First Impressions: Solo: A Star Wars Story

I saw Solo on the weekend! Yay.

First thought: I saw a Star Wars film on opening weekend and the theatre was only 30% full. That’s… odd.

Second thought: Holy smokes. I liked it. A LOT.

Admittedly, I went into the viewing with middling expectations (despite being a HUGE fan of The Last Jedi). This was due to a lot of factors, but mainly I didn’t like the idea of recasting one of the iconic characters from the original series. Han Solo is Harrison Ford. Harrison Ford is Han Solo.

So, imagine my surprise when, thirty minutes into the film, I was enjoying the hell out of it. Everything I love about Star Wars is there and works brilliantly. The film’s production hell is well documented, and the fact that Howard was able to make not only a watchable film, but a goodfilm is remarkable.

Some random thoughts (spoilers):

  • Donald Glover is a treasure. Because I’m a walking contradiction, I’d totally make an exception to my “don’t recast and make films about iconic characters” rule for a Lando film.
  • Cthulhu in my Star Wars? F yeah.
  • Double and triple crosses abound, which can be slightly confusing, but, most impressively, character motivations, despite changing goals and alliances, were consistent throughout. Incredibly difficult to pull off.
  • It was fun seeing all the various easter eggs throughout the film. From the large (the resolving the Kessel Run/Parsec hole) to the small (Lando’s disguise!) to seeding small but momentous moments (the first breath of the rebellion), the film was a delight as a Star Wars fan.
  • The set pieces were ace. Some of the most varied and impressive of the entire series.
  • Enfys Nest!

Overall, I had a lot of fun watching the movie. The laughs were just enough, the action was typical Star Wars brilliance, and I genuinely cared for the characters. Despite it exceeding my expectations, it has also strengthened my opinion that the future of a successful, long-running Star Wars film franchise isn’t in trying to recapture the magic of Episodes 4-6, but in creating a new Star Wars for a new generation. Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Obi-wan, Yoda are all great. They’re icons of my childhood and inspirations for me as an adult. But they’ve had their stories told. Episode 8 was literally about letting go of the past. And yet Disney is unable to do that.

I want to see the “A Star Wars Story” franchise reach more deeply into Star Wars lore and give us new stories.

Gimme something set in the Old Republic.

Gimme an Ahsoka Tano film.

Gimme an Ocean’s 11-style heist set on Coruscant during the prequel trilogy.

Gimme a Harry Potter-style magic school coming-of-age story about a young Jedi (not Anakin) that focuses on their personal issues, and not Galaxy-spanning conflict.

Do for the new SW what Knights of the Old Republic did for the original EU. 

My point being, the Star Wars universe is one of the richest, most diverse, and broadest available to any IP. The possibilities are literally endless, and yet Disney, perhaps with the idea that they have to reinvigorate the market before taking chances, has felt compelled to revisit familiar faces and events. This worked in Rogue One by taking a plot point referenced in A New Hope, and spinning it into its own story—complete with its own cast of characters, its own emotions, its own prerogative. This approach also made the cameos feel much more rewarding. Like dessert, such cameos are best enjoyed in small portions. Consume too much and you get a tummy ache.

So, while I enjoyed Solo a lot in a vacuum, I hope that Disney takes the right lessons from it flopping (for Star Wars). I don’t think fatigue is the issue. MCU films come out regularly, and are hugely successful. Just look at Black Panther and Avengers. Huge. The difference here, though, is that the “spin-off” film, Black Panther, gave audiences something new, something exciting, while the mainline film, The Avengers, was free to fit the expected mold. By virtue of being diverse and interesting, shucking aside expectations, breaking outdated Hollywood truisms, Black Panther became an independent success, and also reinvigorated the MCU fanbase, fuelling The Avengers’ success.

There’s an opportunity for the “A Star Wars Story” films to do the same for the mainline “Episode [X]” films, but Solo isn’t the answer. I just hope Disney’s not so far down the rabbit hole by this point that they can’t course correct and find a more exciting and invigorating opportunity for the Star Wars film franchise in the coming years—else, the growing apathy (and outright toxicity) we’ve seen in the Star Wars community might utterly consume the conversation, and push out more casual and optimistic fans entirely.