Star Wars Cinematic Universe Retrospective: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Well, the prequel trilogy is, at last, behind us, friends: we’re over the hump now, and into bluer waters.

And that, of course, begins with the Princess Leia solo prequel movie. A character of enormous depth, Leia always had the most intriguing backstory of the original trilogy; a major part of a universe-wide rebellion while she was still in her teens, from the moment I met her I wanted to know what had drawn her to that point. She was relentless, brave, resourceful, the driving force behind the actual plot of the original trilogy; it makes natural sense that, when looking at what we should return to explore, Leia would be top of the list.

Oh, wait, no, sorry, my bad – a Princess Leia solo movie is just what I wanted to happen, because it would have been evidently more interesting. Han Solo made a ship go fast that one time, so instead, we’ve got a prequel movie about him.

Solo is the only movie that I actively resented watching again for this retrospective. All the other films I’ve watched so far, and all the ones I will watch, at least there’s something interesting to be gained from seeing them again – a new perspective, a different context, something like that. Solo has nothing to offer in that regard; I reviewed it when it came out last year, and I had hoped that would be the last interaction I would have to have with it: I stand by everything I said in that review, and the place it holds on my worst-of-the-year list, too. It’s a dumb movie that wastes a great cast with a clunky script and a grindingly boring tick-box list of everything that was far better left to Harrison Ford’s own cocky retelling than actually laying it out on screen for us as translated through Alden Enhreinreich’s empty, glass-eyed Thundrebird puppet performance.

So I’m not going to rehash all the details of that here. What I would rather talk about are the missed opportunities that Solo skipped over – as it spend far too much time meticulously crafting the sequences that we’d already heard about and knew the outcomes for, there’s so much more it could, and arguably should, have done with it’s time.

The biggest crime that Solo commits, for my money, is the fact that it feels so unabashedly like a franchised movie. The late-in-the-game return of Darth Maul, for example, seems like a Marvel post-credits sequence; which makes sense, given that Disney famously have hold of both franchises and cinematic universes. Despite the fact that Solo tries to tap into so many of the iconic Han Solo moments that made him such an enduring cinematic legend, it doesn’t feel like a Star Wars film – it feels like part of a Disney franchise.

(also, and this has no real place in the article but I wanted to put it somewhere – I’m still seething about the fact that Johnathan Kasdan, one of the writers for Solo, declared Lando Calrissian pansexual. I’m a full-time queer myself and I am keenly hungry for actual LGBTQ representation in the Star Wars universe – especially when it comes in the form of Finn and Poe, but whatever – but having the writers hurl some darts at a board and announce that the first character they landed on is actually LGBTQ, after the film was completed and when they didn’t have to put in any effort exploring what that might have meant on-screen, is garbage. Especially the immense and intense back-patting that went on after this “revelation”)

What I would have really loved to see this movie do is explore more of the ground impact of the rise of the Empire across the galaxy. Rogue One, which we’re getting to next week, goes a little into this, but it’s more focused on the story of Jyn Erso and company; Solo could have been a great way to explore and expand on these ideas as a backdrop to the main plot (“plot”) of this outing. Instead of feeling like a self-contained story which served to enrich our understanding of this world, it felt like a cynical performance in box-ticking and franchise-building.

Solo is about the only Star Wars movie that, for me, has no merit at all. Nothing about it is interesting, seems to be made with the remotest bit of love or effort, and it feels stripped of so many of the things that make Star Wars movies feel grounded and real despite their intergalactic backdrops. Heartless, boring, and stupid, they should have just gone with that Leia movie in the first place.

If you enjoyed this article and want to see more stuff like it,  please check out our other cinematic universe retrospectives – for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Jurassic Park movies, and the Batman cinematic universe. You can check out more of my work on my personal blog, The Cutprice Guignol!

By Louise MacGregor

(header image via Radio Times)

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