I don’t want to be critical of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Partly because all those people that vehemently objected to the last Star Wars movie online just sounded like spoilt and self entitled man-babies and also because it’s not a bad film. I didn’t enjoy it all that much but lots of people have so maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind. Maybe I’ll re-evaluated it on a second viewing just as I did with no film ever. Anyway, everyone’s opinion is their own and mine is the only one I have. Read my less than enthusiastic of review Solo here.
The thing is there are a few parts in Solo that seem to jar tonally with everything else. My natural assumption is that these elements are part of the 30% of the movie that wasn’t reshot when director Ron Howard took over after Phil Lord and Chris Miller left because of creative differences. Lord and Miller are the guys behind Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, The Lego Movie and the Jump Street films and they generally go for a pretty broad type of comedy. It stands to reason that the sillier aspects of Solo were probably theirs then. They can also be heavily referential of filmic conventions so I’m guessing that some of the slightly meta, even post modern, moments came from them too. It’s all guess work but see what you think.
1. The rock mock Thermal Detonator
Near the start Han is caught in a tight spot when captured by the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland. In an attempt to gain the upper hand he uses the same trick Princess Leia pulled in Return of the Jedi, set some ten years to twelve later, by threatening to let off a thermal detonator grenade. Only in this scene it’s actually a rock and everyone can see it’s a rock. He might as well have tried to hold them at gunpoint with a banana. This moment would not have been out of place in The Lego Movie but it’s painfully out of place here. Han Solo might be known for blagging his way out of situations but this isn’t a sneaky blag, it’s a weak gag.
2. L3-37’s robot revolution
I had a little bit of trouble with the funny robot in Rogue One. We was less the fussy C3-PO and more the dry Marvin the Paranoid Android. Still someone in the creative circle liked the idea of a droid with a human personality because they’ve run with it again with L3 in this film. Everything about her character feels like it belongs in a more comedic story. Her sudden drive for robot rights could have been played for laughs or with quite serious undertones but in the end it doesn’t really go either way. It just feels underdeveloped. It is presumably a small part of a once much larger character arc.
3. L3-37’s full functionality
Was it just me, god I hope it wasn’t, but did there seem to be a strong suggestion that Lando had had sex with his droid? That definitely feels like a joke from the guys that wrote 21 Jump Street.
4. The Millennium wardrobe
When Han and Qi’ra are first in the Millennium Falcon they stumble across Lando’s closet. Lando’s most distinctive sartorial trait in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi was his dashing dress capes. Sure enough then, what is on the rails? Capes, nothing but capes. Lots and lots of capes. That definitely feels like a joke from the guys that wrote The Lego Movie.
5. Han shot first
Ever since George Lucas digitally altered A New Hope for its Special Edition release so that Han’s murder of Greedo was in self defence there has been a passionate fan campaign to reject this change. Many people liked the fact that this guy was a bad ass who would blast you away in cold blood if it would save him a scuffle later. There was an online petition, the slogan ‘Han Shot First’ adorned T-Shirts and posters and Lucas, Harrison Ford and Greedo actor Paul Blake all found themselves discussing it repeatedly in interviews.
So it was then that I suspect the geek savvy Lord and Miller addressed this by having Alden Ehrenreich’s young Han shoot an antagonist in the chest while he was mid sentence trying to explain the reasons for his betrayal. That cleared up the mess.
6. Han not Han
There has also been much deliberation over the years regarding the pronunciation of various classic character’s names. Is it Leia as in Lay-er or Leia as in Lee-a and is it Han as in H-an or Han as in H-arn? This comes from the fact that these are said differently by different people across the original trilogy. Again, explicitly clearing this up by having Han correcting someone who gets it wrong feels like the kind of thing Lord and Miller would do. Especially since they’ve gone with the Harrison Ford favoured H-arn rather than Lucas’ preference for H-an which I believe Lucas’ buddy Ron Howard would go with.
7. Going Solo
Han’s famous second name is also given to him in this movie. I wonder if this is because his real surname may indicate a significant connection that they are saving to reveal in a different movie. Is he actually Han Fett? Han Palpatine? Han Erso? Han Snoke? Han Binks? Is this what Qi’ra meant when she said she was the only one who knew who he really was? Anyway, the way he receives his famous epithet seems a little throw away. Was it a gag that would have worked in a more gag ridden script?
8. Rio Bravo
Rio, the pilot in Beckett’s motley crew, was my favourite new character yet he was gone so quickly. I feel that congratulations for his introduction should go to the film’s original directors and blame for his sudden demise should go to Howard, or at least the company execs. There had to be more of that little character in the original treatment and it is probably his more zany comedy nature that rang his death knell. When we first meet him he is hidden inside a man suit in a disguise that felt reminiscent of a load of Muppets standing on each other’s shoulders surrounded by a long coat and under an oversized hat. He just didn’t fit in Howard’s rewrite and most of him probably ended up on the cutting room floor.
9. Gal Pal Val
Another character whose involvement felt heavily truncated was Thandie Newton’s Val. Newton is brilliant in Westworld and from the trailers for this movie it seemed that Val would be a similar spiky, take absolutely no crap character to the role she plays in that TV show. She kind of was too but just as we got to know her she blew up. Like her diminutive buddy Rio, I wonder if much of her work was cut loose when the story went off on a different track. I don’t want to suggest that Ron Howard may have been less interested in her character than other directors might have been but in over thirty films he’s never had a female protagonist. Women have always been marginalised to some extent, even the one who turned out to be the descendant of Christ (that’s a terrible film). Anyway, just saying?
10. Making Wookie
Lord and Miller would certainly have made a funnier, more freewheeling, less reverential movie then. Theirs would undoubtedly have been a film that presented a very different version of the classic character, brought many more surprises and probably could have got away with Han Solo actually making noises like a Wookie. That’s not this movie.