There’s a scene you certainly remember from Star Wars: A New Hope in which Luke, having chased Artoo out into the Tatooine desert comes home to find his aunt and uncle killed, his home burned, and nothing left but ruin.
What survived of who he was that day went on to become the person he would be. Right there and then. It was a moment of transformation.
And then, regardless of what you think of the rest of the film, at the beginning of Rogue One, Jyn Erso survives a similar dive into the crucible. Her family gets ripped away from her when she’s only a young girl. She is retrieved from her hideout by a dangerous man she may only barely know to live a life as foreign as they come. And whoever she was before that day got compressed and extruded so that Jyn Erso could survive as only Jyn Erso could survive.
That’s also transformation. It’s more than enough backstory for any character.
There is no such scene in Solo, though, which is a dreadful film. It is a sequence of strung-together call-outs that presents all the appeal of hanging around with fanatical Simpsons aficionados and listening to them shout out quotes from the show for a couple of hours.
Yeah. I remember that one, too. That was a good episode.
Solo is not a good episode. It is not a good film. It never quite manages to rub any two emotions together long enough to generate any drama. It’s populated by characters one never gets to know, even when one knows them already — as with Alden Ehrenreich‘s Han Solo, a low-level street thief with a big ego and little else.
He steals a speeder. He escapes from his quasi-Dickensian orphanage using pluck and contrivance. He gets separated from his love, Kira (Emilia Clarke), who, one supposes, has qualities and desires beyond tagging along with Han but your guess is as good as mine. Han vows to return to her, but only after (presumably) learning to be the best pilot in the galaxy by getting thrown out of Imperial Officer training camp or whatever.
Somehow, he knows how to pilot a spaceship. Somehow, he knows how to play whatever stupid space-card-game he challenges that raconteur Lando (Donald Glover) to. Somehow, somehow, somehow. Hey, look! A wookie!
What are the odds, right?
This is the story of backstory that was way more fascinating in my imagination. All of it hinging on the the mythical Kessel run, which, legend has it, Han flew in 12 parsecs (he writes without looking it up; that’s close enough, surely). This is it! Let’s watch Han meet Chewie (Joonas Suotamo)! Let’s watch Han meet Lando! Let’s thing the stuff with the words! Remember that! And then, whoosh! the Kessel Run!!!!!
It’s all so painfully meaningless and dull. Instead of discovering why Han is a loner, we’re told he’s a loner despite all evidence to the contrary. Instead of understanding why he’d stay away from the Rebellion, we watch a character who sure seems like he could use a gang of friends walk away from simpatico compatriots into exactly the sort of deadly mess he only just barely escaped from. Instead of seeing Han learn the hard way how to be a galactic smuggler of renown, he just sort of is one, by dint of stumbling into the roughest, toughest guy (Becket: Woody Harrelson) and sticking around.
He doesn’t DO much of anything, this Han. Even the Kessel run, or especially the Kessel run — which one would imagine would require feats of derring-do and near-unparalleled skill.
First off, it appears the Kessel run is a trip out from Kessel, which is a planet enclosed by some weird space-fog filled with space-rocks and space-monsters and a big flaming volcano anus. Normally, one gets to and from Kessel by going through the clearly marked and SOMEHOW STABLE tunnel through the space fog into which no space rocks rudely roam. Han, being Han, instead flies into the space fog! He avoids the space rocks, mostly by using the brain parts of L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) as a guidance system; i.e. he uses space-Waze. Then, uh, they use some dilithium crystals to spasti-crack the honkulator into hyperdrive because it turns out the space-monster and the big flaming volcano anus is right next to the edge of the space fog and, like, from there? Punch it Chewie.
So yeah, I’m trying to apply a modicum of logic to this inane scenario, which is futile and imbicilic, but also: fuck off. Han didn’t or shouldn’t have had the piloting chops to pull it off, and simultaneously, it was the kind of thing L3-37 could have pulled off more easily if she wasn’t scrapped by laser cannon. But yet this feat somehow makes Han’s name and from the events of this film, he heads right to Tatooine to get to business with Jabba the Hutt.
As if he’s someone. As if he knows anything. As if he isn’t a giant fraud. As if he’s a character worth his own movie. Chewie is far more interesting and he doesn’t speak any English. Lando is a fop and a dandy and, worse, they decide to make him a card cheat. Why? Dunno. God forbid either Han or Lando should actually be authentically good at something. God forbid Han should have an ego he deserves.
Just stop, people. Prequels and spin-offs can be fantastic — when they’re Better Call Saul. When they’re exploring, really, how one person turns into another as delicately and as deliberately as we watched Walter White turn into Heisenberg in Breaking Bad. This should be a character story. There should be characters in it.
Not Solo. Solo is bunk. It’s hokum. If we’re going to talk more about Solo, let’s talk about it so low we can’t hear each other.