han solo and chewbaccaSolo: A Star Wars Story

Original Screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan

Directed by Ron Howard

Film Review without spoilers

 

A Fun Film Overall, to watch it, click here.

I walked to our local cinema to watch Solo yesterday and exited the theater content overall, pleased with many of the film’s sub-narratives that made sense within the Star Wars universe. SOLO is primarily a feel good film and appropriate for kids (a dad and his two boys, ages 6 and 8 were in the theater and not overwhelmed by the gore). Gruesome violence is downplayed, though there are more than a few dead bodies by the end of the film, including Chewbacca pulling the arms off of a bad guy. (The audience laughed…but, we never see the bleeding body, just the two arms held up by Chewie).

SOLO is a fun ride for the Star Wars fan or someone who might not care about complex emotional narratives. It’s a space-romp with a number of laughs and swash-buckling action. What rang true? Young Han Solo is charming with a big screen grin that will win the hearts of those who adore good hair and a handsome face. Charm, in fact, is one of the most identifiable characteristics of the younger Han Solo. Others are:

  1. His optimism in the face of terrible odds
  2. His ego, connected to his piloting skills (The Millennium Falcon coming into the hands of Solo, following a gambling event with Lando Calrissian fills out a nice piece of backstory)
  3. His rogue/tough exterior with a subtext of goodness/romanticism and devotion to that which is just
  4. His loyalty (The Chewbacca mini-narrative is wonderful and touching).

All the characteristics listed above are present in the young Solo, but with a bit more naiveté than we see in the later version when the audience meets the more jaded version of Han Solo in STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE.

What Was Lacking?
It all seems too easy for Han Solo…

Real grit in the face of trauma was less present than I expected, resulting in a somewhat shallow story. The boy Han has grown up on a planet called Corellia, seemingly with little nurture or supervision. Corellia, the filmmakers let you know, has a reputation as a horrible place, yet the audience meets Han as a young twenty-something, empowered and rebellious and unflappable. The setting portrayed in the opening sequence features children living in squalor, but Han is clean and confident, so confident, he is willing to defy a crime boss (this crime boss is a giant centipede-like-creature that lives underwater, but emerges to speak…speaking perfect English actually…ain’t that something!) As Han escapes from Corellia, he is separated from a young woman he loves, Qi’ra. Even at this point, he does not break down or show extreme distress. He enters the Imperial Navy to learn to fly and vows to return for her. I was not convinced saving Qi’ra was driving his ambition to become a pilot. I sense no desperation in this character who is now a pawn in the humongous bureaucracy, which is the Imperial military.

The next time the audience sees Han, he is a part of an Imperial infantry division. He has been kicked out of flight school for insubordination. He is on an unnamed planet waging war with his comrades. It is a dark, smoke-filled environment. A chaotic battle is taking place. The scene is horrifying. Soldiers are dying left and right, diving into trenches, a few are screaming after enduring injuries. How long did Han fight with these warriors? Did he care about any of them? Was he traumatized by this? He is being used by the Empire to oppress those who are battling to stay free. Han never claims to care about politics, but we know he cares about certain people (and a Wookie and the Millennium Falcon). He grows attached and becomes loyal. Why no emotional engagement in this place? If he is defended against emotional engagement, it’s likely there is trauma, trauma that would impact his character. That might have been an interesting angle to take with this film, but instead the filmmakers hurry the story along. Han abandons his defeated and dying fellows in the military and joins up with a crew of thieves. Han escapes the trauma a second time. It all seems too easy.

So…this weekend, there is a bit of buzz about SOLO not making the money the filmmakers had hoped. There are a few news stories out (and it’s only Sunday of second weekend since its release) that indicate a significant decrease in the audience numbers. What does that mean? As with any of the gigantic film franchises that are emerging in the last thirty years, there are films that rise to the top quickly, but fizzle…and those that percolate and stay with you. I’m guessing, SOLO won’t stay with us in that same way that NEW HOPE, EMPIRE or even ROGUE ONE does, but sometimes, that’s okay. Not every film can be great, but a flick like this can still be great entertainment and in this case, SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY, delivers for the whole family.