We Really Need to Talk About That Solo: A Star Wars Story Twist
So, Solo: A Star Wars Story is finally in theaters. It’s fun! It might not be blowing up the box office, but folks are still seeing it in droves and when they do they’re in for a really nice time. (Alden Ehrenreich is a fun, swaggering Han Solo; Donald Glover is a sexy, swaggering Lando Calrissian; Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a smartass, swaggering droid.) They’re also in for at least one big surprise—and a few slightly smaller delights. But we’ll get to all of that in a second. First we need to give folks afraid of spoilers a chance to show themselves out. OK, everyone’s been warned. From here on out it’s just WIRED writers and editors Brendan Nystedt, Jason Parham, and Angela Watercutter dissecting Solo in detail. Make like Chewie and join us.
Angela Watercutter, Senior Associate Editor: Alright guys, I’m going to go out on a limb here (OK, not a crazy limb; like the kind of limb some ambitious dad turned into a tree bench, or put a swing on…): I liked Solo. Maybe that was the result of low expectations, maybe I just really love Glover’s Lando—I dunno. I just thought it was fun. It’s not going in my Top 5 Star Wars films, but I at least thought it was better than Rogue One. (Rotten Tomatoes disagrees with me here. That’s their problem.)
What about y’all? Did you like Pansexual Lando as much as me? Did you enjoy seeing the Millennium Falcon when it still had that new-ship smell? Did you have cognitive dissonance watching the Mother of Dragons (aka Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke) play Han Solo’s childhood girlfriend Qi’ra? Tell me things!
Brendan Nystedt, Market Editor: I would totally agree with you—I think it’s better than Rogue. I love that movie, but think it has some struggles getting off the ground at first. Solo kicked in and didn’t let up. I had heard the first act was slow, but for me, the movie never dragged. I went into it knowing a little more than the average bear, but it still kept me on my toes with its double-crosses and reveals. That’s not even digging into the endless references.
If I can give this movie props for one thing it would be that it made me love a bunch of stuff that sounds cringeworthy on paper. Did I want to know where Han’s name comes from? No, but in the moment, I bought it. I knew we were going to probably see Han and Chewie meet for the first time and I thought it added to their relationship. The card game where Han won the Falcon from Lando? Had me grinning. I thought Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover were about as good in the roles as you could ask for—not too much of an impression of the originals, but also imbued with their essences. Did anyone not click with these two dudes?
Also, as a non-GoT human, I thought Emilia Clarke was a standout. I was worried she’d be a prop for Han, someone who dies tragically and turns him into the embittered guy we see in A New Hope. Giving Qi’ra her own arc and giving her agency made me greatly appreciate the storytelling at work here. My other faves were Enfys Nest (let’s see her Cloud Riders in some ancillary materials, Disney!), Rio Durant (RIP), and, of course, L3 (Bridge).
Jason Parham, Senior Writer: I’m going to have to agree with WIRED colleague Brian Raftery on this one—I found Solo mostly inessential as a film. I’m of the belief that prequels are, by design, tougher canvases to experiment on. There’s always room for depth and context, but the Star Wars universe has already been dreamed up in spectacular, revolutionary fashion. For me, George Lucas’ original holy trinity is a near perfect symphony of love and loss and intergalactic repression. History also tells us that Star Wars prequels don’t fare too well. Just look at The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. Still, Solo did get a handful of things right—one of which was its easy, untangled plot. Sometimes a film just needs to move from point A to B to C without taking detours or overthinking its next step. Especially in the case of origin stories. For me, Solo felt like the least complicated movie in the franchise. There was plenty of action and humor and cooly-imagined characters—I appreciated getting a view into Han and Chewy’s genesis; and loved L3’s zero-fucks attitude, though I do wonder if Ron Howard’s team hyper-feminized her look. Do robots have hips?
What the film lacked—and what every successful Star Wars film requires—was what Brian got at in his review: the intoxication of surprise. There were no truly satisfying reveals, maybe except for Darth Maul’s cameo near the close of the film. I would consider it a fun, but forgettable romp in the franchise’s treasure chest. A better play for Disney, if they're going to make prequels an ongoing habit [And it seems that they are. —Ed.], would be to shed light on its side players. A stand-alone Lando Calrissian movie would be a real treat—which, according to Glover, would be “Frasier in space.” Sign me up!
Watercutter: Jason, I’m pretty sure you and I would both be in line on opening night for a Lando movie. Call me simple, but I just want to see more capes. And, yeah, more Glover.
I’m also wondering what folks thought of the look of Solo. One of the other smart things Brian brought up in his review were the films it resembled—shades of Paths of Glory, Runaway Train, and even a bit of the Mad Max movies. I think it even had a bit of Snowpiercer in there, too. But more than that, it felt just a tinge more stylish than, say, The Force Awakens. I was perhaps looking for this because I like the work of cinematographer Bradford Young (Selma, Arrival), but I really think there was something inviting about the environments in Solo. And frankly, since Young stayed on during the transition from directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller to Ron Howard, his visual signature might be the thing that helped the whole film feel unified. Brendan, you’re a Star Wars encyclopedia, what do you think? Am I nuts?
Nystedt: I totally agree, Angela. Rogue One’s cinematography was done in landscapes, and this felt tighter and more personal. Young did some terrific work here in spite of the rocky production. Personally, I think Rogue has the more stunning vistas, but this had a unified look that worked at all times, and helped the world come alive. From the muddy, foggy Mimban to the dusty mines of Kessel, it felt Star Wars-y through and through.
I’d like to take Jason to task for a sec. I fundamentally disagree with his premise: I think Star Wars should have surprises, but not every film needs revelations. If the franchise is going to survive, audiences can’t expect a crazy twist in each and every film. How exhausting would that be? By Episode XX, the dialogue from Spaceballs—"I am your father's, brother's, nephew's, cousin's, former roommate!"—wouldn’t seem so outlandish. Snoke can be Snoke, Rey can be a nobody from Jakku. Though it’s still the highlight of the franchise, not every film needs to ape The Empire Strikes Back to be good, or even great.
I think this was a film with surprises and one that knew it didn’t need to have huge galaxy-on-the-brink stakes to keep people engaged. I want more Star Wars like this—movies that push the Jedi and the Force to the margins, dive into the underworld, and keep the stakes relatable.
OK, now that the cat’s out of the bag—who wants to talk more about Maul? Do we think this will confuse the heck out of audiences?
Parham: That’s fair, Brendan—a subtler, quieter, more relatable Star Wars could rightfully usher the franchise into a more deserving phase. I will say this: The Enfys Nest twist was probably the most rewarding surprise for me, though by the time we realize that they’re actually the good guys, the film is hurtling toward its end. I would’ve loved a little more screen time from them. As space Westerns go, Young did a standup job—each setting more visually alluring than the last. Westerns are often hypnotic in that way: bright, dusty, full of gunfire and promise. Young’s stellar cinematic patchwork made the film especially more radiant in those small ways. I’ve got one final question, which brings us back to Brendan’s point—is Solo deserving of a sequel or should Disney dive deeper into the underworld and into the lives of other space bandits next? Where do we go from here?
Watercutter: Oh man, OK, those are some big questions. First of all, Brendan, as you know from my Slack messages to you following the Solo screening I saw, I was a little confused by the Maul thing (mostly because he didn’t look like I’d remembered from the prequels). That said, I think audiences will like seeing him. Of all the final-act twists Lucasfilm could’ve thrown in there, that one felt the most unexpected. If you would’ve told me a month ago that Solo would have a callback to The Phantom Menace (and other expanded universe properties) I wouldn’t have believed you.
Now, to answer Jason’s question, I think it’s actually the Maul cameo that helps Solo earn a sequel—though I don’t think it’ll be one dedicated to Han. I know there’s already been talk, most of it debunked, of a Lando movie, but after Solo what I really wanted to see was a movie that dealt more with Crimson Dawn. And, like Jason said, Enfys Nest. Like if there’s a film that’s a Solo sequel in name only that becomes Qi’ra, Maul, and Crimson Dawn vs. Enfys Nest and the Cloud-Raiders, then I’m totally onboard. Brendan, do you agree?
Nystedt: ZOMG that’d be an awesome movie! I’d love for Enfys and her gang to get together with the rest of the Rebels, too. As for Maul, I also hope we get to see more of him in live action. We’ve seen him die already in Star Wars: Rebels but I wanna know where he’s been hanging out since the end of the Clone Wars. A sequel with him and Qi’ra (especially if we get a glimpse of Maul’s homeworld Dathomir, where he told her to meet him) could answer that question and finally give us more of Ray Park’s unmatched lightsaber acrobatics to boot. Fans have been waiting almost 20 years to see more Maul on the big screen.
As much of a Maul stan as I am, I’d also love more of Glover’s Lando. If his spin-off is “Frasier in space,” does that mean Lobot is Niles? That I’d pay good money to watch!
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