Make: Disney, Lucasfilms
Model: Sci-fi adventure
Star Wars fans have become a very picky bunch. The complaints have become ludicrous. “Bombs don’t drop in space.” They have not been legitimately satisfied with an actual Star Wars movie since Empire Strikes Back. So, the question is, are Star Wars movies bad, or the fans wrong? As usual, there is some of both. But the point of this series is not to blame audiences. It’s to tackle the weaknesses in films and tune them up. This time, Solo is up on the blocks. Our goal is to reach both general audiences AND self-proclaimed Star Wars fans.
What works: Lando. Donald Glover is so cool as Lando. He charms both as rascal and devoted captain of the Millennium Falcon. His gambling scenes are easily the most enjoyable in the movie. It’s a shame he doesn’t have more screen time.
The Kessel Run. As the central set piece of Han Solo’s backstory, his pride in the Kessel Run is legendary. As result, there was only one thing that this movie could possibly be about. The only problem is that it is really the only flying in the whole movie, so we don’t get a real sense of Solo’s skills as compared to other pilots. The best example of a space run I have ever seen is Galaxy Quest:
Without this incredible failure, we would never get the payoff in the final act when Tim Allen declares his ship is dragging mines. So, while the Kessel Run is entertaining, it could have been better.
What doesn’t work: Randomness. In a universe where so many events are coordinated by the Force, it seems like a cheap sleight of hand to have the main character stumble into his defining characteristics. Look, George Lucas was certainly going for “lone wolf” when he named him, so why should the character be any less deliberate in choosing his name? He stumbles into everything, the military, the Wookie, the ship, the job. The only thing he has chosen is to be a pilot. While not everything in life is the result of planning, would it kill him to make a choice?
Opening crawls. I hate opening crawls. They always boil down to “Some important stuff is going on, but you’re not going to see any of it.” If that other stuff was important, the movie would be about that stuff.
The main thing we want to accomplish is give Lando more screen time and highlight the Kessel Run as much as possible, while minimizing or eliminating the clunker parts of the movie.
First, no opening crawl.
Then, when Han decides to leave Corellia without Qi’ra, the enlistment clerk asks him for a last name. Instead of letting the clerk choose, Han takes a last look back at the empty gate where he left Qi’ra and chooses the name Solo. It’s a statement of independence and of destiny. His name says, “I ride alone, not because I am forced to, but because I choose to.”
When he winds up on a battlefield with Beckett and Val, he should show his worth in some way, shooting enemy soldiers as they come over the ridge, allowing Beckett and his team to survive.
His meeting with Chewbacca for the first time should be coincidence, though, there is no explanation as to how Chewy wound up on that planet. Remember that Chewbacca was a big deal, fighting beside Yoda all those years ago. He was on this world seeking asylum, until the Jedi had been forgotten, and he was discovered during the imperial invasion.
When Qi’ra takes Han to meet up with Lando, Lando cheats at cards and wins. Han realizes that something is off. He suavely confronts Lando about it after Qi’ra has secured the Millennium Falcon. Lando tells him, “It isn’t enough to be lucky, Han. Sometimes you have to go beyond the rules to win.”
As they approach the maelstrom, other ships are already entering the mouth. One cargo ship is being pursued by marauder vessels. The cargo ship, in desperation and recklessness, flies into the maelstrom and moments later explodes. The marauder ships turn and disappear. “No ship can enter the maelstrom and survive. It is the only rule of the Kessel Run,” Lando declares.
During the trip back from Kessel, Imperial TIE fighters appear and pursue the Falcon. Once Lando realizes Han intends to fly into the maelstrom, Han says to him, “It isn’t enough to be lucky. Sometimes you have to go beyond the rules to win.” Everyone is very tense during the Kessel Run, only Chewy and Han seem to have their heads together. After it’s all over, they let out a shout of joy that they survived. Lando admits to Han that he didn’t think it was possible, and maybe Han was the best pilot he’d ever seen, maybe, but what he did to his ship was unforgivable.
During the final poker game, as the last hand is being dealt, Lando tells Han he still hasn’t forgiven him for what he did to his ship. “You mean my ship,” Han replies. “The Falcon and I, we’ve become very close. She’s the ship that did the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. And I’m the pilot.” Lando loses the last hand and the Falcon. “You pirate!” he declares.
Also, not sure why Darth Maul is back. He made no appearance at all during the Original Trilogy, and has not appeared in 2/3 of the Sequel Trilogy (Episode IX could be a surprise, but it’s then 30+ more years since the events of Solo, so there’s no explanation for him showing up in Solo, unless Qi’ra and Maul are going to have a spin-off of their own. So, it’s better if someone else from the Empire is reaching out to Crimson Dawn, someone who is still relevant to the story, like Tarkin.
The Kessel Run in 12 parsecs is an impressive feat in Star Wars lore, yet no one seemed that impressed with it. We beefed up the peril, and the excitement, by showing how deadly the course could be, and allowing the characters to show how tense it was. We also showed Han already bragging about his accomplishments and admitting his attachments to the ship. We also gave Lando more dialogue. Star Wars fans are difficult, if not impossible, to please. But, they do like nostalgia and venerating their mythology. I think we’ve done that here.