Solo: A Star Wars Story is breathtaking and lively addition to the Star Wars franchise, bolstering an array of deep cut references to the lore, alongside an impressive cast and a (mostly) enjoyable plot. SPOILERS
I Have A Very Good Feeling About This
Before the release of The Last Jedi, Solo appeared to be more of a sideshow commodity to the main act of the Sequel Trilogy. Even 2016’s Rogue One promised a more high-stakes plot with a cast of new characters to explore. Solo’s main selling point was… well, Han Solo. One of the most iconic characters in cinema history. I didn’t expect too much from the film at all; a simple, fun adventure with familiar characters was all I was looking for when the film was announced. With the release of the film, I got way more than I bargained for. Even better, it kept that ‘fun adventure’ feel firmly intact.
Much like Rogue One, the film lacks an opening crawl. However, unlike Rogue One, we get an extended version of the blue title card (“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”) that introduces us to the film, much like the opening crawls of the main Saga films. It was interesting, but I would prefer they simply show us an opening crawl and play us the fanfare if they’re gonna do title cards. Plus, why wasn’t this done for Rogue One? It’s a minor nitpick.
Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) is a teenage orphan living on the streets of Corellia, alongside his love interest Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). The opening scenes on Corellia are decent enough. The cinematography regarding the lighting was too dark and bland for my tastes; half the time, I couldn’t see Alden’s face at all. However, I was immediately sold on Alden’s interpretation of Han Solo from the very beginning. Alden nails the energy and attitude of Han Solo for most of the film. What makes it so unique is, it’s Alden channeling the spirit of Han Solo, not Harrison Ford. It would come off as cheesy and unconvincing to mimic Ford. He gives his own take on the character, and I’m all for it.
Qi’ra and Han attempt to escape Corellia through an Imperial emigration outpost, but Qi’ra is left behind while Han makes it across the checkpoint. It’s here when the film really starts to take off; we are given the origin of Han Solo’s last name, when an Imperial officer decides to give him the last name of ‘Solo’ on his Imperial recruitment sheet. This plot element may come as controversial to some fans, but to me, it makes a lot of sense. Han is an orphan living on the streets of Corellia, he wouldn’t remember his last name at all. Also note how this parallels Finn’s (John Boyega) storyline in ‘The Force Awakens’, when he’s given the name Finn from FN-2187.
The next sequence brings Han to Mimban, where he runs into a pirate group within the Imperial army, led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). This is a good time to discuss Harrelson’s character. Harrelson’s character brings a level of toughness to the cast, managing to occasionally steal a scene even when we have recognizable characters sharing the screen. Tobias is mostly straightforward, a fatherly figure to Han Solo who double-crosses him in the film. But he acts as an anchor for the entire film, and it works very well. It’s a shame his character was killed off at the end of the film, as I would’ve loved to see more of Tobias on-screen. Han begs Tobias to let him join his crew, but Tobias pushes him away, even going as far as to turn him into the Empire as a deserter. It’s here when Han is introduced to none other than Chewbacca. Their first meeting is highly entertaining, with Chewbacca beating the hell out of Han. There’s also a chin-scratching suggestion that Chewie may have…fed on some humans, but I try not to think about it.
Chewbacca and Han manage to escape a cage, and hitch a ride with Tobias’s crew to the planet of Vandor. Vandor is, quite simply, a gorgeous planet. It’s reminiscent of the planet of Hoth from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, but with more mountain peaks as well as deep valleys. It was a pleasure to look at, with wide shots of our characters traversing the landscape against a blank-white background. Tobias and his crew are planning to pull a heist on a train, that’s carrying a valuable fuel called coaxium. Coaxium is a form of hypermatter, and is used to fuel hyperdrives. During this discussion, there’s a reference to the bounty hunter Bossk, as well as a deep cut reference to a ‘valachord’, a musical instrument from the Aftermath book series. This is but one of many canon references sprinkled throughout this film. I won’t list them all in this review, as you can find a list of them here!
The train heist sequence is a roller coaster ride, with great action sequences only made better by a cast of colorful characters. The heist goes awry when a rival pirate group, led by Enfys Nest (Erin Kellyman), attacks Tobias’s crew. Han chooses to drop the shipment of coaxium, leading to an altercation between him and Tobias. The acting job by Harrelson here is decent, for the most part. He never truly fluctuates into any other emotions besides his tough-guy demeanor with a touch of Han-esque humor. It’s fun to watch, but it does run its course as the film progresses.
We are later reintroduced to Qi’ra, who is now working for Tobias’s boss, Dryden Vos. Vos is expecting a shipment of coaxium from Tobias. This is where Qi’ra’s character takes a turn for the worst, and exposes one of my bigger problems with this film. Quite simply, she lacks personality. She’s a fighter (trained in teras kasi), in love with Han, and that’s about as deep as she goes. However, it’s important to note that Qi’ra’s story seemed to be introduced at a middle-point. The film deliberately chooses to tease her story between Corellia and her involvement with Crimson Dawn, a crime syndicate group. Her story is also left completely unresolved, when she is asked by none other than Darth Maul (played by Ray Park, voiced by Sam Witwer) to come to Dathomir. This is one of three plot lines that were seeded by this film, seemingly to be resolved in future media, presumably a future film. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Qi’ra.
Enfys Nest is played out as a villain to Tobias’s crew until near the end of the film, when it’s revealed that Enfys is attempting to ally with other crime syndicates in an attempt to form a rebellion to fight the Empire. She ends up with all the coaxium that was supposed to go to Dryden Vos. This is the other plot line that was seeded, and we’ll see where it goes. With all that coaxium she has, she could fuel an entire fleet. Nest seems primed to put together a formidable rebellion.
Tobias later tells Han that he plans to go to Tatooine to meet up with a “big-shot gangster” who’s looking to put together a crew. After a series of events (that includes a very messy sequence of betrayals), Han ends up going to Tatooine himself. Presumably, this gangster is Jabba The Hutt, it seems too obvious. With the announcement of a Boba Fett film finding a director, it seems clear that a Boba Fett film will build off this plot thread.
One of my other gripes with this film is the character of L3. L3 is a feminized droid and the co-pilot of Lando Calrissian, who advocates for droid rights. The idea is great, but the execution is poor, as the character is very one-dimensional and dries its river very quickly. It simply felt grating to hear her talk and act, but her plot development is another important piece of information we got from this film. The navigational system of L3 is “one of the best in the galaxy”, and L3 herself was ‘uploaded’ to the Milennium Falcon to allow the Falcon to fly through the Maelstrom portion of Kessel. About a month ago, I predicted that the Falcon would contain something ‘special’ about it. While I mostly got the details wrong, the main crux of the argument remains intact. I can’t wait to see where this plot development goes, and what it means for the Falcon’s appearance on Jakku.
There’s a lot to take in when it comes to this film. What this films executes is something very similar to what the Marvel Cinematic Universe does, and that’s seeding future plot lines. There are many routes Lucasfilm could take with this film. The easiest route would be a sequel, once again featuring Han and Lando and Chewbacca, furthering the plot lines of the film. However, with the Boba Fett movie moving forward, we will most likely get another piece of the puzzle with a 2020 Boba Fett movie. Much like the MCU, a movie’s namesake doesn’t mean the plot is always centered around that particular character. A Boba Fett movie may inadvertently develop Han’s character further. In any case, Solo seems to be the first step in a series of interconnected plot lines that Lucasfilm is setting up. We should definitely expect to see Qi’ra’s character again, as we only hold a middle piece of her entire character arc. Maul has also been given a new arc, that may or may not see completion on-screen.
Which brings me to my next prediction. Robotical712 and I have been discussing the future of the Sequel Trilogy and the possibility that Episode IX may not be a complete ending to the Skywalker Saga. I’ll hold off on discussing any further details, but Solo has furthered our beliefs that Lucasfilm may be taking an ‘MCU’ approach to the future of the Sequel Trilogy. The trilogy format may be abandoned in favor of a cinematic universe. Star Wars is ripe for the concept, after all.
I was very happy and ecstatic with the outcome of Solo. It was jam-packed with plenty to discuss for the next year or so. I’m particularly looking forward to the development of the plot lines seeded in this film, which I confidently feel will come in future films. Alongside that, it’s a fun film with well-timed humor, good cast of characters, good pacing, and a surprisingly addictive plot despite the low-stakes. If you felt disappointed by The Last Jedi in any shape or form, you owe it to yourself to see this film. Lucasfilm is back on track.