A long time ago, a girl’s parents took her to see a science fiction film called Star Wars. On that day, she fell in love with all things Star Wars, even the extended universe that began with Timothy Zahn’s 1991 book, Heir to the Empire. But in 2012, Disney purchased Star Wars and proceeded to erase the majority of the extended universe she had come to know. With much of her Star Wars knowledge no longer applicable, she begins a journey through the new canon. Her goal – to travel the path of the new canon, experiencing as much of the new material in story order as best as she possibly can.
Yes, it has been almost a year since the last installment. What happened? Life. Let’s just say I pulled a Luke Skywalker and retreated to my personal Ahch-To.
Who knew a flyboy and a Wookie would pull me back in?
When the project was announced, the collective Star Wars fandom did an epic eyeroll followed by a whiney, “Why? Why would anyone want to replace Harrison Ford? We have our Han, we don’t need another.”
I must admit that I was skeptical. Actually, I was more in the “Why Han when there are more interesting and non-white male characters money could be thrown at and, hey, if we’re getting this, then can we get Underworld and/or 1313?” camp.
Did we need Solo? No. Am I glad we got Solo? Yes.
One of the internet’s favorite activities is fantasy casting, and Donald Glover has a vocal fanbase. People lobbied for him to be the next Spider-Man (remember #Donald4Spiderman?), and when the whispers of Lando Calrissian possibly appearing in any cinematic form started, the internet screamed, “WE WANT DONALD GLOVER. DON’T YOU DARE CAST ANYONE BUT DONALD GLOVER!”
And when Glover was cast, there was much rejoicing.
For Han, the man chosen could not live up to the majority of the fandom’s expectations. Many of us grew up with Star Wars, myself included, and many of us are guilty of clinging to our visions of what the Star Wars universe should be. I had to wait years between films, and now we are swimming in a deep pool of content, with more on the way.
Our response? Complain. And we need to stop. We need to judge each new arrival on its own merit.
Alden Ehrenreich is not replacing Harrison Ford. There have been different versions of Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Spider-Man. We must accept that those in charge of Star Wars want to tell stories from all parts of the timeline. Solo: A Star Wars Story, written by Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan, is the origin tale of our favorite stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder; someone was going to portray him, and Ehrenreich does a fine job.
Ehrenreich’s performance shows that Han has always been a quick thinker. In the scene with Lady Proxima (voiced by Linda Hunt), the smirk and bravado are a distraction from what Han’s doing – scanning his environment and scheming a way out. If anyone notices Han’s wheels turning, they would be prepared. Lady Proxima assumes Han bluffs about having a thermal detonator, and she’s right; the detonator is a rock Has uses to break a window, causing the light to harm Lady Proxima, creating the opportunity for Han to escape. Noticing Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his crew pretending to be Imperial troops, the crack in the post that allows him to escape with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and the card up Lando’s sleeve prove Han sees the details, a skill necessary to survive in a galaxy besieged by tyranny, corruption, and greed.
At first, I was disappointed that Ehrenreich’s Han lacked the suave swagger of Ford’s Han, but the escape from Lady Proxima with Qi’ra (Emilia Clark) revealed that young Han was a romantic dreamer, a quality I didn’t think Han ever had. Young Han is similar to young Luke Skywalker; both dream of flying away and seeing the wonders of the galaxy. Instead of whiney like young Skywalker, Han constantly seeks opportunity. Ehrenreich’s Han cannot hide his obvious joy as he runs from one failed expectation to another. Young Han’s confidence and swagger are not genuine because it can’t be; he’s a “fake it till you make it” type, and he hasn’t made it until he has a best friend, Chewbacca, and a ship, the Millennium Falcon.
Another knock against Solo: A Star Wars Story was the director drama. The first directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, were fired and replaced by Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard. Yes, Howard is talented, but many wondered if the man behind A Beautiful Mind and all of those Da Vinci Code movies could deliver a coherent Star Wars film in less than a year. He did. If you are surprised by how well he did the action, you need to remember that Ron Howard directed Rush, the 2013 film based on the rivalry between Formula One racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, Far and Away, the 1992 film with the huge land rush scene with numerous horses, and Backdraft, the 1991 film with lots and lots of fire.
All of Howard’s skills are best displayed when the film lands on Kessel. Character and action combine during the entire sequence. L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge) wants equal rights for all droids, so she removes restraining bolts, inadvertently causing a rebellion. Qi’ra kills Quay Tolsite (Dee Tails) using a technique she learned from Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), making what she does to Vos later a natural development in her arc. Lando sits in the Falcon until the fight matters to him when L3-37 is in danger. In the middle of the combat, Han’s true nature is revealed. Chewbacca and Han are in charge of obtaining the coaxium, but Chewbacca sees other Wookies being harmed. Acting like Beckett, he tells Chewbacca to follow the plan; Chewbacca resists, and Han realizes who he is – he can’t deny Chewbacca the chance to help. Also, Han doesn’t demand or expect Chewbacca to stay with him. The mission to Kessel shows us that Han has a code and knows what it means to be loyal.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fast-paced and fun film. The train mission is a bit too long, but afterwards, the film hits its stride. I could watch Glover’s Lando play sabacc and explain the significance of his capes for hours. Ehrenreich did the impossible; he gave us a Han full of romanticism and joy, and his performance makes me wonder what happened to Han during the time between Solo and A New Hope. Han and Chewbacca have great chemistry. If there’s a sequel and it’s just them gallivanting across the galaxy outfoxing the Empire, I’d be happy.
All I’m asking you to do is take a deep breath, relax, take off the jaded glasses, and watch the film. Solo deserves a chance. Give it one.