This article contains spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story… I guess? I don’t know. There’s nothing much in this movie to be spoiled anyway.
You can also click here, for our non-spoiler review.
I’ll get right to it, no opening crawl and all, just like a Star Wars anthology movie. Solo: A Star Wars Story is not great. It’s not even very good. It’s decent and I had enough fun with it to give it a fresh rating in my review. Prior to Solo, the new batch of Star Wars movies have all been absolute gold. The Force Awakens rekindled my dwindling love for this universe, Rogue One showed me a side of Star Wars I have been dying to see, and The Last Jedi, well The Last Jedi is a God damn masterpiece. Solo is an enjoyable, throwaway popcorn flick with spectacular (albeit weightless) action set pieces and charismatic cast members that do their best to elevate a paint by numbers script.
Below I discuss in detail why this movie, while not terrible, is an absolute disappointment.
1. It lacks personality
I wasn’t really bummed out when Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were fired due to creative difference and not knowing how to fold their socks (you would think I’m kidding), after supposedly completing 90% of production. I was shocked, sure, but upon reading reports and rumours that the talented pair were handling this movie like they did 21 Jump Street — with plenty of improvisation and comedy — it seemed like Kathleen Kennedy had made the right decision.
But having seen Solo: A Star Wars Story, I’m curious to know how Lord and Miller’s version of the movie would’ve turned out. Lord and Miller’s filmmaking style may not be suitable for a Han Solo movie, but at least the movie would have personality and style. The Ron Howard version of Solo we actually get is terribly bland. Thinking about it, I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the once upon a time inspiring filmmaker has been on autopilot for more than a decade now. His last great movie? Frost/Nixon in 2008.
Star Wars movies usually feel special. The biggest problem with Solo is that it lacks that Star Wars MAGIC. It feels too ordinary. It has no tone and spunk. It just sorts of chugs along and then the end credits roll. But perhaps this is the best case scenario. Perhaps Lord and Miller’s version was shaping to be a ‘balls to the wall’ comedy that would’ve completely ruined the character of Han Solo. Perhaps the best way out of the mess was to give us this Ron Howard steamed broccoli version of a movie. It’s mundane and tasteless but you swallow it anyway in the name of the greater good and move on with your life.
2. A one dimensional, crappy villain
For years now, Star Wars has given us some of the most interesting villains in all of fiction. From the introduction of Darth Vader, The Emperor, Grand Moff Tarkin and Jabba the Hutt in the original trilogy; Chancellor Palpatine (who goes on to become The Emperor),
Jar Jar Binks and Darth Maul in the prequels; to Kylo Ren in the new trilogy; all the way to the likes of Orson Krennic in Rogue One and Grand Admiral Thrawn in the animated series, Star Wars Rebels, the villains have been mostly top notch.
Then comes Dryden Vos in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Dryden Vos played by Paul Bettany, is evil for the sake of being evil. This is supposed to be a spoiler-heavy article, but unfortunately, I can’t spoil anything about the villain. Not because I don’t want to but because there is nothing to spoil. Writers Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan don’t explore this character in depth. We know that he’s some form of crime lord — think Jabba the Hutt, except 0% similar — and he works for Darth Maul? And that’s pretty much it. His default and only form of personality is “anger.” Is he always angry because he has multiple scars on his face? I guess I would be pissed too if I looked like that.
The blame shouldn’t fall on Paul Bettany, though. He gives it his all, trying his best to elevate the mediocre screenplay he’s working with. But frankly, Dryden Vos is so poorly penned, even Double D Lewis couldn’t have made it work.
3. It adds nothing to the lore of Han Solo
What is the purpose of a spin-off movie focusing entirely on one character, if we come off not learning about nor understanding the character on a deeper level? Solo: A Star Wars story adds absolutely nothing interesting to the Han Solo lore besides the fact that he got his last name refugee style, from the Empire — he’s a lone wolf, hence Solo.
Rogue One, the first anthology film in the Star Wars universe is GREAT because not only is it a riveting singular movie, it also adds layers to the Star Wars universe that we know and love. One problem I’ve always had with the main episodes, is the treatment of the soldiers AKA the rebel/resistance army. More often than not, the rebel army feels nothing more than fillers. Minions who shoot at stuff just because shooting shit and giant explosions will look good on screen, while the Force wielders handle the “important” stuff. Rogue One changes that. It is a grounded and gritty war film that highlights how integral the rebel soldiers are, in the war against The Empire. It also adds layers to the character of Darth Vader, as we see him viciously and mercilessly kill off Rebel soldiers.
We get a different version of Han in The Force Awakens. He’s older, wiser and broken after losing his son to the dark side. And then he dies, murdered by his own flesh and blood. The Force Awakens adds to the Han Solo legacy. Solo does nothing for the character. With or without this movie, Han remains exactly the same.
4. It doesn’t offer a unique perspective
Again, I go back to the question what is the purpose of this movie if it adds nothing to the Star Wars lore?
We view the main saga mostly through the eyes of the Force wielders. Rogue One is a grounded and gritty war film. For the first time, we witness firsthand how fu*ked up the galaxy is under the Empire’s rule. Stormtroopers constantly patrol the streets. People are suffering, broken and afraid. The war against the Galactic Empire is more than just a clash of lightsabers between father and son.
What exactly does Solo: A Star Wars Story accomplish? Heck, can someone tell me what TYPE of movie it is? Remember that scene in Batman Begins where Rachel and Bruce drive through the underbelly of Gotham City, run by mobsters? I was hoping that we would explore the Star Wars version of that in Solo. To be afraid as I ventured through the underbellies of the Star Wars universe. To experience dingy cantinas with their unregulated alcohol, jam-packed with mobsters and hookers. To get entangled with the mafia and scurry for my life. But it’s unfair to judge a movie based on what I hoped it would be.
Still, it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t know what this movie is. It’s easy to call it a heist movie. But is it really, though? Ocean’s Eleven is a heist film. Fast Five is an action-heist film. Heist films always involve some sort of planning, scheming and ruse. Solo: A Star Wars story is a bland movie with heists in it.
Even the worst Star Wars films like The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones have interesting story beats. Solo, while executed miles better than Episode I and Episode II, has literally nothing interesting to offer.
5. Pointless fanservice
There are two scenes in this movie that feel so forced, I almost choked to death.
Han shoots Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). We get it, Han shot first.
In the mid-90s George Lucas re-released the original Star Wars trilogy, deemed the Special Edition. Besides small visual tweaks and annoying CGI aliens walking around in the background, it is, for the most part, exactly the same as the version people watched in the cinemas back in the day. But one particular edit did not sit right with fans at all.
In the original version of the film, when Greedo interrupts Han at the Mos Eisley Cantina, Han kills him after some back and forth banter. But, in the Special Edition, a laser shot was added in, fired from Greedo’s blaster, making him the first shooter in the altercation. This change proved to be extremely controversial as it ever so slightly taints the Han Solo character.
To rectify this problem, there’s a scene in the third act of Solo: A Star Wars story in which Beckett and Han face each other. Han shoots first before Beckett has a chance to draw his weapon. The moment isn’t earned. Not to mention, it plays out awkwardly as it’s painfully obvious what Ron Howard and the writers were trying to accomplish.
Why on earth does Darth Maul turn on his lightsaber?
Once again, I must draw a comparison to Rogue One. Vader showing up at the end of Rogue One is one of the greatest moments of all of Star Wars. Thinking about it still gives me the chills. All the members of team ‘Rogue One’ have died, but not before successfully transmitting the Death Star plans to the rebel fleet. CHAOS! The rebels scurry, trying to get the Death Star plans to Princess Leia. Suddenly the lights go off when you hear the iconic breathing. And then you see Vader’s red lightsaber ignite. And then you get a heart-attack and die.
Solo tries to include a cool moment too, this time with Darth Maul. Look, I love Darth Maul. He shouldn’t have died in The Phantom Menace and I’m glad Lucasfilm brought him back to life in the Clone Wars animated series. His arc in Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels is great. Watching him die (for good this time) at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi is even greater.
I don’t mind the inclusion of Maul in Solo (which we now know takes place many years before Rebels). It’s the execution that bothers me. First of all, it seems completely shoehorned in at random. Secondly, why the actual f*ck did he turn on his lightsaber?
The scene goes like this…
*It’s a hologram skype call between Qi’ra and Maul*
Maul: Bla bla bla bla
Qi’ra: Bla bla bla bla to you too sir
Maul: *Turns on lightsaber* Bla bla bla bla bla
Qi’ra: bla bla bla bla
Maul: Okay, goodbye Mother of Dragons. *Turns off lightsaber*
I have two theories. One, he turns it on just for the sake of making the noobs in the audience go “Ooh look! A guy with a lightsaber.” A much better theory is that the entire conversation is an allegory for cybersex and Darth Maul flashes his throbbing penis to Qi’ra.
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