the aftermath. All the while looking sexy cool in a fucking scarf and/or cape. But I guess having the idea that the pricelessness of Coaxium is a theme run throughout the film. Solo unwittingly becomes a major component in arming what would become the Rebellion and turning the tide in their favour with the ability to space travel with hyperfuel is a nice enough touch. But still, not nearly worth the Star Wars or Han Solo legacy.