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The World’s Most Belated Thoughts on Solo

It’s that time again when I talk about a movie that nobody else cares about anymore! There will be spoilers, so if I’m not quite the last person to see Solo, be warned.

Solo: A Star Wars Movie is not a controversial movie the way The Last Jedi was. I don’t think it’s possible for a movie to be as controversial as that one. Nobody’s scrotums have been tied in knots over plot elements from Solo, and Solo has not “killed the franchise” for anyone. It is, to put it in very simple terms, inoffensive.

Inoffensive is not a criticism in this case. In fact, I mean that as a sort of compliment, although it is easy to see how it might not be one. But in order to understand what I mean by “inoffensive,” you have to gauge it by the most common complaint that I’ve seen stapled to the movie: it didn’t need to exist.

I can’t really argue with that, in a way. It’s true…from a certain point of view. Everything you really need to know about Han you learned in the original trilogy. You can fill in the blanks on how someone came to be the way that he was on your own, just by judging him on his actions in Episode IV.

But here’s the thing about the statement that this movie didn’t need to exist. Technically, no Star Wars movie after Episode IV needs to exist. That first movie told a complete story: farmboy dreams of heroic adventures and achieves his dream, saving the galaxy from a dreadful superweapon in the process. Yes, there are stories to be told after that movie, and stories that can be told before it. But, that’s the case with anything. In the purity of the concept, the only Star Wars movie that ever needed to be made…was Star Wars.

But that’s not how this story goes.

In the end, it doesn’t matter that Han Solo didn’t need an “origin” movie. At this point, Star Wars is bigger than what it needs.

I think we all knew what we would be getting with a Solo origin. It would be a matter of drawing the blueprint after seeing the building. That’s the point of movies like this. They reverse engineer what we already know. There’s not going to be any big surprises, because the future is already set. All that’s left is whether or not it’s fun. And, for me, it was.

I think the only real surprise in Solo was the fact that they didn’t seed it with as many references as expected. I think we all knew we’d see a handful of the basics: how he met Chewie, how he won the Falcon from Lando, the Kessel run. Those are all vital parts of what makes Han who he is. But I admit I was expecting him to run into a young Boba, or some kind of audience-winking Greedo meeting. “One day I’m going to kill that guy,” Han would say as Greedo walks away. Thankfully, none of that happened.

Solo managed to be a bit of a western, a bit of a heist movie, and a bit of noir. Despite the nature of all the double crosses and the betrayals, there was no real surprise as the events laid out. This was not a movie that existed for originality of plot, but Star Wars has never been about originality. It’s a franchise built on Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and Samurai cinema that has all been thrown together in one pot. It’s always been about the characters more than bringing something truly original to the table.

When casting actors into iconic, well-known roles, there are degrees of success. Nobody is going to be able to perfectly replicate Harrison Ford’s take on Han, and this movie was smart in not trying to do an impersonation. Alden Ehrenreich captured a certain cocky swagger that was unmistakeably Han-esque, just younger, less jaded. I do think he smiled a little too much when a smirk would have been called for, but otherwise it felt like Han…or at least Han-in-training. In the years between this movie and Episode IV that smile no doubt dimmed a bit. I do love that they unapologetically had Han shoot first, setting up a pattern of behavior that carries through to Han’s fateful meeting with Greedo, where he absolutely shot first, regardless of what anybody else says.

The real standout performance was Donald Glover’s Lando. When we first hear Lando talking off-screen, I was halfway convinced that it was a Billy Dee Williams voice-over. Glover not only channeled Billy Dee’s smooth swagger effortlesly, sliding his words together in that musical, unmistakable way that was 100 percent Lando, he also captured his tone. While I was entertained by the proceedings up until Lando’s appearance, he definitely provided a spark that had been lacking up until that point.

In reference to the “surprise appearance,” I remember thinking about ten minutes before that point that this had been a unique Star Wars movie without lightsabers of a single usage of the Force. Of course, that was blown completely when Maul showed up. If there was any movie I would love to see, it would be Maul’s rise to power as the head of Crimson Dawn. A deeper exploration of the the seedier side of the Star Wars universe could be endlessly entertaining.

Solo achieved something that the Prequels (to me) didn’t, by providing a backstory that didn’t detract from what we already knew. No Hans were harmed in the making of this film. It neither adds nor subtracts. I think the only questionable element was the idea “Solo” isn’t actually his real last name, even though there is mention of a father, so presumably should have known his last name. I’m kind of torn on that one, in that I kind of like it in a way, while acknowledging how bizarre that he adopts a random name an imperial dude lays on him as an almost joke and decides to just…keep it. And does Q’ira know his real last name, since they grew up together? Did she ask him why he was being called Han Solo? If he drinks from a red plastic cup, is that autoeroticism?

If that’s the only real complaint I have with the movie, it did a good job at being exactly what it needed to be: an inoffensive and entertaining origin movie about a scoundrel.