Fans have long awaited a Star Wars spin-off on their beloved characters, and although we have yet to see one on Obi-Wan Kenobi or Boba Fett, Disney so far released one with Han Solo. This stand-alone film’s events transpire between those of Star Wars Episode III (Revenge of the Sith) and Episode IV (A New Hope). In this review, we break down and discuss the film that tells the story of a young Han as he first meets his partner Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian.
As the title of this article suggests, there will be spoilers, so if you have not yet seen the movie, we urge you to do so now and return to this article later.
The film begins with a chyron: “It is a lawless time.” The galaxy is out of balance and the crime syndicates compete for valuable resources. On the planet Corellia, the crime boss Lady Proxima uses orphaned children to steal as a means of survival. We see Han sneak into Proxima’s place to retrieve a vial of Coaxium hyperfuel worth “500 to 600 credits” from his lover, Qi’ra. They are caught and brought to the crime boss, who tells them that “Coaxium is precious.” With a rock to smash a dirtied window–bringing in the light to burn Lady Proxima–Han and Qi’ra manage to escape the clutches of her goons and wound up in a high-speed chase. Han tries to squeeze through a tight space but fails. Han and Qi’ra run on foot as they are followed by Proxima’s goons and ugly hounds. At transport, Han gives his lover his chained gold dice for good luck. They successfully get through a gate by bribing an Imperial officer with refined hyperfuel, but Qi’ra is apprehended by Proxima’s goons and Han is separated from her. He vows to return to Corellia for her. With no way of gaining income, he decides to enlist in the Imperial Navy. An Imperial recruiting officer asks for his name, to which he says, “Han.” When asked about his background or surname–the latter of which he does not have–he replies, “I don’t have people. I’m alone,” and so the officer puts his name down as “Han Solo.”
Three years later, Han finds himself caught in the middle of a firefight during a battle on the planet Mimban. Whilst there, he meets a trio of criminals posing as Imperial soldiers: Tobias Beckett, his wife Val, and a four-armed alien Rio Durant. Han begins to question the people surrounding him. Rio tells him, “This ain’t a quick job; it’s a war.” Han tells Val he was “trained in aerial combat.” During a meeting with his comrades and higher-ranking officers, Han is told that their goal is to “bring peace and prosperity to the galaxy,” much to his disbelief. For this, he is kicked out of the Imperial Academy. He eavesdrops on the criminal trio but is caught. Beckett tells him, “You have a talent for sticking your nose where you don’t belong.” He tells them he wants to get back to Corellia, then blackmails them into joining their crew.
Beckett has Han apprehended and tossed into a muddy underground cage where he fights of a “beast” held in captivity while in chains. Han pulls the beast’s hair and bites him. It is revealed that the beast is a Wookiee, and Shyriiwook is a language which Han can understand and speak. Working together, the two break out of their cell by staging a “secret battle of pretend.” Screaming in fake pain and spewing insults such as “moof-milker,” Han and the beast break the pole holding up the top of their cell and escape. They see Beckett and his crew about to fly off, so they plead for help getting away. Rio sees the beast and convinces Beckett to take them, saying, “You will never have a deeper sleep than curled up in a Wookie’s lap.” Beckett allows Han and the beast on his ship. After an awkward shower with the beast to get the mud off their bodies, Han asks what the beast’s name is, to which he replies, “Chewbacca.” Han says he needs a nickname to go by.
On the cold planet Vandor, Beckett, Val, and Han scope out an area as they plan to pull a train heist and steal a shipment full of Coaxium. The night before the heist, the group sit around a fire as they talk about themselves. Han says he plans to use his share of the steal to return to Corellia and find Qi’ra, to which Rio asks, “Is she nice? Does she have sharp teeth?” Val tells Han that “everybody needs somebody,” which is why she has Beckett. Chewie says his fellow Wookies were enslaved by the Empire, and his tribe and family were taken.
As they prepare to pull off the heist, Beckett gives Han his heavy blaster pistol. Beckett, Han, and Chewie board the top of the train, where they find “enough Coaxium to power a fleet … or blow us all to Hell.” They connect some cables to their ship but are then encountered by a group of marauders led by Enfys Nest. Rio–piloting the ship to carry the Coaxium shipment–is shot in the process, and Han is prompted to take over the piloting. Fighter droids fly over to the train, but Val–planting some explosives on tracks a distance away–distracts the droids by shooting at them. Rio dies from his gunshot wound. Val tells Beckett on intercoms that “it’s no good to die alone” before setting off the explosives and sacrificing herself. Han pilots the ship away from the train tracks but Enfys Nest has one cable connected to the shipment. She forces them to release the cables. Han nears a mountain and evades a difficult position by opting to release the cables and ditch the shipment of Coaxium, which drops the mountain is blown up. Furious at this, Beckett calls him a coward for disobeying his instructions.
Beckett reveals he was hired by the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate, and he owes “100 kilo[gram]s” of Coaxium to their leader Dryden Vos. Han and Chewie volunteer to help him steal another shipment of Coaxium. The three travel on foot to Vos’s yacht, where Beckett warns Han and Chewie that, by making this decision, “if [the Crimson Dawn does not] kill you, you’re in this life for good.” On board the yacht, Beckett tells Han and Chewie not too look directly at anyone, to look down and not speak. Failing to follow yet another instruction, Han discovers Qi’ra then tells her he was going to find her on Corellia. She says he does not have to anymore because “I’m right in front of you.” They both decide to make a toast, and when Qi’ra asks what drink to, Han replies, “Let’s drink to and see where it goes.”
Han, Chewie, and Beckett are brought to Vos, who reveals that Qi’ra is his top lieutenant. As a result of failing to return with the train’s shipment, he asks them what they will do to preclude him from killing the three of them. He tells them that “there is no making this right.” As his men are about to take the three away, Han promises to steal “100 kilograms of unrefined Coaxium.” He implies he is a good pilot and they just need to find a ship. Vos has Qi’ra tag along with the three and warns them, “If you do fail me again, we’ll all be out of options.”
Qi’ra takes Han, Chewie, and Beckett to a man who is “attractive [with an] impeccable taste [and] charisma.” This turns out to be Lando Calrissian. Han, Chewie, and Qi’ra find him gambling in a game of sabacc. Han joins in on the game and gambles away his ship for Calrissian’s, which is said to be the fastest in the galaxy. Calrissian says he has never lost and that he has once won a “subtropical moon.” The game gets intense, and Calrissian tells Han to “quit while you’re ahead,” to which Han responds, “quit while you’re behind.” Han loses, but Qi’ra convinces Calrissian to give them his ship. Calrissian agrees to assist them on their adventure in exchange for 25% of the profits. They also bring along Calrissian’s droid L3-37. Calrissian takes them to his ship, the Millennium Falcon. They find it chained up, and Calrissian has Beckett break its restraints if he knocks down 5% of Calrissian’s share of the profits, to which Calrissian says, “I don’t like it, I don’t agree with it, but I will accept it.”
On board the Falcon, Beckett tells Han that “people are predictable.” Han then confronts Qi’ra alone in a closet full of capes and tells her he wants to know all that has happened during their time apart. Qi’ra says, “I want to tell you everything that’s happened, but you won’t look at me the same.” They are interrupted by Beckett, who later tells Han that he does not trust Qi’ra. He says,”Assume everyone will betray you, and you’ll never be disappointed.” Han says, “That’s a lonely way to live,” to which Beckett replies, “It’s the only way.”
Approaching the spice mining planet Kessel, Beckett tells the group to “stick to the plan [and] do not improvise.” Qi’ra returns the chained gold dice to Han, and he and Chewie exit the Falcon in restraints. The two are brought to an area where workers are given “excruciating but effective” treatment. Once inside the mine, L3-37 initiates a rebellion. Chewie leaves Han to liberate his fellow Wookies. Han knocks out a guard at the vault containing Coaxium canisters. Calrissian is recording his life story in a series called “The Lando Chronicles” until he is interrupted by the commotion. L3-37 leads the way of the freed slaves as Han drags 12 canisters of Coaxium to the Falcon. L3-37 is shot down, and Calrissian tries to gather some of her parts but is shot–although injured–in the process as well. They are saved by Han and Chewie, and Calrissian allows Han to pilot the Falcon. L3-37 dies out from her gunshot wounds.
Back in space, the Falcon crosses paths with an Imperial blockade, and the group plans to take the Coaxium to the desert planet Savareen. As Han recklessly pilots the ship, it takes some serious damages, and Lando is able to download L3-37’s navigation charts into the Falcon’s system, where she is “part of the ship now.” The Falcon encounters a black hole–which one of the group refers to as a “gravity well”–and becomes prey to a giant space creature with tentacles. Han releases the Falcon’s escape pod as bait for the creature, which is sucked into the black hole. The group uses some of the Coaxium on the Falcon’s fueling system, and Han and Chewie “kick the thrusters and jump to hyperspeed” through a tight space, thus accomplishing “the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs.” Because of the damages on his ship, Calrissian tells Han, “I hate you.” He says he will be inside the Falcon until Han returns with Calrissian’s share of the profits and he does not want to see him ever again.
Upon arrival on Savareen, Han claims he has now become an outlaw, but Qi’ra argues he is still “the good guy.” Enfys Nest and her marauders arrive but Han warns them he has “thirty hired guns” aboard the Millennium Falcon–which he does not, and Calrissian flies off with the ship, stranding Han, Chewie, Beckett, and Qi’ra on the planet. Beckett warns Han that one thing the marauders “only know how to do is kill,” but this turns out to not be the case. Enfys Nest reveals that she and her group are actually a rebellion group called the Cloud-Riders. She says, “We’re not marauders; we’re allies, and the war has just begun.” Enfys Nest warns the group that the Crimson Dawn is up to no good, and Beckett chooses to run and urges Han and Chewie to join him. Han declines his offers and says, “I thought you didn’t believe in running,” to which Beckett says he will do so to prevent from dying. Beckett adds that he has one last score on the planet Tatooine, where a gangster is assembling an organization. Qi’ra tells Han about how dangerous the criminal life is. She says, “The object isn’t to win; it’s to stay as long as you can.”
Han, Chewie, and Qi’ra enter Dryden Vos’s yacht, where the crime syndicate leader says the Coaxium they have delivered to him is fake. He says he had someone in the group who has informed him of Han’s plan to give the actual hyperfuel to Enfys Nest and her group. Han assumes this to be Qi’ra, but Vos reveals this to be Beckett. Han has anticipated this deception by taking Beckett’s advice to “don’t trust anybody,” having realized that Beckett is not an exception. He reveals the Coaxium they have with them is real. Vos’s goons surround who they assume are the Cloud-Riders, but Enfys Nest and her people are one step ahead and ambush the goons. Beckett betrays Vos by taking Chewie hostage and running off with the Coaxium. Han, Qi’ra, and Vos fight until Qi’ra stabs Vos and drops him to the floor dead. Before Han leaves the yacht, Qi’ra tells him he has always made her smile. He departs, and she uses Vos’s Crime Syndicate ring to seal the room. She contacts Vos’s superior, who turns out to be Darth Maul. She tells him that the mission has failed and she shall take over Vos’s position.
Han catches up to Beckett and Chewie. Han tells Beckett, “You think everybody’s like you,” and Beckett responds by saying, “No, you’re nothing like me.” Beckett tries to make a speech, but Han shoots him dead in the chest before he can even finish. Qi’ra flies off in Vos’s yacht. Han and Chewie deliver the Coaxium to Enfys Nest, who reveals that it will be used to aid the Rebel Alliance against the Empire. With “six hundred million credits worth of … Coaxium” used as “blood that breathes life into something new,” she offers Han a chance to join the Cloud-Riders, but he declines. She tells him that someday he may feel more sympathetic to the rebels’ cause.
Elsewhere, Han and Chewie track down Calrissian, where Han challenges him to a rematch of sabacc. Han realizes Calrissian’s winning strategy–which is actually cheating–and he uses this to win over possession of the Millennium Falcon. Aboard the Falcon, Han tells Chewie about the gangster on Tatooine, and they depart into space.
- Han Solo (played by Alden Ehrenreich)
- A cynical smuggler who once lived in Corellia with his lover Qi’ra
- Chewbacca “Chewie” (played by Joonas Suotamo)
- Han’s partner; a Wookiee
- Tobias Beckett (portrayed by Woody Harrelson)
- Han’s mentor
- Qi’ra (portrayed by Emilia Clarke)
- Han’s former lover
- Lando Calrissian (performed by Donald Glover)
- A smuggler who is the original owner of the Millennium Falcon
- Dryden Vos (played by Paul Bettany)
- A crime lord who has had ties with Tobias Beckett
- L3-37 (portrayed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge)
- Lando’s droid companion and navigator
- Val Beckett (played by Thandie Newton)
- Tobias Beckett’s wife and criminal companion
- Rio Durant (voiced by Jon Favreau)
- A four-armed alien and member of Beckett’s crew
- Enfys Nest (performed by Erin Kellyman)
- The leader of the rebellion group called the Cloud-Riders
Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story is great for the most part, however, there are some critiques for killing off some potentially great characters: Val Beckett, Rio Durant, and L3-37. All three died too soon, and we do not get much character development in these characters, but their deaths are what make our other characters develop.
L3-37 proved to be a more compelling character than Han, Chewbacca, and perhaps Lando in a few scenes. She is independent and always cares for others–droids and humans alike. At times, she is funny. For example, when Qi’ra questions if L3-37’s relationship with Lando Calrissian works, the droid says, “It works.” Another great example is when she tells Han in a sassy manner, “Get your presumptuous ass out of my seat!”
In addition, Dryden Vos had such great potential as a villain if he had more screentime and/or the audience had seen him kill more than just one person on screen. He looks the part but does not act the part well enough. All this was probably done to focus more on the title character and how he became a pilot and–later–a legend, but it would not hurt adding a few scenes to the film’s runtime to delve into the development of some of these other characters.
Although the film has the same runtime as Episode VII: The Force Awakens–both are 135 minutes (or 2 hours and 15 minutes) long–this stand-alone film does seem to come off as a lot shorter, and perhaps this is due to all the action occurring throughout the entirety of the film.
The film dwells heavily on the theme of deception, as it does with other Star Wars films. Tobias Beckett’s betrayal towards Han is a good callback (or call-forward if we’re referring to the Star Wars timeline) to Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back when an older Lando Calrissian betrays Han, Leia, and the other characters. Beckett’s wife Val says, “Sometimes you put your faith in the wrong people.” Glover’s Calrissian adds that there are “no liars in this game, just players.” Once you are in a life of crime, you can never get out of it, and Qi’ra argues with Han that he is “the good guy.”
Qi’ra also says that “everyone serves somebody,” and we see this throughout the course of the film. Beckett turns out to be working with Vos, who turns out to be working for Darth Maul. The film deals with life debts, ownership, and free will, and we see a lot of characters try to liberate themselves from something they want to get out of. We are all part of a food chain, and we all answer to somebody above us. That, in itself, is a form of control and oppression. Of course, this film taking place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, this is just the start of the revolution against the Galactic Empire. (Another film which fits this specific category is Rogue One.)
Another theme is equal rights. When Lando Calrissian gets up from his seat, he asks L3-37, “[Do] you need anything?” she replies, “Equal rights?” This is a critique of governments’ separation of families around the world. People are in need of equal rights, not only for women but every individual who is perceived as different. In the film, this was first seen with Stormtroopers separating families at Corellia, and this is later represented by the revolution L3-37 starts in Kessel. This uprising is a perfect example of the fight between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie i.e. the working class versus the business owners or, in this case, the higher authorities. This is also reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom‘s ending in which the titular character and his companions free the Indian children from captivity.
Donald Glover proves to be a great young Lando Calrissian as much as (if not more than) Billy Dee Williams’s portrayal of the character. Glover’s performance of Calrissian is exactly as how Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra describes the character when first introduced during the film: “attractive [with an] impeccable taste [and] charisma.” It is funny that L3-37, at one point, referred to him as her “organic overlord,” and he tells the group that he “could wipe her memory.” Another important note on Calrissian is the hilarious way he mispronounces Han’s name.
Overall, this film is well-written with a lot of good quotes and some comedic lines. When Qi’ra tries to stop a fire in the Falcon during the Kessel Run with one of Calrissian’s cape, he yells that it is a “custom piece.” Glover’s performance as Calrissian outshines the performances of the other characters but perhaps killing off some early on in their part of the story is deemed unnecessary, or maybe it could have gone down some other way. Were they better off dead? As Calrissian says when convinced to join the mission, “Circumstances change.” The film adds great detail to how the eponymous character meets both his partner Chewbacca and the original owner of the Millennium Falcon, Lando Calrissian. We also get to see how he got his blaster, his name, and the chained gold dice. The character’s claims of the Kessel Run make much more sense now that we saw how he accomplished it. Solo: A Star Wars Story is a good film, although it does have its flaws. For that, it deserves a 7 out of 10.
Easter Eggs, References, and Trivia Facts:
- The Chase
- The chase scene at the beginning of the film is reminiscent of the Speeder Bike Chase scene in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. The part of the chase in which someone crashes and is knocked forward from their vehicle looks oddly familiar.
- The Imperial March
- After Han is separated from Qi’ra, he sees a recruitment advertisement for the Imperial Navy Academy, which plays the beautiful Imperial March theme music.
- Rio Durant
- This four-armed alien is voiced by Jon Favreau. If you do not know who he is, he has directed a number of popular films such as Iron Man (2008), Disney’s live-action The Jungle Book remake (2016), as well as next year’s The Lion King remake, which will also feature fellow Solo actor Donald Glover as the character Simba. He is due to write and produce a live-action Star Wars television series in the near future, and it shall take place between the events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
- When Qi’ra convinces Lando Calrissian to join them in their mission to steal some Coaxium hyperfuel, Han tries to interrupt them but Calrissian says, “Grown-ups are talking.” This is a nice nod to something Tony Stark says to Peter Parker in two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s recent films of the past year i.e. Spider-Man: Homecoming and Avengers: Infinity War.
- “My pride and joy”
- When Calrissian takes the group to his ship, the Millennium Falcon, he calls it “my pride and joy.” Calrissian is performed wonderfully by the actor, writer, and director Donald Glover, who also performed under the musical moniker Childish Gambino. In Gambino’s 2016 album titled “Awaken, My Love,” he has a lyric in the song “Baby Boy” where he refers to his son as “my pride and joy.” This is a nice comparison of how important Glover’s child is to him and how important the Millennium Falcon is to Calrissian.
- When Calrissian takes the group into the Falcon, Chewbacca and Beckett are seen playing an old two-player board game featuring holographic creatures. This was also seen in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (originally titled Star Wars) and Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
- One of the Wookiee slaves on Kessel is a cameo by Anthony Daniels, who is best known for portraying the humanoid robot character C-3PO throughout the Star Wars film series.
- Han’s catchphrase
- While making the Kessel Run, Han says, “I have a real good feeling about this.” This is a nod to his catchphrase in the original trilogy and in The Force Awakens: “I have a bad feeling about this…”
- Warwick Davis
- This actor has portrayed a number of characters in the Star Wars film series since. In Solo, Davis returns as his weapons dealer character Weazel, a character who previously appeared in Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Oh, how the years have passed…
- Darth Maul
- Yes, yet another character from The Phantom Menace has returned to the Star Wars cinematic universe. We see Qi’ra speaking to Dryden Vos’s superior after she kills off the crime lord. What does this mean for the future of the Star Wars films?
- The Gangster
- Towards the end of the film, Beckett tells Han to meet him on another planet where a gangster is putting together an organization. This is a direct reference to Jabba the Hutt, and the final scene of Solo: A Star Wars Story shows Han and Chewie on the Millennium Falcon heading for Tatooine.
Which moment was your favorite in the film? Which one was most enjoyable for you? Which character did you wish had not died? What did you think of the film? Let us know! For more Han Solo and Star Wars-related news and reviews, follow Geek Motivation on Twitter (@GeekMotivation) and Instagram (@geekmotivation).
Written by: John Tangalin
Sources: Entertainment Weekly