Monday, May 28, 2018

Solo (a movie review post)

I'm going to be honest; I was more than a little dubious going into this movie. I read many of the Han Solo novels when I was a kid and had a pretty good grasp of his backstory in my mind. Or at least my impressions of that backstory; it has been a long time since I read any of those books. The movie trailers didn't lead me to believe that Disney was going to do more than pay token respect to that backstory, much in the same way they have only paid token respect to what Lucas had planned for the future of the series. But here's the thing: Disney was upfront when they bought the Star Wars franchise: They said, then, that the vast majority of pre-existing material other than the movies would be viewed as non-canon material and they would be free to paint over it however they wanted to, which, actually, was not any different than what Lucas had already said. At any rate, there was not a lot of canon material about Han's past for Disney to have to cling to, so I suppose I'm glad they worked in as much of the previous Han lore as they did.

That said, I really enjoyed the movie, much more than I expected to, as I kind of expected to outright not like it. Seriously, the trailers were some of the worst ever and not very representative of the movie. I really have only one complaint, a rather philosophical one that I'll get to in a moment. First, the good:

Alden Ehrenreich: He's great. I already liked him a lot from his role in Hail, Caesar! He's fantastic in that, and that one role really shows off his versatility. He does a great job of stepping into Harrison Ford's shoes, and I never didn't believe him as Han.

Donald Glover: The first thing I ever saw him in was The Martian and, for such a small part, he may have been my favorite thing about that movie. He's a good fit for Lando, though I think all the people saying that he was channeling Billy Dee Williams are only saying that because they're not very familiar with Glover as an actor. He seemed very Glover to me, but being Donald Glover is very Lando, evidently. I hope we get to see more of him in this role.

The introduction into the movies of so much material that has never previously been in the movies: It was awesome to have the introduction of the Teras Kasi into the Star Wars canon, see the Pikes onscreen for the first time, deal with the Crimson Dawn... So much stuff! The two animated series (and I'm not talking Droids and Ewoks) have suddenly become much more important.

In fact, I can't even say how important, because that would involve a major spoiler. Major. And it was so good and cool. I mean, I don't have a lot of OMG! moments in movies, but I had one over this. And maybe shouldn't have, knowing the backstory from Clone Wars the way I do, but, really, I just didn't expect them to draw it into the movies. And, now, I'm really excited for the next Han Solo movie. You did know there was going to be another one, right? Another two, actually. Anyway, this is kind of on the scale of, "Luke, I am your father."

There's other good stuff, but these are the highlights. At least until I've seen it again. Maybe other things will strike me at that point.

But here's my philosophical issue:
Why is that every hero has to have some kind of tragic backstory? Like Luke (or Harry Potter) growing up an orphan? Or Han growing up on the streets of Corellia, also an orphan? And, maybe, that wouldn't be an issue if his backstory had started him out that way.

See, here's how it was:
Han was pretty much a normal kid. Not a rich kid, but his parents were well-off enough to send him to the Imperial Academy where he became a hotshot pilot. He was pretty self-absorbed. Why not? It's a big deal to be the best pilot at the Academy. Which is all why it's an even bigger deal when, one day, Han sees an Imperial officer beating a wookie slave and steps in to save the wookie. this is a kid who has never thought about anyone other than himself whose eyes are suddenly opened to this cruelty that is happening right in front of him and, rather than walking away as everyone else is doing, he interposes himself in the situation, saves the wookie, but has to go on the run.

The lesson he learned? Don't get involved. It only has bad results. Han had everything going for him, and he lost it all in one moment of compassion. Sure, he got a wookie with a life-debt to him out of the bargain, but who's to say if he would do it that way again if he had the chance to do it over? He lost all of his fame and glory in that one act.

That's a story I find compelling.

Much more so than the way he and Chewbacca become companions in the movie, which was more about saving himself than about saving a wookie. And there's no mention of a life debt in the movie; why would there be? It's a mutual life-saving.

Which is not to deride the movie. The movie is good. But it also stays squarely within convention. I get that Disney knows what people like and play to that masterfully, but I think they missed out on opportunity to make Han a much more nuanced character than he now is. Which is to say that they made him less nuanced than he was because they fell back on making him merely a stereotype, the male version of the "whore with a heart of gold." As Qi'ra says to him, "I know who you really are. You're the good guy." Or something like that.


  1. It looks pretty good, although I'm probably going to wait until it's available for streaming to see it. But it does seem like it's a pretty good movie.

  2. I loved it. I loved it so much more than I expected. Glover’s perfect. I would have loved it if they had kept the face-changing cards for Sabacc bu enjoyed the earthier alternative.

    I love that it was basically a space western as any movie about Han Solo really should be. I loved the Seven Samurai vibe.

    I am not so fond of the big twist at the end...

    1. TAS: Yeah, I knew you wouldn't be a fan of that. But I think it's AWESOME that they are drawing so much from the animated series.

  3. I've been hesitant about this one since they announced it—and no, I hadn't worked up the nerve to see it until reading this (thank you). I am bummed, though, and VERY bummed, that they tweaked the Chewie-Han story like that. You're so right on the hero stereotype (whore w/ heart of gold, LOL—but YES), and it's so unnecessary. As you say, the original version is much more fascinating, because it's much more human. Ah, well. Also, I did not know about this being a trilogy, which makes it all the more important that this one be good.

    Thanks for this, Andrew. I'd been wondering what you were going to think about it when you saw it.
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

    1. Guilie: I have to wonder about the trilogy status at this point. It under-performed for its opening weekend and Disney doesn't have a problem with pulling the plug on projects if they don't expect a good return.