(Spoiler Alert: This article contains massive spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story)
It’s the beginning of June now, and Lucasfilm’s Solo: A Star Wars Story is just coming off a disappointing box office return, projected to lose over $50 million for Disney. While most fans cite poor promotional material and production fiascos, I thought this would be as good a time as any to discuss my five least favorite parts of Solo with you.
5: Too many Star Wars callbacks
Solo: A Star Wars Story should have been a fairly straightforward origin story. And in many ways, it was just that. Han Solo broke free of his Corellian imprisonment, joined the Imperial Navy, and then ran off to join Woody Harrelson’s Tobias Beckett as the latter plundered the galaxy. There should be no need to incorporate too much of Han’s canon backstory (the Kessel Run, et al.) because the movie takes place nearly a decade before A New Hope. There’s plenty of time for Han to accomplish all of these legendary feats before he meets Luke Skywalker in Mos Eisley.
But this is not what happens. I could feel something was off when this scene began:
For those who watched the trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story, you’ll recognize this as the scene where Han Solo enlists in the imperial navy. So, it starts pretty straightforward: I’m Han, I wanna join the navy. Sure, sure, I want off this planet. But only so I can come back and save Emilia Clarke in a little. My last name? Uh….
Here’s where it gets interesting. When the enlistment officer (who apparently only has to enter a name into a computer to allow you into the Imperial Navy- no tests at all!) goes to put in Han’s last name, only to realize he is a solitary orphan, he just kinda sits there for a moment. Then he looks directly at the camera, and I kid you not when I say he goes, “Well, I dunno… how about Han… Solo?”
And that’s the scene. The whole scene, not twenty minutes into the movie, only exists to explain the origin of Han Solo’s name. His name. And it’s a pun. A philosophical question: if your coolest character’s name is a literal pun, does this make all of Star Wars a dad joke?
While an egregious storytelling sin on its own, this is not the worst Solo: A Star Wars Story has to offer. Perhaps ten minutes after this scene, we get a short origin scene of Han Solo’s gun, given to him by Beckett for a train heist, as well as a similar tell-all story for Chewbacca’s nickname. Spoiler: It’s because Han thinks it’s too long to say all the time. While little scenes like this annoy me, what is worse is that Han’s only lifetime accomplishments of any repute, the Kessel Run and winning the Millenium Falcon, both happen in this movie.
This ugly blue tube is the Kessel Run. It is very dangerous for pilots to fly because… well… because it is, ok? In order to further the plot, Han Solo breaks the Kessel Run rules by cutting through the official path so that he can bring the film’s mcguffin, a blue substance called coaxium, to a refinery. He then manages to do the run in 12 parsecs. Ordinarily, I’d be ok with this, as it was a decent scene. The fact of the matter is, though, Han Solo remarks he is “rounding down” to that number. By how much? With a world-class swindler, he could be rounding from as low as 12.8 to the full 18, for all we know. This destroys one of The Force Awakens’ most endearing moments, when Han Solo is so offended that Rey didn’t know the actual distance he traveled.
There were a few callback scenes which I enjoyed, like Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra offhand referencing the old Teras Kari video game, and both of the Sabacc scenes with Lando, relying so heavily on established canon made Solo: A Star Wars Story feel derivative and boring.
4: The Black Spire
OK, I admit this is a minor nitpick. But things like this annoy me to no end. But halfway through the movie, we meet Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian. Which is an amazing casting choice by the way. We also meet his up until now never mentioned robot lover/servant/social justice warrior, L3-37.
Throughout the whole movie she talks mostly about droid enslavement and then she dies. But she does have this little line about how she is Lando Calrissian’s navigator, and claims that Lando couldn’t even find the Black Spire without her.
If you’re like me and you only spent 23 hours a day online, you might not know what Black Spire is. While it is the name of a village in the Star Wars universe somewhere, it is also the name of a new Disney park theme resort that they’re going to be opening in a couple years. This really is a minor thing, but why? Why would you take time out of your movie which is already 2 1/2 hours long, to promote a Disney park that you’re not even gonna open for a couple years? Why even promote a Disney park inside of a movie at all? It’s terribly cynical, and honestly just stupid. It would be like if Han Solo used a Star Wars: Episode IX poster to hit Paul Bettany’s Dryden Voss in the forehead at the end of the film, just to remind you it exists.
This one was a minor and short point, but it was too different to lump in with 5, so on we go!
3: Why is Han Solo so nice?
Do you all remember in A New Hope when a violent delinquent shot a bounty hunter dead in a bar, for little more than empty threats? He then proceeded to pay off the bartender, and offhandedly apologized for the mess. Here’s a photo for reference:
If you notice something about the photo, notice this: Han Solo with a cold, remorseless gaze, as he stares down his dead foe. So he should be a little like this somewhere in his origin story, right?
Wrong. Throughout all of Solo: A Star Wars Story, Han continually acts selflessly for the benefit of his comrades. He works for three years to go try and save his childhood girlfriend. He saves Chewbacca by working with the latter to escape prison. He even saves Lando Calrissian, who he’d only experienced strife and enmity with up until that point, risking his own life in the process. Why? What motivates him to act this way, when everything selfless he does results in less happiness for him?
This is never resolved, but he sure is a nice guy. At the end of the movie, he has an indiscriminate amount of coaxium, which could afford him a lot of money. And he chooses to give it to the movie’s antagonist, the gravelly-voiced Enfys Nest.
Why would he do such a thing? Why would the historically cynical smuggler give this random girl such an important wealth? Because bad guys are bad, and that makes him feel bad. I guess. Anyway, he asks her what she plans to do with the money, and she responds all serious-like: “Rebellion.”
Wait, what? Does this make Han Solo a founding member of the Rebel Alliance? What makes him so reluctant to help them later? Why does Han Solo pretend to not know much about the Alliance? This plot point is maybe the most confusing part of the whole film, and that’s saying something.
2: The Pacing is Bad
The whole of Solo: A Star Wars Story tells an admittedly well-crafted and nuanced story, much better than I expected. But it is unfortunately hampered by the film’s spotty record of plot. There are times, like in the first 15 minutes of the film, that so much is happening that you can barely tell what to look at or care about. Then there are times, like the riot on Kessel (the grave of L3-37), that keep on going and going, barely advancing the plot at all. These overinflated scenes squish the rest, including what should be an extremely important confrontation between Beckett and Solo at the end of the film, into condensed spots.
Bad pacing also exists in scenes of the film, as well. When Han is on the battlefield, he seems to spend a decade fighting, leaving the movie only seconds to introduce the other major players in Beckett’s original crew before they die.
In fact, the film seems to care so little about how much flow it has that they are willing to spend probably 20 minutes talking about Han’s name and trivialities like that. It’s a two and a half hour movie with a one hour plot, and the film is all the worse for it.
1: Darth Maul
I was putting this off for last because I know how mad I will get talking about it, but my least favorite part of Solo: A Star Wars Story is the end. Paul Bettany’s Dryden Vos is dead, along with Tobias Beckett and maybe Han Solo’s innocence? Well, Han plans on leaving with Qi’ra, who cautions that she is dangerous to be around and commands Han to leave her. This is after an entire movie dedicated to get back to her, so I’m already mad. Well Han, being the nice guy he inexplicably is, leaves, and Qi’ra immediately pulls up Space Skype and calls a mysterious dude, the head of the criminal Crimson Dawn organization.
First off, let’s address the obvious here: Darth Maul looks terrible. I don’t mean that in an “Oh, you poor soul! Let’s get you some soup” kinda way. I mean that Lucasfilm’s VFX people did a bad job. To start with, holograms are blue. Always. Different colors don’t show up on a hologram; it’s like black-and-white security footage. No amount of color will change this. Yet there it is, Darth Maul’s forehead shining so bright. Also, why did he turn his lightsaber on? What purpose did this serve, except to remind you that this isn’t Star Trek? Where did Maul’s face tattoos go? Did Paul Bettany steal them?
Second of all, what is Darth Maul doing running a thieving ring? Some people’s last memory of Maul was him tumbling down a big hole, his legs swinging independently from the rest of him. Others recall his triumphant and dramatic return in the Clone Wars series, along with his revenge-driven nomad phase in Rebels. However, neither a rage demon bent on destruction or a psychopathic manipulator play well into the role of a dirty businessman. So what happened? Did he hit a midlife crisis? I don’t know.
The final problem is that this cameo may just break Star Wars. I mean it. In the nine years between Solo and Rebels, Maul has to be defeated. And because this is Disney, and they are currently trying their hardest to make all of their IP into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Han Solo-or at least one of his acquaintances-will be the one to do it. Which can only mean one thing: Han has to know about the Force come the time of A New Hope. And that’s it. If Lucasfilms goes the way with this that I know they will, then they have set up a retcon precedent, where everything anyone has ever said or claimed in Star Wars can be later made into a lie, if it means more money. Maybe Anakin Skywalker did have a father, and the real chosen one was Obi-Wan Kenobi! Maybe Snoke isn’t dead! Maybe Rey actually did hatch from an egg! The possibilities are limitless, and all of them have the potential to ruin the films.
So there are my five biggest problems with Solo: A Star Wars Story. If you haven’t seen the film, I encourage you to go, because despite its flaws, it truly is a good movie. Already seen the movie, and want some merchandise to enhance your fandom? No problem! Lucasfilms has released their new book, The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story , and Lego has several new sets available for your child’s inner Jedi.