Liz’s Hot Takes: Movies Should Be Fun, A Han Solo Story
It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these, but I just walked out of a theater smiling, which isn’t something that my fantasy/sci-fi/superhero movies have done for me lately. So, I thought I’d get my barely organized thoughts down while they’re still fresh.
Solo didn’t suck. In fact, I think it was a good movie. Mild spoilers ahead—read at your own risk.
Movies should be fun
You wouldn’t think I’d have to say this, but I’m still mad that I sat through the three-hour murder and misery spree that was Infinity War. As the big genre movie that kicked off the summer, it’s the film by which I’ll be judging the movies that follow over the rest of the summer. So I’m gonna bitch about it for a second.
Yes, I know the plot from the comics. I knew the point was to kill off half the cast. But here’s the thing: there were no real stakes. There was no attachment. There was no hope in the story, only the meta-knowledge that Black Panther has a planned sequel and that a plot device like the Infinity Gauntlet is bound to get into our heroes’ hands eventually.
There was nothing in the story for me to attach myself to because there was no hope in it. Thanos curb stomps everyone, the end. I liked him better when he was in love with Death. That motivation made far more sense than population control.
There were no stakes, no reason I needed to sit through those three hours. They’ll recap who died in the first few minutes of the next Avengers movie. Infinity War added nothing to the story for me. I learned nothing and I felt no joy. It wasn’t fun and summer movies should be fun, goddamnit.
Okay, rant over.
The plight of a prequel
All prequels featuring characters we know have to deal with certain constraints. We know that Han, Chewie, and Lando live to see another day in the original trilogy. We know we’re gonna see the Kessel Run, how Han got the Falcon, and how Han and Chewie became bros. You can’t do anything too crazy with those guys characterwise, because they have to grow into the characters we know from later/earlier (depending on your perspective) movies.
This could have led to another stakes-free movie that would have done nothing for me. I haven’t left a Star Wars movie feeling awe or joy since I walked out of The Force Awakens, so my expectations were pretty low.
Instead of being constrained by that framework, I think the movie worked well within it. We got to see why Han in A New Hope shoots first and resists joining the Rebellion. His idealism takes a beating, he learns not to trust, and he sets off on the path to becoming the guy who says “I know” instead of “I love you.”
But the movie also tells us (maybe a little too explicitly, but oh well) that in spite of what happens over the course of this Star Wars story, Han has it in him to be the good guy we know he turns out to be in the larger Star Wars story. Solo’s Han doesn’t contradict the Han of the original trilogy or the sequels.
The same can be said for Chewy and Lando. I suppose it’s a low bar to be happy that a prequel doesn’t contradict the movies that happen later in the universe’s internal timeline, but I promised no more rants and I don’t want to get into the Hobbit movies right now.
It was fun watching them get through the Kessel Run. It was fun watching Han and Lando’s banter (Donald Glover killed it as Lando and I want to see more of him) and their battles at the gambling table for the Millennium Falcon. So many things could have gone wrong, some choices were questionable, there were so many chances to go overboard with the fanservice, but the movie restrained itself from making too many callbacks while still making enough reference to make it feel like a Star Wars movie.
Like I said: movies should be fun.
Han Solo, loveable doofus
There’s a hero archetype I’ve been noticing in movies lately that I’m still making my mind up about, but I think I like him. Our Hero is a loveable idiot who spends the movie thinking he’s hot shit but getting his ass kicked. Kirk from the Star Trek reboot and Thor in Ragnarok are the two first examples that come to mind. Even Steve Rogers before being injected with the Super-Soldier Serum has shades of this trope.
On the one hand, it’s fun to see the trope of the dashing male hero get subverted a little bit. On the other hand, Our Hero still saves the day.
How? More through guile than through brute force. He has a heart, he’s not quite as dumb as he looks, and he gets people to underestimate him. Because he’s a bit of a goober, he can’t do it alone. He needs his allies.
Our Hero is my kind of hero I have a soft spot for lovable rogues… but also because the universe doesn’t bend to his will. It humbles him a bit first.
The foil to the lovable doofus is the competent, jaded woman. Think Uhura, Valkyrie, Peggy Carter. She initially rejects our hero (though it doesn’t always stick) because she has Seen Some Shit and he knows nothing. Sometimes she’s a love interest, sometimes she’s partner, but she’s always more morally ambiguous than Our Hero.
Qi’ra (you know it’s sci-fi/fantasy when you’ve got needless q’s and apostrophes), Han’s love interest, is more compromised than some of these other ladies who have Seen Some Shit. She and Han escaped a terrible childhood by Seeing Some Shit, but she has also Done Some Shit. The movie never really reveals just how bloody her hands are, which frustrated me a bit, but there are enough hints to let you fill in the blanks.
I was really worried that Qi’ra would be Princess Leia Lite, because in so many prequels where you know what relationship a character is going to wind up in, their previous love interest(s) are cheap knockoffs of the girl (or guy!) at the end of the story.
Instead, all Leia and Qi’ra have in common is brown hair (would it kill the Star Wars universe to have a female protagonist of a different phenotype?) and a regal bearing. Leia never compromises her ideals; Qi’ra has had to make unspeakable moral compromises in order to survive. But on the other hand, Leia led a life of privilege that allowed her the luxury of her convictions. Qi’ra, not so much.
Looking back at the relationships I’ve had before and the one I’m in now, my exes aren’t knockoffs of my boyfriend. Things didn’t work out between me and them for different reasons because they were all different people. They taught me many things, but among those, they taught me what I didn’t want in a lasting relationship.
I think most people can say the same. Han certainly can.
The Star Wars movies, a current ranking
Can’t have a Star Wars post without ranking the movies, so here’s how I’ll wrap things up. Presented without comment—though feel free to come for me in the comments—my current ranking of the Star Wars movies:
- The Force Awakens
- The Empire Strikes Back
- A New Hope
- The Last Jedi
- Return of the Jedi
- Revenge of the Sith
- Rogue One
So bad I can’t decide which is the worst:
- Attack of the Clones/The Phantom Menace (they both are equally terrible and I refuse to choose)