Solo: A Star Wars Story is fun, but there is plenty of room for improvement.
It was the Star Wars film we didn’t want, the one with chaos behind the scenes, a change of director partway through shooting and a cast we weren’t altogether sure of. But, despite the seemingly endless problems with its production, Solo: A Star Wars Story has safely made it to cinemas and is set to do well at the box office.
Full disclosure, I expected an unbridled mess to play out before my eyes but Solo is not as bad as it should have been. It has numerous enjoyable moments, tons of throwbacks and a generally positive vibe. But it could have been so much better if only a few story changes had been made at the outset.
Here are the top five ways I feel Solo could have been improved. Spoilers ahead, so please watch the film first.
1 – Delete the Romance
The film’s opening scene establishes Han’s romance with Qi’ra, a fellow slave on Corellia. It is supposed to be sweet but the audience visibly cringed every time the two kissed.
Ignoring the fact that Alden Ehrenreich and Emilia Clarke have zero chemistry, introducing a ‘new’ old romance in Han’s life is annoying for fans who have seen the gamut of Han and Leia’s relationship. They are the numero uno romance of the Star Wars galaxy, problematic as they may be, and this bland romance does nothing for Han’s characterisation. The audience already know it will end badly, so why include it at all?
Additionally, by writing Qi’ra as the romantic interest and damsel in distress, her character is completely diminished. In fact, until the very last scene, she has absolutely nothing to do.
This tactic might have made sense in the ‘80s with Princess Leia but in 2018, it is just plain wrong to have a female character do nothing at all but swan around the lead male. They should have deleted it.
2 – Make Qi’ra the Boss Villain
While you’re at it, take a page out of James Bond’s book and make the old friend a new enemy. Han’s beloved old friend Qi’ra reuniting with him as a villain would have been a much better story arc than the one we got – coquettish, waif-like slave who cannot escape her master and must do bad things for him is a positively gross arc for a female character in a post-#MeToo world.
Plus, as much as I enjoyed watching Paul Bettany chew the scenery as Dryden Vos, he was yet another white male in a sea of white males parading around this film. Why not change it up and have a female villain? We have not had any non-male villains in the live-action Star Wars films, after all! It would have given Emilia Clarke more to do than be Han’s cheerleader.
3 – Introduce Crimson Dawn earlier
The basic plot of the film is that a group of smugglers must conduct a heist because they messed up big time and owe a debt. This is exactly what one would expect from a film about Han Solo. But why are there so many people involved in this one heist?
Let us break it down. Han owes Beckett for dropping the goods they had stolen, which Beckett owed to Dryden Vos, but Dryden actually owed them to Crimson Dawn who turns out to be Darth Maul, suddenly alive some 30 years after being chopped in half by Obi-Wan. And then there’s Enfys Nest, on their tail every step of the way. What. Is. Going. On?
Why does this plot have to be so complex? It doesn’t look like there will be a sequel to this film so what is the point of including this many elements? Keep it simple and the story will be more enjoyable.
Dryden Vos, despite Paul Bettany’s efforts, is not a particularly interesting character. On the other hand, Darth freaking Maul? How was he not in the film from the very beginning? I am 100% more interested in anything and everything Maul might do than whatever Dryden Vos does with his glowing dagger. But we only get a 2-minute scene of Maul talking to Qi’ra via holo-projector. This is a crime and must be rectified. Redo the whole film with Maul as the main villain, right now!
4 – More Lando and Chewie
Admit it, everyone went to see this film more for Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian, than for Han Solo. Why they didn’t make a Lando film is beyond me but this is what we ended up with.
Needless to say, Glover stole every scene he was in. From his introduction as a card game-cheating sabacc player and dubious owner of the Millennium Falcon, it was obvious that Lando was the indubitable star of this show. He also managed to have more chemistry with Ehrenreich’s Han than the rest of the cast put together.
Which made it even more frustrating when Lando was stuck on the ship during the Kessel sequence and at the end when Han had his showdown with Dryden Vos.
Lando’s story begins with him as a gambler and ends with him being in the same position, so he doesn’t even get an arc. Along the way he loses the female droid he is in love with (what?) and decides he hates/ likes Han Solo. We still know nothing about Lando by the end of the film!
Lando and Han’s friendship has been the subject of much conjecture since Lando’s appearance in The Empire Strikes Back so why would the Han Solo film not address it completely? Only the writers of this film know. Or do they?
The same can be said of Chewie. I do love the sequence where Han and Chewie meet but Chewie is also often side-lined in favour of the new characters. We get some idea of Chewie’s past but it is left hanging. There is no completion to his story which should not happen in a film about Han meeting Chewie!
5 – Swap Beckett with Val
Woody Harrelson’s Beckett was uninspiring, to say the least. He was clearly meant as the stand-in father figure to Han, but again, he and Ehrenreich had zero chemistry. Beckett was just another smuggler motivated by the death of his female partner, Val. We have seen this story arc a billion times! Do something different.
Plus, this is the third blockbuster film in 2018 to fridge a female character and it is making me lose my mind. Aside from the fact that Thandie Newton is colossally wasted, her character seemed far more interesting than sober space-Haymitch. What makes a strategist and fighter like Val become a smuggler in cahoots with Dryden Vos?
Also, Han never mentions his mom so, presumably he never knew her. If he needed to have a parent figure, a badass woman smuggler would have been perfect. And we would have had a little more diversity on screen than what we got.
Final thoughts on Solo: A Star Wars Story
Yes, this film was all set to be a disaster, but Solo actually managed to have a semi-decent story and a consistent aesthetic throughout the film’s duration. That’s far from saying it’s great.
One of the main problems in Solo is something critics of The Last Jedi will be familiar with. By introducing new characters, the film fails to build on the established relationships that needed to be elaborated upon. The new characters don’t bring anything to the plate, instead they take away from the great material that already exists. Essentially, this is a film that fails to do justice to the franchise it belongs to.
By focusing on the wrong characters, as well as the film’s lack of diversity, Solo has a high chance of alienating the fan base that grew when The Force Awakens and Rogue One released.
Ultimately, Solo: A Star Wars Story feels like another step backwards for a franchise that desperately needs to go forward.