Myself, a big Star Wars fan, just returned tonight from seeing the much-maligned “Solo”. Solo is the first Star Wars movie that is believed to lose money since ticket sales, compared to the other films, was poor. It had a troubled history with a relatively unknown actor (Alden Ehrenreich ) as Han Solo with rumors coming out that he frankly, sucked, as Han. Later the directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired with generally losing control of the film on many levels, including making a mess of things by overlying on improvisation. “Thor: Ragnarok” this film was not supposed to be, or so we heard.
Veteran director Ron Howard, one of my personal favorites, was brought in to clean up the mess and re-shoot the majority of the film. With rock-bottom expectations for the film I just felt uninterested in seeing it soon after release, but I did want to see it like I want to see all Star Wars films, at least ONCE in the theater.
I remember tonight being 15 minutes in, noticing a huge smile on my face, and realizing “Hey, this is really good so far!” And that didn’t change for the rest of the movie. Why people don’t like this movie much – I have no clue – it pleasantly surprised me. So instead, I’ll give my reasons why I really liked it. All spoilers I want to discuss follow (but who HASN’T seen this yet except for me??).
1.) The characters were really solid.
First and foremost I “bought” Alden E. as Solo. He just felt right…Right smile, right attitude. Not the same Han, but a more innocent Han. Emilia Clarke was seductive and charming as Qi’Ra and I felt her and Alden had some legit chemistry. Lando was great, Donald Glover is a AAA talent and delivers in everything in his short career, and he was great as Lando.
Some other minor characters impressed. I liked Paul Bettany’s turn as Dryden Vos, the main bad guy. Paul has traditionally played dramatic roles and good guys (at least where I’ve seen him) but with his tall lanky frame, scar makeup, and a few scenes of rage, I thought he was a great villain. Woody Harrelson as Beckett was good as well. I liked what they did more with Lando’s droid L3 than her personality, but I’ll discuss that in a minute.
I also liked Chewbecca’s origin and continue to enjoy how seamless the transition has been to the new Chewbecca actor, who has the body language and mannerisms down pat.
2.) The movie was well-crafted.
A surprise after all the turmoil of its production, but the movie didn’t feel like a mess. Ron Howard has always been a master at keeping the action in frame and showing the audience what it needs to see to make sense of a scene…Not like many of the new “quick cut on meth” directors we see directing the action these days. I hate those rapid cuts, you can’t see what’s going on and it can cover up poor choreography. I felt it was a major issue in “Black Panther” for example.
3.) The Beautiful Retconns.
Retconns or “retroactive continuity” is a relatively new concept in film, certainly on the scale we see it these days. Basically it is plot points or answers to plot points found in earlier-made films, but films that take place in the time frame after a prequel. A big example prior to Solo would be “Rogue One” explaining why the Death Star has such an obvious flaw with its exhaust port. A well-crafted retconn has the ability to enhance BOTH the prequel and latter film’s viewing. A poor retconn can ruin both, however.
In Solo’s case my favorite retconn is that of the droid L3. In the original trilogy, Han is constantly talking to the Falcon as “her” and while some people do that with vehicles, for me Han’s affection always seemed to be more than that. That was backed up in “The Empire Strikes Back” where Han mentions that he needs C-3PO to talk to the Falcon. When hooked up, C-3PO talks about her having a weird personality and a “peculiar dialect”. This was great: it shows that the Millennium Falcon is more than just a ship but actually a sentient robot with the ‘soul’ of L3.
I enjoyed seeing Sabaac, basically Star Wars poker, actually onscreen instead of just mentioned (it’s a huge part of the books). Corellia looked good, planet Corellia has always represented the United States, and I felt represented such architecture.
There were a few other tidbits I wanted to touch on. I enjoyed the “Western” feel of the movie, particularly the “Great Train Robbery” type scene. I thought Lady Proxima, a giant puppeted water millipede, was a creepy but really good effect. In general, costume and set design were great. Emilia Clarke in particular has some great costumes that fit her well (really well). She’s always seemed super intelligent in interviews and I’ll admit I totally have had a crush on her for years anyways 🙂
The criticisms? Well, very few films are devoid of criticism and Solo isn’t an exception. Firstly, I really didn’t like the music. It felt tonally wrong for Star Wars and was uninspired. In addition the music wasn’t LOUD enough! This is something filmmakers actually control at the theater level, so the blame is on them. I felt the ending was overly long and had too many double-crosses to be believable.
Narratively, my biggest criticism is why Qi’Ra leaves Han. She chooses money as a way of “surviving” it seems rather than running off with Han. Perhaps it’s implied that she can’t leave Crimson Moon or whatever the hell gang she’s part of, but I figured she would have tried, choosing love with Han even with said risks. Darth Maul’s cameo was cool though!
I guess in the end, I’d ask the world, I’ve made my case on why Solo was great – what are your reasons why it wasn’t?