Lisa and I went to see Solo this week. Yeah, it’s good. Okay good rather than great good, but still good enough. It’s a little swashbuckling, and at least Donald Glover does a great Lando. The story clicks off all the things it needs to click off, and finishes with a little intrigue. Certainly worth seeing, especially if you’re a Star Wars fan.
As I type this, it sits at 71% on the Rotten Tomato register, which I would agree with. I’ll give it two and a half stars. Something to enjoy spending an afternoon wrapped around a bucket of popcorn with.
The problem and the beauty with these stand-alone is that they have a job to do, which they then need to weave an entertaining story around. Kind of a classic “Work for Hire” kind of a situation. It’s a problem that at one time I used to talk to other newer writers about back when Star Trek and Star Wars books were first taking hold—how do you play in someone else’s sandbox while still bringing a bit of creativity into a powerful story? It’s a problem, really. Tough to do, but doable.
Solo does the first part well, and the second part…eh. You see, Solo, in my opinion, has a single problem working against it…
Really, I mean it….
Okay…Here we go…
That problem is that the main character in this story has to be Han Solo.
In reality, however, the character who has the most pain inflicted upon her, and the character who has to make tough decisions, and that changes in the end, is Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra. Han is just along for the ride, doing what Han does, though he’s given a classic “get the girl motivation.” Qi’ra’s tale is the real emotional core of the story.
She gives up Han to begin with. She (off-screen) is the one who deals with the real ramifications of their separation. She is the one who intrigues and turns double agent on her Crimson Dawn boss. And then, when she has no other choice, she’s the one who saves Han in a slick double-double-agent-agent twist.
By storytelling 101 standards, if I can be so cheeky as to question the basic blocks of the picture, this makes Qi’ra the right protagonist—the character the plot should center around.
But, of course, this is Han’s origin story, so that’s not going go work. And, of course, if we see Qi’ra’s story we get much less of the space chases and whiz-bang Star Warsy effects.
Qi’ra’s story is a spy flick, Han’s is a sugary western.
We get the sugary western, and are left to create the spy flick in our heads.
That’s fine, I suppose.
For a sugary western, Solo is okay. A little long. I was choreographing the chase scenes inside my head as they went. Occasionally I got things out of order, but all the standards are there and very few surprises. So for my personal taste the action of the thing drags on too long. This means I ended up watching it the way I watch a lot of musicals…holding the story in my head until the song is finished so the narrative can start again
* aside: this is something I think is amazing about a musical like Jesus Christ Superstar, which is riveting all the way through because (1) the music is kick-ass great, and (2) the narrative of the story is progressing throughout a lot of the music.
Woody Harrelson’s mentor character was done well enough, but I never got Woody Harrelson and some of his other roles out of my mind (particularly his portrayal of Haymitch Abernathy in the Hunger Games. His intrigue is predictable, but fun enough I guess. It’s no Ocean’s twist, though. And perhaps worst, since we’re seeing the wrong story, Clarke’s part as Qi’ra is reduced to something that just doesn’t really tax her much. All the scenes I’d love to see her in are off-screen.
It’s fun enough. And worth it as a fan.
I’m looking forward to the next main-line move, though. Maybe the appearance of Darth Maul will actually make Solo valuable in the bigger picture. We’ll see.