I was able to see Solo: A Star Wars Story this weekend, and despite the wonderfully grim stories and reviews talking about its “disappointing” box office showing, I think this was one of my favorite Star Wars films to date…right behind The Empire Strikes Back and A New Hope.
No, really! I loved it. Director Ron Howard did good by me.
Here’s what the movie did right (mild spoilers ahead):
• Shout-outs to the original trilogy. There were so many one-liners and comments paying tribute to Episodes 4-6, Howard knew where the secret to the Star Wars franchise’s success lay. Some were obvious ("I have a really good feeling about this” and, "We’ve only got one shot at this!”) and others more subtle, including another priceless exchange between Han and Lando (I won’t spoil it in case you haven’t seen the film). There was a hot Han Solo make out session on the Falcon abruptly interrupted, and a clue that, yes, you don’t want to upset the Wookiee, as he can actually rip your arms out of your sockets.
There was a costume cameo that reveals a favorite disguise worn by Lando in Return of the Jedi has been in the Falcon’s wardrobe for some time. There’s another surprise reveal from some different Star Wars films (and animated series) that was also really cool, but I'll keep that one a surprise.
• Fantastic casting. If you read my post about needing Alden Ehrenreich to do a spot on channeling of Harrison Ford for his young Solo, he did an exceptional job. No, he wasn’t Ford. There will never be anyone who will play Han Solo better than Ford, but Ehrenreich’s own swagger, smirk, and sarcasm was more than worthy. I forgot I wasn’t watching Harrison Ford, as I was watching Han Solo.
Glover, however, I had no doubts would be perfect for Lando, and I was right. He couldn’t have shone more in the role if they had added CGI sparkles to his eyes and teeth. He has an ego to match Solo’s and the confidence to pull off a space version of a Hawaiian flowerdy shirt.
Joonas Suotamo did a fine job capturing the little head tilts and posture that makes Chewbacca everyone’s favorite character more than just a tall man in a furry suit. Emilia Clarke showed she was not just the Mother of Dragons, but the Queen of the Galaxy.
Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton and Paul Bettany were all terrific, and both Phoebie Waller-Bridge and Jon Favreau have proven themselves to be wonderful voice actors.
• This was not only a tribute to the original Star Wars, but to many of the classic films that makes moviegoing a treat. There was some Great Train Robbery heist, some classic Bond era Casino Royale, some spaghetti western gunslinging, McQueen worthy chase scenes (the M-68 land speeder dash set up looked a lot to me like a classic Mustang) with a touch of Road Warrior, as well as some elements for swashbuckling pirates and action movie high-rise shootouts.
• The Kessel Run. From the bottom of my fangirl heart, thank you for giving us some proof of Han’s 41-year-old boast, which may have only been slightly exaggerated.
I’ll be fair here, the movie was far from perfect, and although I said I wanted Solo to be perfect, I knew it wouldn't be. This was because it fell victim to the now-expected Hollywood preachiness that is hurting box office results and expectations, but not too much.
Here’s what I think killed Solo’s chances of doing better at the box office.
• The Last Jedi. Let me put it this way: Have you ever gone to a restaurant and gotten so sick of the food you swear, “never again!” Your friends go a couple of years later and tell you it was great, but you were so put off last time you can’t even bring yourself to step in the front door. I think The Last Jedi did so much to put off both long-time Star Wars fans and even get newcomers sick of the franchise people are put off by the Star Wars name. That’s a shame, because Solo is a blast.
• All the social media keyboard psychology and commentary. Is Lando pansexual, or is his robot delusional? (She's actually like the TARDIS, as we later learn in Empire Strikes Back). Is it true Ehrenreich can’t act himself out to of a crater? (No, he rocked it). Was there enough diversity in Solo? Stop it, already!!!! We have a tendency to pick apart every little piece of movies in tweets or on forum sites, we are sucking the fun out of everything. Please, quit reading into and second-guessing everything, and just enjoy the ride. This one is filled with both adventure and heart. Go see it!
• The forced PC of the “equal rights” robot. Yes, she was all for “robot rights,” which really don’t deserve equal rights to actual living beings, but we all know what she was really talking about. I did think Waller-Bridge did a great job lending her voice to L3-37, but that doesn’t mean we have to like the character. It’s good to want to see others treated well (who doesn't) but I’m hoping those who constantly yammer on about things like “equal pay” will see her and realize how overbearing and annoying they are.
However, Solo worked because it was about Solo and Lando, the characters men want to be and women want to be with, and who have more than enough stories between them to fill a franchise.
Here’s what another The Loftus Party femme fatale, Angie, thought about these rogues:
"I thought Solo was GREAT! It had everything you want in the movie. At first you keep saying to yourself, 'This is not Harrison Ford,' but after about 20 minutes you stop saying that and you actually do accept that he is young Han Solo. The casting was AWESOME. The relationship between Han and Chewie was THE BEST! Overall it felt very true to the originals without being cheesy and it added some new info with a twist at the end. Easily give it 3.5 stars out of 4. If you like Star Wars you should like it. It's not gonna change your life but it was a lot of fun and very nostalgic."
Usually, when we go to a Star Wars movie, my kids and I tend to nerd out and wear one of our many Star Wars tees, but when I took my family to see Solo over the weekend I had never seen so many women and girls wearing Star Wars t-shirt to a regular non-premiere showing. This wasn’t because there were strong women in the movie — which there were — but because the space hunks were back.
C’mon, you think the costume choice to have that little bit of chest hair showing in the open shirt — nearly identical to how Ford’s was in the original A New Hope — was a coincidence?
As much as Hollywood tries and tries to squelch it with words like “toxic” and "backwards" thinking, audiences love manly rogues. Han and Lando are the sexiest men in the galaxy this summer, and Howard is still a tremendous storyteller.
Why? Because they’re scoundrels, and there aren't enough scoundrels in our lives.