There are going to be spoilers in this review from the very beginning, so if you don’t want Solo spoilers, please don’t read anything after this sentence.
What in the fuck did I just watch? I was convinced that at the end of the credits we’d have a cameo by Ron Howard telling us to tell our friends that the movie was good because we’re pranking the world. Because there’s no way in hell people’s babies weren’t held hostage in exchange for all the good reviews this got.
Let’s just dive right in.
After the movie ended, the biggest WTF moment came for my friends and I around L3, the social justice robot and how the she was the butt of a big old joke about how stupid it is to hate slavery.
We don’t talk about slavery in Star Wars because if we did, we’d have to conclude that droids are slaves. It’s a pretty obvious conclusion. Droids are sentient beings who have their own opinions, personalities, and the ability command their own destinies, and in fact some do.
So when there is a droid character talking about droid rights and telling the audience as well as the non-droid characters in her crew that droid ownership is slavery, the answer shouldn’t be “that’s hilarious.” But it is. Her objection to the robot version of a mandingo fight is made to seem silly.
Lando all but says he would murder her except that her navigation system is amazing. She’s literally a tool, and later on when she talks about the obvious affection he has and tries to hide for her, Qi’ra’s answer is “how’s that even work?” A sentiment my queer, disabled and otherwise non-standard siblings are, I’m sure, tired of hearing.
The ultimate joke comes during the slave rebellion in the mining colony, which is absolutely played for laughs with awkward, childish droids smashing controls and yelling “FREEDOM” while chaos rains down all around them. When L3 dies, Lando’s grief is ridiculous. Instead of being touching: one man’s complicated feelings for his companion whom he has come to love and care for, despite society telling him she is fundamentally less than he is; it’s absolutely a farce.
Calm, composed Lando goes running into the battle, weaving and tottering like a drunk in platform heels, crying miserably for L3 who breaks in half in his arms in a perfectly timed physical joke and then to top it all off, he has to be carried bridal style by Chewbacca, still sobbing and clutching L3’s disembodied head and torso while bombs and bullets fall all around them in a very excellent parody of the classic war movie “I can’t feel my legs!” scene.
Then, to add insult to injury L3’s dying brain is ripped from her head and installed in the ship she served on. And no one mentions it ever again. In fact, when Han finally wins the Falcon back at the end of the movie, Lando seems almost happy to see it go.
Lando Calrissian is that one football player in high school who will eat your ass in the equipment cage and then pretend you don’t know each other the next day at school. Nobody needs that kind of friend, and this movie would have been so much better if L3 had stolen the Falcon and had her own damn adventures without shitty meat people holding her back.
Not to mention that the slavery bell can’t be un-rung. Because if droids are slaves then we are forced to further conclude that Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Po Dameron are filthy slavers; R2D2, C3PO and BB8 are all their property. And the difference between the Empire and the Resistance isn’t whether or not they believe in universal suffrage, it’s whether or not they force the droids they own to form an unhealthy emotional attachment with them born of a kind of mechanical Stockholm Syndrome or of they just use a restraining bolt and be done with it.
Without exception, every death in this movie is totally pointless and the majority of them aren’t just dumb, they’re hilarious.
The first character to die, Val does so for absolutely no reason at all. Aside from having very cool hair and costuming, there’s really nothing to make you to care that she’s dead. All you know about her is that she is (rightly) suspicious of Han and Chewey and that she’s banging Woody Harrelson’s character, Beckett.
By the second death, I was starting to wonder if my depression over America slipping ever deeper into the fascist morass of Trumpism is starting to affect me, but no, I think it was just very badly done. Rio Durant, who we know slightly more about (after this last big job he’s retiring to Tatooine to start a cantina called the SS Live Forever) is a pilot. But Han is also a pilot.
So, by the rules of terrible writing, Rio has to die. Which he does stupidly and dramatically, telling Han “no one wants to die alone” before staring blankly into the middle distance. Right after that Beckett, who just lost his girlfriend and his pilot in the span of five minutes says something to the effect of “huh, you’re a good pilot, kid.”
This makes no sense because the ship is basically acting as a kite, hanging off the back of a train to which it is bolted. Is the wind a good pilot? Is a parachute a good pilot? He’s doing literally nothing right now.
We’ve already talked about the farce that is L3’s end. Beckett’s death is similarly bullshit, but first I need a second to say, independent of his absolutely stupid death this is the first time in my life I’ve looked up on a screen, seen Woody Harrelson’s sweet face and not felt instantly calmed. And yes, I am counting Natural Born Killers. No living American can tell me he doesn’t do something to them in that movie.
Anyway, Beckett the outlaw is also on his last big score, and he also has a grand retirement dream: to play the xarglaphone (or whatever). So after Han predictably shoots him, he predictably collapses, and then predictably they stare into each others manly man eyes while mutually pining about the stupid fucking xarglaphone. I bet he was going to play in the cantina band.
Dryden Vos gets a similarly predictable end. Betrayed by his protégé cum rape victim at the very moment when he thought she was his to command. Despite threatening her life, keeping her as property, and being an all around super duper creep-ball from hell.
Honestly, L3 and Qi’ra should have been better friends. Too bad Qi’ra couldn’t get past her skin privilege to uplift her sister instead of being complicit to L3’s oppression along with her own.
I’m never going to let it go.
The Absolutely Shitty Portrayal of Female Characters
Which brings me to this section. I’m just going to make a bulleted list because seriously, what in the fuck?
- What is her character aside from being Han’s hot ex?
- By virtue of her not being Princess Leia, you know she’s either going to die or betray him and they could have made that at least a little more interesting
- She hints at a dark past, but she doesn’t seem that conflicted about it
- On paper, her character is frighteningly competent, but in performance she’s just frightened
- Even at the end when she gets what she wants and is being promoted, she looks bored and sad
- She literally only does what men tell her to:
- She follows Han when he escapes
- She puts the hyper fuel in the hyper tray before the hyper door is opened because Han tells her to even though she knows they’ll be betrayed
- She goes with Han because Dryden Vos tells her to
- She betrays Dryden Vos because Han tells her to
- She betrays Dryden Vos again when she kills him because Dryden more or less tells her to (that whole speech about how she’s destined to do whatever it takes to get ahead is basically him asking for it.)
- She leaves Han and the resistance far behind because Darth Mal (waaaatttt) tells her to
- Ultimately, she’s just great red lips, a great cape and no backbone
- Is a mean fish creature and abusive to orphans
- Has no dreams or goals of her own besides supporting Beckett
- Thinks her man has made a grave mistake and instead of leaving, goes along with his dumb plan in which she…
- Dies for Beckett despite having lots of interesting technological gadgets that could probably save her
- Her principals and activism are played for laughs
- Despite her personal commitment to the rights of other droids, has no problem going around the galaxy with a fuck boi who won’t admit her value to him beyond objectifying her which…
- Leads to her pointless death and then transformation into a fucking ship
- Is probably the only female character that’s not horrible
- Indicates that she comes from a matrilineal warrior society
- Tries to compromise with Han instead of shooting first and asking questions later
- Defends and avenges the people
- The only real problem with her is that she exists to tie Han to the birth of the resistance which does as little for his backstory as the fact that his name is basically an Ellis-Island-stile joke name because he’s all alone (get it?)
- Honestly, this movie should have been about her and L3 fucking up the Empire
The Part Where They Drift (No, I’m Not Joking)
For a movie that is little more than a stitched-together collection of highlights and premises from 80% of the blockbusters from the last two to three decades, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that they try to drift the Millennium Falcon, and yet it was.
Drifting has easily become a trope in movies about driving. It’s dangerous, it’s impossible and it looks cool. But among the collection of other themes jacked from the world of entertainment, this one stood out as the sorest thumb of all.
The premise is that, in order to escape some menace I can no longer remember and that is really only on screen so this scene can happen, Han drifts the Falcon by skidding off the surface of some space debris and making an impossible turn, thereby defeating (?) his foe. As well as breaking the landing gear off.
Movies everywhere copy each other. They wouldn’t be tropes if they weren’t repeated over and over, and they wouldn’t get repeated if they didn’t delight and effect us in very predictable and satisfying ways.
My problem with Solo isn’t that it had cliched parts; it’s that it was little more than cliche after cliche slapped together into a narrative that wasn’t interesting about characters who weren’t compelling.
Maybe that’s because Han, as a character has nothing to hang on to. My friend Chief pointed out that his arc was from scoundrel to hero just like it is in literally every other movie he’s in. Han is always the lost boy, running from duty even as he feels compelled towards it, hiding his heart of gold under a rough criminal exterior.
For my part, I found that familiar characterization to be comforting. It was one of the few things I really, honestly appreciated in the film. After all, isn’t life all about finding new ways to have and solve your core issues over and over again until your son stabs you off an unnecessary bridge and you die?