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Solo: A Star Wars Story

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I had a bad feeling about this.

It wasn’t just Solo‘s cursed production history: the original directors were sacked near the end of shooting, and Ron Howard was brought in to finish the movie, reshooting 70 percent of it. It wasn’t just the rumors that Alden Ehrenreich was not up to the role of Han Solo. It wasn’t just the tepid reviews.

The real problem is making a movie about the young Han Solo in the first place. Because what makes Star Wars compelling is not space battles and cantinas full of exotic aliens. It is the presence of Grand Politics — the Empire and the Rebellion — and the Numinous: the Force and its initiates, both good and evil. Han Solo before his involvement in either is just the cynical smuggler we met on Tattooine.

Now, there was nothing to stop Disney from making a great movie about a cynical smuggler with a good heart trying to make his way in a savage universe. But such a movie would be unlike any other Star Wars movie, and that would present a problem for the writer and director. They could not dine out on Grand Politics and the Numinous. At best, these could only appear on the margins and in a manner in which Han could not grasp their full significance. Instead, they would have to do a straightforward adventure movie set in the Star Wars universe, but without depending upon the factors that make the franchise unique and compelling. (To say nothing of sure-fire hits, even when they are bad.)

But there are two kinds of adventure movies: pulp films in which cardboard characters dodge random explosions — and good films, which need to have three things: character development, dramatic conflict connected to deep moral and metaphysical themes, and a story that is not just one accident after another. A good plot needs an element of necessity. The story has to be in some way generated by the characters and the moral and metaphysical themes. Great, involving stories are encounters between what is deep in us and what is deep in the universe.

Solo could have been a good movie, even a great one. But the writers and directors needed to ask themselves at every step: Would this still be a good movie if we dropped all the Star Wars crap and set it in any other universe or time period? The answer, unfortunately, is no. I found Solo to be a lifeless, uninvolving movie from beginning to end.

Solo is not a calculated, cynical, derivative farce like The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Those films are evil and inept. Solo is neither. It has an original plot. It is well directed. It is competently acted. It is often great to look at. But it is basically just a pulp-level caper film, where the heroes rush from one contrived crisis to another, always saving the day in the nick of time.

At one point, it crossed my mind that maybe Disney had confused Han Solo with Indiana Jones. But the first three of those movies were pretty good, and even they had mystery and magic. (Of course everybody knows that Star Wars is based on old pulp space opera serials. But Lucas took them to a higher level.)

Basically, Solo makes a list of all the things that we know about the young Han Solo from the original trilogy. He presumably had a childhood. He has a name. He met Chewie. He won the Millennium Falcon in a card game with Lando Calrissian. He made something called the Kessel run in 12 parsecs. The movie then resolves to stitch all these together while including other obligatory Star Wars tropes: a cantina scene, a wisecracking droid, some space battles and chases. There’s nothing about the Jedi and the Force, and the Empire is only present on the edges, and in the most sordid and grimy way possible. (We do, however, discover why Storm Troopers can’t shoot, for the application procedure is hardly rigorous.)

But this is not how you create a great story. At best, these are just side dishes and trimmings. The main course should have been an original plot. The back story stuff should have been worked in as asides or surprises. One of the best things about Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One is how neatly and pleasurably they slotted into what we already knew happened from the first trilogy. But they weren’t just back stories. They had self-contained plots.

Furthermore, the underlying plot of Solo is stupid. Han and Qi’ra are in love. Han and Qi’ra are on the run from gangsters. Han escapes, but Qi’ra is captured. Han then spends the next three years in the Imperial Army, hoping for an opportunity to get a ship, return home, and find Qi’ra. But why does he need his own ship to return home? Couldn’t he book passage on another vessel? And why does he even need to return home to learn about her fate? Are we to believe that in a universe with faster-than-light travel, people don’t have email?

I can’t recommend Solo. It simply left me cold. It is not a bad movie, but it is not good either. It did not make me angry like The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. It just made me bored. It is a waste of time and money. I never thought much of Han Solo to begin with. And I still don’t. The character has no magic or grandeur. He was never quite up to the Star Wars universe, and he is nothing without it. Ron Howard is a talented director, but there may have been nothing he could do. Solo‘s fate may have been sealed before he stepped in.

Solo has plenty to irritate racially conscious whites. Alden Ehrenreich is twice as Jewish as Harrison Ford. Woody Harrelson’s character has a black squeeze. Space pimp Lando is supposed to be pansexual, but that is simply to say he is an actor. His droid has a sassy black Communist woman trapped inside it. Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra is supposed to be something completely new: a strong, badass woman. But she’s actually no MaRey Sue. She’s simply treacherous and backstabbing. The leader of the marauders has a face from the National Geographic miscegenation issue. And so forth.

Like I said, I had a bad feeling about Solo going in. And as the movie unfolded, I definitely felt the absence of grandeur and mystery. But at the end, the source of my dissatisfaction was confirmed when the hologram of Darth Maul appeared to summon his servant to Dathomir. This only makes sense if one has watched the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

After The Last Jedi, I gave up hope for theatrical Star Wars movies and decided to explore the two animated series, Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels. After all, Star Wars movies are mostly cartoons anyway.

I was pleasantly surprised. These animated series, under the guidance of director and producer Dave Filoni, are simultaneously true to the spirit of the original Lucas films while being highly imaginative and original — and often quite deep and emotionally powerful. They are infinitely superior to all of Disney’s movies and the true heirs and guardians of George Lucas’ legacy.

Note

Here’s my current ranking of the Star Wars movies and animated series (Rogue One sank considerably after I viewed it on BluRay):

The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars (A New Hope)
Star Wars: Rebels
Revenge of the Sith
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Return of the Jedi
Rogue One
Attack of the Clones
Solo
The Phantom Menace
The Last Jedi
The Force Awakens

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15 Comments

  1. Fredrik
    Posted May 28, 2018 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Apologies if it’s already been done, but i wouldn’t mind a Trevor Lynch (or Jef Costello, or maybe James O’meara if he wants to) review/essay on the prequels. They’re not as bad as fanboys make them out to be.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted May 28, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      Trevor Lynch will write something.

      • NewCastle
        Posted May 29, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        When???

  2. vortrekker
    Posted May 27, 2018 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Luke’s story is just innocence betrayed.

    Look what he did to the Death Star. A massive toll of dead troops just doing their thing.

    The Death Star also just keeps getting rebuilt. Destroying it is like trying to uninvent nukes.

  3. vortrekker
    Posted May 27, 2018 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Star Wars worked because it took a good teenage boy and gave him a grand adventure. That’s about it.

  4. vortrekker
    Posted May 27, 2018 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Let go of your childhood memories viz The Movies.

  5. Peter Quint
    Posted May 27, 2018 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Another person that should have been left out is (((Carrie Fisher))), not a very attractive female. The part would have been better filled by a true aryan, like Michelle Pfeiffer, a luminous beauty. If the jews really want to make compelling movies that would sell, they should make them about Darth Vader policing the empire. Darth Vader is the most compelling, and tragic figure to me.

    • Lyov Myshkin
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      They just announced a Darth Vader solo movie so you’re in luck.

  6. Gnome Chompsky
    Posted May 26, 2018 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    One more, Lucas based the series in part on old TV or matinee space operas, but also on F. Herbert’s Dune (particularly in <i>Star Wars</i>) and on samurai movies (I would guess, and think I recall he said, mainly Kurosawa).

  7. Peter Quint
    Posted May 26, 2018 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I never did like (((Harrison Ford))) as Hans Solo; I think the role should have gone to Kurt Russell who also auditioned for it. Kurt Russell had the charisma, and wise cracking ability to flesh out the character better–much better than a half-jew like Harrison Ford. I too was curious as to why they thought a peripheral character like Han Solo would make a good movie–it’s just more jewish money grubbing behavior.

    • Gnome Chompsky
      Posted May 26, 2018 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      I agree, Peter.

      OTOH, people at the time, myself included, mainly saw Russell as the nerdy star of several pre-(((hostile takeover))) Disney movies.

      Ford had appeared in almost nothing but American Graffiti, I saw it once, but too young to remember it well, sure don’t recall his part. I think that shooting of his minor part in the briefing scene for Willard in Apocalypse Now! may actually have been pre-Star Wars.

      It is nice to imagine a world where Kurt Russell’s post-Disney action horror sci-fi career (well, the Disney movies were kind of sci-fi) started as Han in Star Wars, but it didn’t.

      I saw Death-proof for the first time last winter, if I were Russell, I would have demanded a change to the ending, where he emerges, still death-proof, after destroying the other car.

      It is sickeningly bad as it is, as any who have watched it know.I much preferred the companion piece, Planet Terror.

      I like Brett Easton Ellis’s description of Harrison Ford in Lunar Park:’giant blowhard.’

  8. Threestars
    Posted May 26, 2018 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    >Because what makes Star Wars compelling is not space battles and cantinas full of exotic aliens. It is the presence of Grand Politics — the Empire and the Rebellion

    I think Trevor Lynch is exaggerating the importance of the high political goal in Star Wars. Not to say this is irrelevant but it takes second seat to more attractive things, like high space adventure in a fantasy-like setting.

    Remembering watching SW as a kid, the awareness that the Empire will gain huge political leverage if our band of plucky rebels fails to destroy the deathstar added very little to the excitement of watching the heroes do space battle with lasers. I’m sure this was the experience of most people.

    We care about Luke and Solo winning because we’ve grown to like them, but not so much about the galactic politics that were barely touched on in the original trilogy. This is further underlined by the fact that the main character story arc mostly runs parallel to the political conflict, only interjecting in some key points, and what’s more important, it’s conclusion doesn’t necessarily depend on it. We don’t expect for Luke to become Ruler of The Galaxy by the end.

    As I’ve said, I don’t disagree that the high political scope is part of Star Wars and has some importance, but I’m pretty sure that for most viewers it doesn’t act as more of a draw than space battles and weird aliens.

  9. Pietas
    Posted May 25, 2018 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    What I find curious is why they stuck with Alden Ehrenreich so doggedly (if the rumors of his thespian inadequacy are true.). That’s a competitive industry so I hear and there would seem to be many guys who look a lot more like Harrison ford and with passable acting chops. Ford has much darker skin than him…just curious.

  10. Gnome Chompsky
    Posted May 25, 2018 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    As for storm troopers being bad shots, they are all clones of an NiZ Maori, via Lucas’ LA cops in THX 1138.

    The scenes in Attack of the Clones, where all of the stormtroopers had Nz eccents (mis-spelling intended) was fun.

    As for Han, well, Harrison Ford was fumny at times

    He always seems to have hated that aspect of his performance. Particularly so in Bladerunner, which he didn’t stop whining about for many years.

    Sean Young, as Rachel Rosen in the film, claims that he was very cruel to her, and I believe it.

    A ‘young Han Solo’ film , without a young Ford, (impossible) is pointless.

    .

  11. Gnome Chompsky
    Posted May 25, 2018 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    I also liked the Clone Wars animated series (never saw the CG one). It was enjoyable, also a nice bridge from ep. II to ep. III of the prequels.

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