Heads up, people…plenty of snark ahead. I really tried to be even-handed, but it’s very difficult to stay that way when certain people insist on making things political. It divides everyone, alienates everyone, and makes civil discourse almost impossible. I have major respect for those who have chosen to keep politics out of things when it comes to making what should be simple entertainment, but they’re a tiny minority. Be better, Hollywood.
To Star Wars fans, May is The Month When Everything Changed. To theater owners and movie studios, the Star Wars franchise is Box Office Miracle-Gro. To have a new Star Wars movie release in that hallowed month is like a religious experience. This year’s offering is, of course, Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Before we tackle it, though, I just want to get one thing out of the way: How many of you disliked The Last Jedi?
No offense anybody, but I did. So did my husband, who was so bored he fell asleep in one of those big, squishy theater recliners. While I was highly gratified that my first Origins piece nailed the reasons Luke ran off, it was disappointing to see that the character wasn’t allowed to develop further. At all. In fact, he was barely recognizable. For instance, Luke tosses his lightsaber over his shoulder like an empty candy wrapper, and then he treats sacred Jedi texts we’ve never seen before and don’t know anything about with the utmost reverence. Um, what? That doesn’t make sense.
Equally unnatural was Finn and Rose going off on a quest to save her sister, then trying to locate a certain crack hacker on the casino planet of Canto Bight, almost getting killed, and then after all that finding their efforts were unnecessary. Then there’s that thing in the throne room with Rey, Kylo Ren, and Snoke. Kylo Ren seems to turn good, and for a brief minute he’s Rey’s ally. He even takes out Snoke. Then he turns back to the Dark Side, and he’s worse than before. Again, what? The filmmakers snatched failure from what could have been a great new storyline. Or maybe they were just teasing us. Either way, I rolled my eyes.
Plus, there are those Porgs. Cute, pesky, and for Chewbacca, a tasty snack if he can ignore those sad-eyed creatures staring at him long enough to take a bite.
There were a very few redeeming moments, but all in all, it was plenty of nothin’. A better approach would have been to give the film an existential structure. Have the whole movie be from Luke’s point of view. Find out what’s been going on in Luke’s head up to the point Rey faces him on Ahch-To, and give it some emotional resonance instead of the surface-scratchy stuff we got. Then when Luke imparts his knowledge and wisdom to Rey, it could actually mean something. Existentialism would be unusual for the franchise, but not completely out of left field, since Jedis are known for their mad meditation skills. It would have been way more satisfying, that’s for sure, and I don’t think anyone would have complained if Luke had been the whole movie.
But nope. Instead, we get Chewbacca having stare-offs with Porgs and random, token-ish subplots. And oh yeah, Luke milks some kind of weird creature on Ahch-To. Ew.
The funny thing is, it’s like the filmmakers know The Last Jedi is garbage, but instead of stepping away or rethinking their approach, they act constipated, or, as some would term it, butthurt. Producer J.J. Abrams went so far as to say that people who are threatened by women should avoid Star Wars. He’s not alone: There are industry professionals who are more concerned with inclusivity in the franchise than in making good films, including Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. Those who have legitimate complaints about the film have been told, in essence, to shut up. Not even Mark Hamill is taken seriously. He expressed concern when the film was in production and afterwards, but soon recanted. His latest interviews hint that he’s basically washed his hands of the whole thing.
Grrrr. Of all the things they could focus on, they zero in on identity politics, disrespect honest criticism, and dis Luke Skywalker himself in more ways than one. That’s offensive. Political messages in films are nothing new, but I’m sick of Hollywood force-feeding an agenda to the public as if their livers are going to be fois gras. I agree with what Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman wrote about The Last Jedi not being one for the ages, and its being female-centric or the franchise’s supposedly non-inclusive history has nothing to do with it.
Kennedy’s and Abrams’s defensiveness doesn’t bode well for future Star Wars films, and it’s why I’m only cautiously hopeful about Solo: A Star Wars Story. True, different people are involved with the standalone films, but it still feels like it’s going to be a crapshoot. On the other hand, though, the standalone movies seem to be superior to the sequels. At least the one film we have so far, anyway–Rogue One was fairly fine.
Here’s the Solo trailer:
First off, it’s “Punch it!”, not “Push it!” Star Wars purists will know what I’m talking about.
But I digress.
Semantics aside, the film has a lot going for it. Directed by none other than Ron Howard, with a screenplay by Laurence Kasdan and his son, Jon, the movie appears to have a back-to-basics approach in terms of having proven people involved.
It’s no secret that trailers aren’t always accurate representations of films, but in this one, a few potential problems jump out at me.
One, for this to be an effective prequel, there has to be a reasonable gap between the end of Solo and the beginning of A New Hope. Like, at least ten years. Han needs to be cocky and devil-may-care. He needs to have been around long enough to have seen everything and get tired of it. He needs to have had enough bad stuff happen to him that he gets jaded and cynical. He needs to know how to think on his feet. He needs to have time to develop perfect aim so he can shoot Greedo and people will debate forever about who fired first. And he needs to be kind of a jerk, although a charming jerk.
In Solo, Han has been washed out of flight school and is just taking up the bounty hunter racket. While he says he’s been running street scams since he was ten, he still seems green as grass–naïve and sorta nice. This doesn’t leave him much of a journey as a character. Also, he’s too old. Given that Alden Ehrenreich was twenty-eight when he played Solo and Harrison Ford was thirty-three in A New Hope, it’s a mystery when Han will have time to develop his trademark world-weariness. It might have been better to stick a younger actor in the role.
Second, Alden Ehrenreich is no Harrison Ford, but who is? Even though the idea of filling Ford’s shoes is intimidating, a competent actor can still give the part a healthy turn. Apparently, though, Ehrenreich’s performance as Solo was so flat that the producers stuck him with an acting coach. Did it help? It’s hard to say. My first impression of Ehrenreich in the trailer was that his delivery was terrible. I hope for his dignity’s sake that the takes in the trailer were truncated, because the critics are going to have him for lunch. Quite a few already are.
Third, I’m going to echo what Ben Shapiro said: How many times do we have to see the Millenium Falcon flying? It’s Han Solo. We get it. It’s a bad sign if they’re padding the trailer with the Falcon.
Lastly, prequel Han doesn’t seem to have much bite in his dialogue. That’s a big key with this character. Next to Yoda, Han is probably quoted the most of all the icons in the Star Wars canon. Among Han’s notable quotables:
“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”
“Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, boy.”
“Who’s scruffy lookin’?”
“Laugh it up, fuzzball.”
“You like me because I’m a scoundrel. There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.”
“I’m out of it for a little while, and everyone gets delusions of grandeur.”
Last but not least, can’t forget this classic exchange between Han and Leia:
Simple, not a lot of words, but gets the point across beautifully. Whether we get this kind of sly humor and subtle character progression in the new film remain to be seen. I’m not holding my breath, though.
Lucasfilm seems determined to put the best face on things, no matter how much they have to fake it. I read last night that Harrison Ford is raving about Solo…only it’s Ron Howard who’s saying that Ford is raving. Ford wasn’t even at the premiere. Unless he saw the film at a private showing, I call desperation on the part of Lucasfilm for validation. It seems a wee bit fishy that the press isn’t directly quoting the guy who created Han Solo. There are even rumors going around that while Ford was being interviewed about Solo by Entertainment Tonight, Kathleen Kennedy was watching him like a hawk, but I can’t confirm that.
UPDATE: Yes, I can. In this video right here, Kennedy can be seen off to the side in an offwhite twinset, and she’s practically boring holes into Ford with her eyes. Ford’s manner screams that he’s only acting. If that isn’t enough, check out the very nervous Ron Howard at Ford’s elbow. My guess is that he was there for quick damage control in case Ford didn’t perform the way he was clearly paid to do. Tacky, Lucasfilm. Supremely tacky.
For my part, as long as Solo‘s better than The Last Jedi and somewhat on the level of Rogue One, I’ll be happy with it. Maybe. I’m certainly not going to shell out any money at the box office. Knowing what we know about Han Solo, plus the mindsets of the powers that be, the odds are that Lucasfilm and Disney blew it with this prequel.
Thanks for reading, all, and see you tomorrow with another post!