Yes, I said it. I’ve already seen comments claiming that it didn’t add anything into the existing Star Wars universe; basically that it was a worthless exercise and nobody cares about the backstory of Han Solo. Well that couldn’t be more wrong. I am going to tell you why. Later. First, we’ll talk about the film a little.
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Arlen Ehrenreich had an extremely tough job. He had to follow up Harrison Ford as one of the most iconic characters of the entire Star Wars franchise. And there was no way he could be Harrison Ford. So he wasn’t. He was Han Solo instead. There was no vast departure from Ford’s portrayal, but he still played Solo as if nobody ever had before. And there wasn’t a thing wrong with his performance. In fact, he added something to the character that was deeply lacking.
[MILD SPOILERS, BUT YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN IT WHEN IT CAME OUT, SO TOO BAD.]
In Ep IV, Han Solo enters stage left during the climactic final battle flying in the
deus ex machina Millennium Falcon and shoots down Darth Vader, saving Luke so he can blow up the Death Star. It’s his big hero moment, when he shows he’s more than just a jaded, money-grubbing smuggler. The problem is, it doesn’t make any sense. Solo has shown no indications that he’s in this for anything but the money up until this point in the movie. He risks all of the things he values in the universe (himself, Chewie, his ship,) to save Luke. Sorry, but it doesn’t make sense. It’s totally out of character.
But getting back to the Death Star, remember how there was this issue with an unshielded exhaust port, and how everyone was so happy when Rogue One neatly patched that plot hole? Well Solo does that for the end of Ep IV. It establishes that Solo has a deeply rooted sense of right and wrong, but a wild risk-taking side as well. Then it shows you how the universe beats that morality out of him, until only a little glimmer remains. It perfectly sets up his character in A New Hope, and also allows for his about-face at the end. So it actually fixes a plot hole in the very first Star Wars movie, ever. Yeah. That’s right.
Okay, so everyone is chasing the Unobtanium of the day, refined hyperfuel. This is a heist movie, and they keep trying to steal some, with varying results. Is it earth-shattering? Kinda, but only in the literal sense. (Cause it’s super unstable, and it blows up. Get it? Earth-shatt… nevermind.) But there are deeper threads buried under this fairly airy plot, and they resonate thoughout Star Wars’ timeline.
We effectively get to witness the birth of the Rebellion, so that is mildly important. We also get to see how Han does a lot of the things he brags about doing in other films, and we get to see just why Lando loves the Falcon so much. There’s a very specific reason, and it’s kind of awesome. It was a serviceable plot, nothing terribly wrong with it. A good heist movie will get bogged down by too many details, and Ron Howard did a good job of avoiding that without giving us a film that felt totally frivolous. We got to see how Han saved Chewie!
A big issue with this movie is whether or not it even should have been made. Going in, I was on the “I don’t feel like it should have, but I’m cautiously optimistic” side. Coming out afterwards, yes, it definitely needed to be made. If for no other reason than the fact that it was mostly a lighthearted romp. It was fun. The last two SW movies were The Last Jedi and Rogue One; both great movies, but both incredibly heavy, too. This movie was fun to watch, and that is an element that this series has always had going for it. Lightsabers are cool. Space battles are cool. Aliens are cool.
These things aren’t anything more than window dressing for the series as a whole, but are still absolutely necessary. This movie isn’t that deep, but then the plots of the classic films were never all that deep, either. And the prequel trilogy, well, if you think those are good, but these new films aren’t, you aren’t very good at being objective. That said, this movie has plenty of Star Wars-iness. But no lightsabers, which I didn’t hate. It didn’t need them.
Contributions to the Universe
Okay, so I’ve established that it was a better film than people thought it would be. I’ve discussed how it did fix some things that needed some fixing. I’ve even complimented the efforts of the people who put it together. But did it really need to be made?
It shows us the birth of the rebellion. It shows us why Han did something totally out of character in Ep IV. It shows us just how Han and Chewie met, and how Han got the Falcon. This movie is a solid standalone film. You could watch it and feel perfectly satisfied afterward. There is a resolution, and an end to it. But it leaves enough leeway that there could be more films in the series.
In fact, I hope there are. Instead of Solo II, I think Lando: A Star Wars Story would make a pretty great sequel. 2-3 other films featuring the characters from this one telling another complete story arc would be just the thing, in my opinion. Plus, we need to find out what’s going on with that character who shows up right at the end.* So make yourself some Star Wars-themed snacks, buy it or rent it, and strap in for a really entertaining movie.
*About this, the movie takes a lot of flak for the surprise cameo at the end. The thing is, both cartoon series are already considered to be canon, and he’s appeared in both of them. So these arguments are invalid. Personally, I think it sets up a really intriguing possible story.