The Best and Worst of “Solo: A Star Wars Story”

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I wrote about many aspects of Solo in a spoiler-free review. This time, I want to take closer look at what I consider to be the highlights – and “low-lights” – of the entire film. (This time, be warned – spoilers ahead!)

Top Five High Fives:

1. Enfys Nest

Enfys Nest is cool for several reasons. I don’t think the most important of them is the “plot twist, she’s a young girl” (in fact, I don’t believe that should be considered a plot twist at all – why couldn’t she be a young girl?). What I consider the most worth underlining is the flip from clear antagonist (very “evil” on first sight) into somebody on the side of “light”.

We haven’t really seen this in a Star Wars film before and plot-wise, it is a very good move. Enfys is introduced as the enemy of the protagonists, she even causes the death of two of them! Later, she tracks them and looms in the background as the potential last threat to their quest. Add to it the “villains wear evil masks”-trope and we have a clear case: she must be evil.

But then we are proven wrong, because she turns out to be a proto-Rebel. And through her, we are reminded that “our” heroes are no heroes, they are criminals, they have been all along! Only the story has made us forget about that. But just before the end, we are reminded who is on the “good” side (up to now, no one).

Enfys’s people are criminals, too – in the eyes of the Empire. They have no qualms over fighting other resources against other criminals (like Beckett). It’s something we have seen in the original films – like the heroes storming Jabba’s palace – except this time, the protagonists are the gangsters and the Rebels are the third party. The introduction of Enfys Nest offers another view of the Rebel Alliance, this time through the eyes of the criminals. This is what Jabba or others would see the Rebels as – just another gang.

2. The Kessel Run

The Kessel Run and the surrounding Maelstrom, including the Maw, is an environment we haven’t seen before, which is surprising given that Star Wars is supposed to be crazy fantasy set in space. Space slugs swallowing ships in asteroid fields have been a unique phenomenon this far, and I am very glad this film changed it. Gravity wells, storms, lifeforms adapted to live in vacuum, beacons to guide ships through unstable space – perfect.The entire environment of Kessel Run combines astrophysics with fantasy in the right way. Visually, it is stunning, too (perhaps the only moment that looks somehow disturbingly CGI is the monster falling into the Maw). More daring space environments would certainly not hurt Star (!) Wars. Indeed, it would have been a waste if Solo – the story of a pilot, of all films – had not done that.

3. The Boss of the Crimson Dawn

That scene was epic – I think we all can agree on that.

At the same time, I am probably not the only one who is generally against bringing back characters, especially villains, for another round just because they were cool (they usually aren’t anymore after their resurrection). I thought the same when Maul was brought back in the animated series and comics already a long time ago. Even though I understood that Maul was cool, he had a cool lightsaber and was an epic fighter and that he didn’t get enough space so we could understand his personality.

What changed my mind was seeing when he actually got fleshed out and it was done right, brought to perfection in the Rebels series. And for the very same reason, I was happy that this has been acknowledged on the big screen. If he makes any future appearance (in an Obi-Wan film, perhaps?), I hope as much care will be put in his personality as it was in the animated series.

4. The Small Cameos

Warwick Davis in The Phantom Menace as Weazel, the role he reprised in Solo.

There is more than one The Phantom Menace character reprising their roles in Solo. Enfys Nest’s band form a connection to other films through different characters. We are talking about the character played by Warwick Davis, the original actor of Wicket the Ewok from RotJ. He had also played a minor background character (named Weazel in the credits) who sat with Watto at the podraces in Episode I. In Solo, he’s playing the same character (some thirty years older). Seeing him with Enfys establishes further connection with the Rebellion and once again makes the storylines seem more intertwined. And I can’t stress enough how important the sense of continuity is.

The other possible cameo is Saw Gerrera’s right hand from Rogue One, the scary alien known as Edrio Two-Tubes. This far, however, the official sources haven’t confirmed whether this is really the same person. Even if it was only a member of the same species, the connection to Saw’s crew is underlined by his appearance (and for that reason already I don’t see why it shouldn’t be the same character).

5. All The Throwaway References

There are so many little details mentioned that casual audience doesn’t care about, but that pleases the hardcore fans, and it is good the makers of Solo opted to include it.

I refer to really minor things such as Dryden Vos offering his guests Colo clawfish to nibble on. That line doesn’t have any significance for the story, so the writers could have made up completely new kind of fish. But for those who know, this is one of the eel-like things from The Phantom Menace. It really doesn’t matter, but the feeling of familiarity is pleasing to fans.

More significant remarks include for example the rumour about Beckett killing Aurra Sing (I mean, wow, even though he tried to deny it), the possibility to hire Bossk, or Maul’s mention of Dathomir. Otherwise, there is for example the journey to Glee Anselm and playing the valachord (an instrument mentioned for the first time already in the new canon Aftermath novels).

All these references make the particular film not an isolated story that disregards the rest of the universe, but a part of the large whole that is Star Wars.

Top Four Flops:

1. Enfys Nest

Correct; I am not repeating myself. There is one big problem with Enfys Nest, and it’s the way she is introduced. Despite everything that’s cool about her, it feels somehow inorganic.

The most striking is the discrepancy between the scary person in the mask and the completely innocent-looking girl under it. Or let me rephrase so that we are clear: it is not about the looks at all. It is about the demeanor. Suddenly, with removing the mask, Enfys becomes a completely different person. She chats merrily with Qi’ra as if they had been best friends – after having just delivered a speech on how terrible Crimson Dawn is. She chats merrily with everyone, in fact. A little more edge, and a little more consistency would have helped.

The story she tells about the villagers – however important for the context – has also some unnecessary pathos and, most of all, sort of stumbles and clogs the pace at this moment of the story. The monologue could have been shorter and more to the point at the time when the film audience is waiting for the grand finale.

2. Two Unnecessary Deaths

Val and Rio. Yes, their deaths came too early and too unnecessarily. It is understandable the film needed space for Lando and Qi’ra and L3 and even if they lived, they would hardly get enough space. But was it really necessary for them to die (and not just be removed from the story for other reason, for example heavy injury, or deciding to run for it instead of facing Dryden Vos)? Is dying the only way a character can exit a story nowadays?

And a bonus question – did it have to be them who died? Couldn’t one of them have swapped places with Beckett? (Yes, Beckett’s betrayal still had to happen – but with some tweaks, couldn’t his character traits have been swapped with one of the other two?) “Diversity” is not about quotas for how many women of colour appear in the film. It isn’t about ticking some boxes. The bottom line is that the alien and the female get again less screentime than the white male dude. I am just raising a question – did it have to be this way?

3. Dryden’s Schizophrenia

This is a minor thing, but it’s a significant hiccup in the storytelling. At one moment, Dryden Vos tells Han and Beckett that they can’t go and raid the Kessel mines, because the mines are controlled by friendly syndicate. Crimson Dawn can’t afford to antagonise it. When Dryden is ready to execute Han and Beckett for not offering a sound alternative, Han counters the argument by claiming that they have no affiliation with Crimson Dawn and their presence won’t provoke an inter-syndicate war.

To which Dryden responds with acknowledgment and sending Qi’ra along. The Qi’ra who is not only his lieutenant (officially), but has a Crimson Dawn tattoo on her wrist in case somebody wasn’t aware. How can this be explained?

4. Plug Her In

Lando’s copilot, L3, was a fresh take on a droid character. I am fully aware that the interpretations of her purpose in the story may differ, but nobody can deny that we haven’t seen somebody like her before.

But given that the chief point of her personality seems to be fight for droid rights and autonomy, it feels completely wrong to just take her dead body and plug it into the Falcon. She devoted her life to be perceived as a person and not as an object, but the first thing that happens when she’s dead, somebody takes her and starts doing whatever they want with her body.

Yes, from objective point of view, the crew had to save themselves and we can assume L3 would have agreed under the circumstances. Nonetheless, the utter lack of respect – aside from Qi’ra’s half-hearted “sorry” – is bewildering. The moment L3 dies, everyone starts to treat her like a piece of hardware. Maybe Han and co. haven’t been around her for long enough time to understand what personal integrity meant to her (even though that would just show terrible lack of empathy on their part). But how about Lando? Lando should have protested, or at least acknowledged the necessity reluctantly or grudgingly. I believe this was a drastic oversight on the writers’ part.

Despite everything, I must say that glaring errors and bad moments in Solo are in minority compared to what great things the film has to offer. It is rare for a film to have so little to be picked on, and no plot holes that would seriously undermine its logic. The positive elements, on the other hand, could serve as inspiration for Star Wars screenwriters in the future.

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Rostislav Kurka
Rostislav is a Protestant theologian and a self-trained Sith, counting Jan Hus, Dorothee Sölle, Darth Revan and Darth Traya among his main influences. He hails from the hundred-towered city of Prague, where he had spent a large part of his life creating worlds and inspiring young generations to roleplay. His involvement in organising children's camps led him to accidentally writing a Lord of the Rings musical, which made him temporarily famous, and a Three Musketeer-Jedi fanfilm, which didn't. He has recently moved to the frozen waste of Finland, because that's it, the Rebels are there.