by Spike Valentine
Here’s Spike’s review for Solo: A Star Wars Story. First a non-spoiler video version, and then all spoiler version.
Full disclosure: I have done work as a script interpreter/translator for Marvel/Lucasfilm & Panini/Lucasfilm comic books. I was invited to watch the movie to a Disney/Lucasfilm press screening, but after the embargo was lifted, I was not asked to write a good review or anything of the sort.
Here’s a video of me walking and talking about the impressions that I got from the film without entering into any details, if you want to know if you should see it or not, but want to avoid spoilers (WARNING! I’m not a native English speaker, I have a heavy accent):
*NOW SPOIL ME*
‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is a generic heist comedy which could have been called ‘Chewie’ for all the impact it makes to Han Solo’s character (played by Alden Ehrenreich). It supposedly takes place during the Clone Wars days of the mythopoeia. The only reason I realized this was because of a cameo that I will mention later on. The movie ties in with the canon significantly at no point during the story. The Star Wars as a situation is no longer treated like World War II in this universe, but some far away war with a very tiny front of little consequence to the galaxy, let alone the greater universe.
Some guy named Han (apparently no relationship to Han Solo from Star Wars) lives in Corellia and we are told is a heartthrob rogue who wants to escape this planet that we are told is dangerous. He gets excited to see his sweetheart, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), and shows her he just got something that will get them out of the alleged dump planet, Coaxium.
As per usual, Han is not fulfilling his previous commitments with the current slimy (literally) mobster in order to do this, but the couple is caught by Lady Proxima (voiced by Linda Hunt), said slimy leader. However, they manage to escape to some sort of Imperial airport where they bribe an officer with coaxium to let them pass through the checking point. Qi’ra doesn’t make it at the last second because one of Lady Proxima’s enforcers manages to grab her away as the door closes. Han, in desperation, decides to join the Imperial army to escape from the enforcers looking for him and plans to come back some time later to save Qi’ra.
Several years go by. While in the Imperial army, during an unnamed war which does not resemble any of the ones we’ve seen in any of the prequels, Han meets Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), his wife Val (Thandie Newton), and their partner Rio (voiced by Jon Favreau), who are all crooks in Imperial army disguise. Solo notices Beckett is wearing the uniform of a dead soldier and asks to join them so he can desert the army and go back to Corellia. They immediately rat him out and the officer in command determines he should be thrown to a pit a-la ‘Return of the Jedi’ to fight a beast, which turns out to be Chewie (played by Joonas Suotamo). Why the army would enslave a single Wookie to fight military transgressors is beyond me or any traditional logic. In fact, slavery would be more costly than using the average, ever-present machines found everywhere in that franchise, but I digress…
Chewie and Han become BFFs when han devices a plan for both to escape using the Wookie’s strength to bring down the main support of the chamber. The crooks, who were leaving in a stolen ship, basically take pity on the escaping pair and help them get off that base.
Solo: A Coaxium Story
The movie really abuses the tell-don’t-show philosophy to rush through the character’s arc because it’s more worried to justify the Last Jedi’s controversies—you read that right—than actually being a Han Solo film. Coaxium is the now very pricey-yet-never-before-mentioned spaceship fuel (a McGuffin they also put in ‘Choose Your Destiny: A Han & Chewie Adventure’ children’s book based on the film and made canon for convenience purposes). Funny though, it appears the Empire doesn’t actually control the means of production, refinement, or their slaves even though it seems there’s a whole criminal infrastructure constantly fighting over it and even stealing it from the very Empire too!
Han and his new friends are going to steal coaxium. Tobias informs them that a speeder gang of pirates will most definitely show up to try and steal the fuel too. They are confronted by Imperial guards first and then Enfys Nest’s gang (with both male and female characters, you’ll see why later). Our crooks, not heroes, fail miserably with Val and Rio dying in the process. Tobias also informs Han and Chewie they were actually working for the Crimson Dawn cartel (not the X-Men mystic power stuff from the Loeb/Madureira run of the ‘90s, a concept just like coaxium created for the movie you can find in the children’s book). This means that now they will most likely get killed as punishment.
Contrivance: The Movie
Qi’ra happens to be the most trusted person of the Crimson Dawn organization’s boss, Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). She has become a Teräs Käsi expert badass (how convenient! -- but that’s fine). Han Solo himself is also quite the ‘Gary Stu‘ in the film. The capo is convinced to let them try to steal the very problematic-to-deal-with, unrefined coaxium for him if he lets them live. They are in a unique position to do so because they are freelance and the best place to get it has a shaky alliance with the Crimson Dawn. That sounds perfectly reasonable, but that’s far too logical so Vos also sends Qi’ra, a character who literally has a tattoo of the Crimson Dawn on her wrist!
To achieve this, they are going to need a ship, so Qi’ra takes them to her acquaintance, Lando Calrissian. Lando is a hustler who hustles Han in a card game, making our anti-hero leave empty-handed. Lucky for them, he has heard about Tobias’ reputation, and the criminal convinces him to help them out by letting them use his brand-spanking new Millennium Falcon in exchange for a cut of the profits. Naturally, Enfy Nest’s crew puts a tracking device on the ship. We learned how that works in The Last Jedi, you know, without logic.
THIS WAS PROBABLY AN ANTI-SJW FILM ORIGINALLY!!!
Are there identity politics in this film? Well, kind of, but not what you’d expect from Lucasfilm in current year. Lando’s co-pilot droid, L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), is a very cartoonish, over-the-top parody of a modern university feminist-regressive. Not only does no one takes her seriously in her tantrums, but her extremely non-diegetic complains don’t make any sense in the Star Wars paradigm presented in any film.
Think about it, Kathleen Kennedy actually fired this film’s directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (a.k.a. Lord & Miller), the directoral duo of such hit films as ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’, ‘21 Jump Street’, and ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ just as they were nearing the production of ‘Solo’. No one in their rational mind would have done that, well, no one but an offended “social justice warrior” (SJW) would do that.. And we know Kennedy is a massive regressive that will not spare any costs to propagate her ideology. Firing the two most important talents on the set while making a film at such an advanced stage was more important to her than money or reputation. Clearly, something was happening that made Kennedy upset.
Lord & Miller did film 2012’s 21st Jump Street, a movie which actually throws jabs at SJW culture before it was even popular or even being called “SJW” by the only people dealing with it at that period in time: internet atheists. Back then, Thunderf00t & The Amazing Atheist were barely beginning to denounce the snowflakes to the original “skeptic community.” Lord & Miller shot that film in 2011, around the time the Elevatorgate incident with ‘Skepchick’ feminist Rebecca Watson happened.
My personal theory is that these Lord & Miller are old-time anti-SJWs and that they were intentionally mocking the SJW ideology, and when Lucasfilm’s “wrongthink police” found out, those kids were fired faster than a President Trump press secretary. With the project in such an advanced state, it’s almost certain Ron Howard couldn’t insert the correct politics or edit out the anti-SJW character moments, if it was ever his intention or was the motive behind Kennedy hiring him. I think it’s more likely that Howard wasn’t even thinking about this at all since he had so much work to do as the new director to bring the film to completion somehow by making the changes Kennedy required.
Mining Colony & Slavery
Back to the film. Han and his crew arrive at the coaxium mining planet where slavery is the norm—but it’s presented in a non-preachy, natural way. They “pretend-sell” Chewie and Han to the people running the mining operation, who are not employees of the Empire nor does it seem the Empire even knows this planet exists, and yet it depends on its resources.
Anyway, L3 starts a revolution by freeing the slave droids (this guys will enslave anything), and this causes a chain reaction as all of the slaves revolt. Chewie joins the revolt and frees his fellow wookies while Han completes the mission. Qi’tar and Tobias take care of the control room and they all manage to escape, but L3 is destroyed in the process and Lando gets shot trying to save it. People are now saying that Lando is “pansexual” (retard-speak for’bisexual’) because he loved his droid, but it’s no different than how I would cry if my PC was utterly destroyed. L3 happened to be a state of the art processor which calculated the best routes. Nothing to do with sexuality.
What is a ‘Han Solo’ Anyway?
To get to the processing planet before the coaxium degrades and explodes, they have to leave fast, but an Imperial Star Destroyer is blocking the safe path in the Maw Nebulae black hole cluster and sending TIE Fighters to hunt down the Millennium Falcon. Han is in charge because Lando is hurt and trying to save L3, so he makes the executive decision to go through the rocky road, the one with asteroids, monsters and black holes.
With a little bit of the space fuel they just stole, and installing L3’s core on the Millenium Falcon they escape the Kessel run and all its dangers in under twelve parsecs. Since the parsecs measure distance and not time and it was L3 actually calculating the route, Han Solo’s special moment wasn’t actually of his making and anyone sitting in the pilot chair or having a droid like L3 can do it! The film’s weakest point are both Solo, his character and his arc. Like ‘MaRey Sue’ before him, he actually became the best pilot ever with no training and barely having been a pilot for five straight minutes in the whole film. The thing that EVERYONE knows about Han Solo, that legendary Kessel run, turns out to be something he wasn’t actually responsible for!
Seriously, if you edit out the Han Solo character from this flick, it would be a pretty solid movie! You know how painful that is to say about one of your favorite characters of all time, certainly your favorite Star Wars character, regarding his own fricking film!?
Imagine My Shock!
They get to the coaxium refinery planet in time, but five minutes later they find themselves surrounded by Enfy Nest’s gang who were already waiting for them with a nice ambush because “tracking device logic” be damned!
It turns out that Enfy Nest died in the train incident and the mantle/costume/whatever is being carried by a girl and this gang isn’t really a crime syndicate, but are actually proto-rebels who need the coaxium to stand up to the Empire in a VERY cheap plot twist out of left field that was never foreshadowed and still would still not explain their reputation or their criminal behavior unless they subscribe to the Antifa school of authoritarian “freedom” fighters. Anyway, Solo comes up with a plan to save them because this isn’t the same Solo outlaw who redeems himself years later, he is just a nice guy who tagged along and mostly has no bearing in his own story.
Tobias won’t play along and leaves for Tatooine and the rest of them go meet Vos. Tobias didn’t really go to Tatooine with that Hutt big-shot who was hiring (actually stated) and betrays them. He gains the upper hand and leaves with all the fuel -- which makes no sense since he was the one pushing for them to repay the debt to the Crimson Dawn in the first place and who was the most scared of Vos and them (unless the entire organization are the five guards in the scene).
Qi’ra manages to obtain the upper hand and finally kills Dryden. She tells Han to go chase after Tobias, who left with the fuel while she scrapes goodies from the headquarters to sell and buy a spaceship. Han shoots Tobias in one of the few Han-like moments of the film and after that he realizes Qi’ra left him.
She gets in contact with Darth Maul (the only clue to know what time period this is taking place) and she takes over the Crimson Dawn leadership with the Sith blessing.
The movie is as messy as one could expect from the embarrassment that the production cycle turned out to be, but it’s not dull and it doesn’t make you want to kill yourself like The Last Jedi did. There’s even some good action, and some good acting—especially from Emilia Clarke and Paul Bettany—who is part of the semblance of a half decent plot that kind of rips-off the second Firefly episode, ‘Bushwacked’, about a train heist where, in the end, the outlaw with the heart of gold chooses to do right by the helpless people.
The film’s biggest problem is that it might even be an entertaining, brainless popcorn heist comedy, but it isn’t an entertaining, brainless popcorn HAN SOLO heist comedy. It’s also one of the least Star Wars-y flicks when it comes to look and tone. In fact, it could have easily been a Guardians of the Galaxy clone with a couple of FX changes. It certainly is closer to that than Star Wars. The film never shows us the cynical, criminal Han Solo who didn’t have it easy and was hardened because of this.
And the elements are there, but they never mix properly, probably because it has to be a Disney film. Not even Qi’ra’s alleged betrayal at the end is way too mild for the most ruthless crime syndicate in the galaxy and a femme fatale just because we were told she was. If Qi’ra really was that type, she would have gotten the fuel for herself and really betrayed Han, not just parted ways. They didn’t even think about maybe using Dash Rendar, or even characters they actually created, such as Jyn Erso, to try and make their cinematic universe more cohesive.
Also, having Han be so madly in love with Qi’ra is counterproductive to his character arc considering Han decides to go straight because of his love for Leia. So many missed opportunities here, there, everywhere and with lots of rushed mistakes. These mistakes should be entirely on Kennedy’s head. Her presence in the company is nocive ideologically and professionally to the Star Wars brand.
Like I stated in my video above, you should decide for yourself and vote with your wallet. I personally can live without ever rewatching this film that’s allegedly about one of my favorite characters ever again. I’m going to watch Deadpool 2 a couple of more times.
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