When discussing the Star Wars prequels, comedian Patton Oswalt said: “I was thinking the other day about a time machine…and the first thing I thought of doing if I actually had a time machine, is that I would go back in time to about 1993 or ’94, and kill George Lucas with a shovel.” So you as you can imagine, he has some strong feelings. After all, he also famously said, “I don’t give a shit where the stuff I love comes from! I JUST LOVE THE STUFF I LOVE!”
George Lucas began developing a young Han Solo film in 2012 (he loves young versions of his characters, such as The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles) and Lawrence Kasdan began work on a screenplay. Kasdan has a great history with Lucas, co-writing The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Return of the Jedi and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as well as his own work on films like The Big Chill, Silverado and Body Heat.
The shoot was fraught with issues, with directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie) leaving the movie in June 2017 after reportedly being fired over creative differences with Lucasfilm. Ron Howard took over directing duties after that and the budget soared to more than $250 million — making it one of the most expensive films ever made.
Let’s get into it: we start on Corellia, where a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and his partner Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke, Daenerys Targaryen from HBO’s Game of Thrones) are making an escape from a gang of criminals. They use coaxium, the McGuffin that fuels this film, to bribe an Imperial officer to help them escape. However, Qi’ra is detained and Han must escape on his own, as he is recruited by the Imperial Navy as a flight cadet (and given his last name).
Years later, Han is still fighting to get back to Corellia to rescue her. He’s been expelled from the Imperial Flight Academy and is now just cannon fodder on the mining world of Mimban. There, he meets Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson, Natural Born Killers, HBO’s True Detective), who in Long John Silver fashion teaches Han to become a scoundrel. He also is set up for desertion and thrown into a pit where he’s due to be killed by a beast (shades of Luke in Jedi), which of course ends up being Chewbacca.
The scene here where Han speaks Wookie is a bit silly and took me out of the film. But after a slow start, the movie kicks into light speed and gets much better.
Soon, Han and Chewie have joined Beckett’s gang, which includes his wife Val Beckett (Thandie Newton) and pilot Rio Durant (voiced by Jon Favreau) and are part of a thrilling scene where they attempt to steal more coaxium from a train high above the planet Vandor. That plan gets blown up sky high by the Cloud Riders and their leader Enfys Nest, who end up killing everyone but the core crew and blowing up the contraband.
This puts a price on the heads of our heroes thanks to Crimson Dawn boss Dryden Vos (who is played by Paul Bettany, who is The Vision in the Marvel films. He ended up taking over this role from The Wire‘s Michael K. Williams, who couldn’t make reshoots. His version of the character was due to be a lion/human hybrid). At the same time, Han finds Qi’ra working as Vos’s top aide. I just want to call out how much I loved Vos and want to see more of him!
To get the price off of their heads, Han suggests stealing unrefined coaxium from the Kessel mining colony. And to ensure that it happens, Vos asks Qi’ra to go along with them.
They need a ship and what better one than the Millennium Falcon, which Han fails to win in a game of sabacc against Lando Calrissian (Community‘s Donald Glover, who shines in the role). He agrees to join the team and brings along his droid co-pilot L3-37, who may or may not be in love with him. She definitely wants to create a droid revolution everywhere she goes, including beating up Clint Howard! I absolutely adored this character, voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who carries on the Rogue One tradition of a droid having the most personality of any character in the film.
After instigating a rebellion on Kessel, which includes Chewbacca freeing several of his Wookie people, Lando getting hurt and L3-37 being destroyed, our heroes make an epic escape through the Kessel Run, an event that Han Solo brings up in his very first appearance in Star Wars.
A note from one of my Star Wars obsessed friends, Jim Sloss, who I have seen every single canon film with on opening day since probably 1997. “They fixed the parsec issue. In episode 4, when Han the Kessel Run being done in less than 12 parsecs, people complained because they thought he meant time when a parsec is really a distance. In Solo, they explain that from Kessel to where they needed to go was a distance of 20 parsecs that Han cut to 12.” These are the things that grown men discuss.
The scheme ends with the several of the supposed good forces being not so good and the bad guys being not so bad. I’m a fan of this shades of the Force thinking, where there can be grey sides to what has previously been a black and white conflict. Even better, there’s a surprise villain appearance, the seeds of why Han went from an idealist to a jaded rogue and even the hints of how he ended up in the employ of Jabba the Hutt.
There are a lot of online issues with the film, as many feel that the female-centric and message-oriented scope of the film are detriments. It’s 2018, people. It’s time to just get with the times.
I went in expecting to not enjoy myself at all and after the aforementioned slow start, I had a blast. Again — I’ve been a fan of Star Wars since I was a kid. I’m predispositioned to like films like this, just as Becca is usually apt to ignore that they are even released. Take it from someone who bought a Ric Ollie figure at midnight before the first prequel was released: this isn’t the best or worst in the Saga. But it’s pretty entertaining. Does every film have to be a religious experience? Or maybe there are too many of these films every year after decades of nothing. Your feelings will temper how you view this one.