Oh Han, where did you Kessel Run to?
What we do in life – echoes in eternity.
— Russell Crowe as Maximus, GLADIATOR
Just how did Han Solo come by his beloved Millennium Falcon? (He told us in Episode IV he won it gambling.) And how did he get his trusty blaster? (Uh, I guess he either bought it, stole it, or was gifted it.) And why – oh why?! – does he call Chewbacca “Chewie”? (I guess it’s a nickname – ?) That wasn’t so hard. You can go now— oh, but wait! – Why not watch a WHOLE MOVIE that explains all these totally mundane things?
YEEEAH!, said no one from this galaxy, or any galaxy far, far away…
Thus, SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY hits us square in the indifference nerve with the impact of a Wookiee knocking over a game of holo-chess. The irony is: if we take it as “A Star Wars Story” it comes off as hubristic, redundant and a little naff, but if we just dispense with our expectations, preconceptions and nerf-herding, and take it as an exciting heist movie in space, it’s pretty darn hubristic, redundant and a little naff…
Join young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) as he loses his girl, Queero (Emilia Clarke), joins the Empire with the intent to steal a ship and fly back to her, hooks up with master thief Beckett (Woody Harrelson) to rob a train, finds Queero working for the gangster who hired them to rob the train, Vos (Paul Bettany), allies with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), beats Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and does the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. Leaving you not as excited as you probably would have been if you were 10. And leaving Han Solo not as familiar as he used to be just 2 hours and 15 minutes ago…
For all you Movie Maniacs who find fault with every little aspect of, not just SOLO, but all the newer STAR WARS movies – pesky little things like plot and motivations and narrative flow – Congratulations! You’re growing up. If you keep in mind these movies are for kids, you won’t suffer so many aneurysms wondering how a giant squidworm can live near a black hole that no one goes near and still have a regular food supply…
Maybe STAR WARS fans should follow the advice of Beckett to Han: “Assume that everyone will betray you, and you’ll never be disappointed.”
We loved every STAR WARS movie as a kid because we never bothered with logic, inauthentic headmasks (cough—Mos Eisley!), or whether to go SJW before or after we masturbated to Princess Leia in that slave bikini.
In SOLO, the main things we Movie Maniacs are watching for are elements that might compromise Han’s character in EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE (us Movie Maniacs remember when that movie was called simply “STAR WARS”). For example, when Han said to Luke, “…I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything. There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny!” it means this movie has to avoid Jedi, or if there are Jedi and they do something mystical, Han should not be aware of them, nor should any of his actions or plans be affected by them. SOLO gets that right.
Han arcs from selfish to altruistic in the third act. But – but – isn’t he that lovable rogue whose only motivation is money? Ideally, by the end of SOLO, we should still see Han as we saw him in the first two acts of NEW HOPE, when Luke tells him he’ll receive more wealth than he can imagine, and he replies, “I dunno, I can imagine quite a bit.”
The train heist keeps that greed dynamic alive (featuring the criminal stylings of Thandie Newton, and Jon Favreau as the voice of a CGI ape-thingy; and I love the design of the mirrored monorail – one set of cars above the track, one set of cars below!), but then SOLO gives Han the same arc as in NEW HOPE, where Han goes from smuggler to helping resistance fighters (led by Erin Kellyman here). Thus, in NEW HOPE, when Han takes his reward and flees, it is now NO SURPRISE when he comes diving out of the sun to save Luke in the final Trench Run. For it is not the act of a man discovering his inner hero, nor the audience discovering that Han is heroic and not cowardly or selfish, but Han just doing something congruent with his altruistic character that he reveals here. (See how one movie made over 40 years after its source movie affects that source movie so adversely?! Another argument for maybe writing and producing something original once in awhile, Hollywood!)
Disney, Lucasfilm, Admiral Ackbar, whoever is to blame: that’s why people hate your film – because there are subliminal monkey wrenches like this scattered passim.
OR – Will Lucasfilm argue that in the planned sequels to this film [snigger – good luck with that!] Han gets butt-hurt so badly that he becomes hard and cold and merc? (That still doesn’t negate his intrinsic principles, which, once seen here, can never be un-seen.) It surely looks like they’re setting it up that way, with Han’s treacherous bimbo playing every side of the fence, eventually skyping with a guy wearing KISS makeup named Maul. (Fanboys ejaculate, “Oooh! Aaah!” and slap their thighs in recognition.)
But not only is Han’s character ruined/revealed, his emotional drive – his reason for striving – is completely negated about halfway through the film when he reunites with Queero in Vos’s den of thieves. Goal achieved. Now what? But then Han, whose goal was finding Queero, now seems completely unmoved by the fact that she is Vos’s bottom bitch. She confesses to Han that to retain her post, she “has done things.” (That’s Disneyspeak for Balthuvian gangbanging.) And then Vos blithely sends her on a heist with this strapping young fella whom she claims she knows from the past. Is Vos being the idiot sending his girlfriend, or is he playing her against Han?
And yet Han, besides trying to snog her in the cape closet, seems pretty ambivalent that Queero is onboard, not trying to be with her every moment and touch her breasts and kiss her thighs and try to re-ignite her desire for him, like any red-blooded rogue would. Ironic that in a plot about heisting a chemical so kinetic it will blow the knickers off a Balthuvian gangbanger, there is absolutely zero chemistry between the leading man and leading lady.
At least Han shoots first here.
a bacca’s backstory
Chewie, on the other hand, is the unwitting beneficiary of a great character build in SOLO. If you liked him before, you’re gonna love the more energetic Joonas Suotamo in the role of “young” Chewbacca (he’s only 190 years old here), pummeling and blasting and rowwrrrring his way through Empire troops and gangsters alike…
In a mudpit where he is thrown to be dismembered, Han meets the towering fuzzball named Chewbacca, whose name was already a contraction for Chewing Tobacco, but which Han contracted even more into “Chewie,” disrespecting Chewing Tobacco’s wish that the contraction stop at Chewbacca. Chewing Tobacco has been imprisoned by the Empire and has been eating humans thrown to him as sport! So, uh… are we now meant to watch all the other STAR WARS movies while monkey-wrenching that Chewing Tobacco has been a people-eater all along?! Han only escapes Chewing Tobacco’s jaws because he implores him in Chewing Tobacco’s native Wookiee tongue. And people thought Superman saying “Martha” was stupid…
After that, Chewing Tobacco basically goes anywhere Han goes – rescuing miners, heisting hyperfuel, into the shower—wait, what? But really, who needs this crap on why Han nicknames Chewie? – I wanna know how Solo learned to speak Wookiee-ese!
a glover lover
Donald Glover is smooth criminal Lando Calrissian (channeling Billy Dee Williams like a pimp), who cheats at cards, wears capes, writes insurrect songs about America, and loves himself some robot tail. And he owns the fastest ship around – the Millennium Falcon. Han, Beckett and Lando inexplicably team up to steal the Falcon from impound, even though Han lost the card game– I dunno, I think the scriptwriters collided in the hallway and got their pages mixed up— and we meet Lando’s bottom bitch, a female droid named L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge with her SJW setting dialed up to Obnoxious C-Word).
Always yapping about “equal rights” for robots (even though the meaning of the word “robot” is slave, and the reason for creating droids in the first place was to aid people unquestioningly), at one point, L3 removes the restraining bolts of a number of droids going about their droid-y tasks, which prompts the droids to cheer and rebel because they’re, uh, “free.” But what are they going to do with their “freedom”? They’re programmed to perform only the exact tasks that they’re doing now. They weren’t built with a plethora of options on what to do with their lives! Now was this an isolated incident or do all droids possess this desire to be “free” and have they been serving people begrudgingly since their invention? How then, can you trust that they are doing their ONE JOB correctly?
Think, filmmakers, think! What you do here, echoes into the SW Universe, from The Prequel Trilogy to The Original Trilogy, from The Clone Wars to the modern trilogy in progress, which I think is called The Whiner’s Trilogy.
L3’s fate is disturbing. She gets shot down while mouthing off (that’s the fun part), and Lando cannot bear to part with her, so instead of saving her CPU, or downloading her hard drive into another robot, he takes her program/her essence/ her computer vagina parts/ whatever, and implants them into the Millennium Falcon. Y’see, what the filmmakers are trying to do, Movie Maniacs, is give context to the line Future Han barks at R2-D2, something about connecting him “and letting him talk to the Falcon.” And that fembot’s essence is meant to be the “soul” of the Millennium Falcon. Heebee-Jeebus! That’s an even nuttier retcon than midi-chlorians. So the activist screaming for freedom and equal rights is force-fed into being trapped in the wiring of the Falcon. Irony, or just desserts? Ask a Social Justice Warrior. Be sure to wear ear plugs.
my kessel runneth over
Physics Nerds: They fixed the Kessel Run Anomaly. Kinda.
In A NEW HOPE, Han boasts, “It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.” As wrong as that phrase is, it has embedded itself in Earth culture. It’s been debated and dissected and elevated to importance, but let’s face it, STAR WARS creator George Lucas, in his brazen ignorance of spacetime vernacular, put that line in as throwaway jargon in what was then his second ever film, because it sounded science-y. The film would probably be quickly forgotten, along with its cheesy dialect consisting of “parsecs” and “droids.” How was he to know STAR WARS would become such a cultural behemoth, with every detail pored over with a fine-tooth Wookiee-brush?
A parsec is a measurement of DISTANCE, not time; short for PARallax arcSECond; approximately 19 trillion miles.
Thus you can see how irrelevant it is to boast of your ship’s speed by citing the distance it traveled, but not the time it took to travel that distance. It’s like boasting how fast you drove across America by saying, “I drove the United States in 3,000 miles.” The correct phrasing should have been something like, “It made the Kessel Run – which is 12 parsecs long – in under 15 hours,” or something to that effect. The velvety voice helps.
In SOLO, Han must deliver a shipment of radioactive material to a refinery, before it deteriorates to the point of explosion. Thus, it behooves him to find the quickest route. When a character says, “That can’t be done in under 20 parsecs,” they’re talking about Distance – taking the long way ‘round a black hole – but it still sounds vaguely like they are talking about Time, which is the writers’ fault. Or the writers’ intention. (That is, maybe they kept the dialogue ambiguous to try to retcon our memories; to say that Han ALWAYS meant distance, but we elven folk didn’t understand what he meant. If that is the case, I say – fuck off! We got ears!)
There IS a shortcut – through a wormhole with a GIANT SQUIDWORM living near it that devours ships – and that shortcut happens to be a distance of only 12 parsecs. Due to his ticking clock cargo, Han MUST attempt it. So why not clarify by saying, “In 20 parsecs the material would degrade and explode over that distance; either we find a shorter route – or we die”? Simple. Yet apparently too hard for these pudknockers to comprehend.
So now that the squidworm in the wormhole has been destroyed, it means EVERY ship can make the Kessel Run in under twelve parsecs, no? Making it more appropriate to state the Falcon was merely the FIRST ship to do so.
sending a boy to do a han’s work
Poor Alden Ehrenreich. In a role made famous by Harrison Ford in 1978’s STAR WARS, Ehrenreich is a flimsy simulacrum of the young Han Solo. Because we’ve already seen young Han Solo – AND HE LOOKED LIKE HARRISON FORD! There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with Boy Alden – he can act and take a punch and will probably set many teen girls’ hearts aflutter with those dreamy eyes (and when he fires his blaster, it’s like we’re looking at Harrison!), but he lacks that indefinable quality that Ford oozed like Corellian wine: charisma.
Ehrenreich doesn’t carry the movie LIKE A BOSS. He’s just one of the characters.
Also, how does one rebound from all that bad press?! Before the release of SOLO, frenzied reports of the filmmakers being dissatisfied with Ehrenreich’s performance and hiring acting coaches – acting coaches?! – for him. How do you even walk out the door let alone swagger and quip and make love to your leading woman?
Then there is the fan outcry that Anthony Ingruber wasn’t cast as Solo, on the strength of his striking Han impression, and the fact that he was already on filmmakers’ radar as a young Harrison Ford –having played a young Harrison Ford in AGE OF ADALINE (2015)!
Cinematography and production values are stellar, and we can see the detail in the world-creation during the landspeeder chase, with many shots being actually outdoors – a condition that most tentpole movies forget exists these days! Yet we can never begin to comprehend the production problems that would arise with the firing of the original directors (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller), and the hiring of veteran monolith Ron Howard to bring the production home under the watchful eye of Lucasfilm president/producer Kathleen Kennedy. With enough SJW shit to apparently keep her happy. Now, not only were writers Jonathan Kasdan (son of Lawrence) and Lawrence Kasdan (writer of EMPIRE and RAIDERS, father of Jonathan) colliding in the hallways and mixing up their pages, they were also colliding with Richie Cunningham pulling the disjointed threads together to try to make sense of their mixed up pages.
“What’s this Vermilion Dusk shit?”
“That’s the name of Vos’s outfit.”
“Really? Sounds like the name of a Fleetwood Mac cover band. Change it!”
“Okay, Sir Ron, how about Crimson Dawn?”
“Tons better! Sounds like a bunch of environmentalists from the 1980s. Kathleen’s gonna love it!”
For Wookiee lovers and nerf herders.