2 Stars – Shallow
It is difficult to compete with the original Han Solo. Harrison Ford plays the part not only with a carefree abandon that Alden Ehrenreich exhibits well, but Ford also has a pathos lingering beneath the surface with which we can all identify. That is not to say that this origin story of SOLO does not give our new Han a reason to despair, being raised in a dismal place of crime and terror, but he seems immune to the angst we’ve learned to expect from this iconic figure.
That is not to say that they don’t both show the confidence necessary to become the smugglers and warriors of the original tales. And it is not to say that this backstory is not engaging. It is. But it rings more in tune with Westley of The Princess Bride, than the Solo who fell for the warrior Princess Leia of the Rebellion.
As backstories go, there are some helpful ingredients. It is hard to discuss them without spoiling the film, so speaking in generalities: We now know how Han and Chewbacca (Joonas Suatamo) became loyal partners in a life of crime and rebellion against the empire. We also know how old Chewy is and the larger story of his people.
Similarly, we get a better understanding of Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). As the owner of the Millennium Flacon back when it had not become an old and battered vessel, we discover that he won it in a card game. We also see him as the genius he is with technology and where his love for artificial intelligence took him. We also see how he lost his ship.
In a similar way we have a slightly better understanding of Darth Maul (Ray Park). His evil power transcends the purposes of the empire and creates an appropriately sinister image for who he is in the tales.
In this backstory we are also introduced to two new characters, one of whom will undoubtedly appear in the sequels. Beckett (Woody Harrelson) is a mentor for Han as they meet on the field of battle where Beckett has stolen an officer’s uniform in order to commandeer a ship. With a distrusting swagger Beckett becomes the unexpected ingredient in this complex tale.
Similarly we meet Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) the childhood love of Han. With a survivor’s instinct and genius intellect, Qi’ra not only makes a way for herself when she and Han are separated years earlier, but seems to have become compromised in ways that are not yet fully understood.
There is no doubt that the Star Wars films along with these additional stories are entertaining. Directed by Ron Howard, this particular backstory is a good addition to the library. However, the battle between good and evil is not clearly portrayed and “The Force” is not even hinted at as a universal power for good or for evil.
- When Han has to leave Qi’ra behind, he makes it his mission in life to become a pilot and buy a ship to come back for her. Do you believe Qi’ra had the same loyalty? Why do you answer as you do?
- As the Empire expands the collapse of normal life on the planets of their systems degenerate. How do you see either the expansion of military might or economic advantage doing the same today in our real world? Are you a part of the rebellion or the empire?
- It is the nature of a life well lived to learn how to trust. Yet Beckett tells Han to trust no one. In the end Han did just that. What do you think this episode did to Han? Does it fit the Han we came to know in the original films? Was this what gave him his future pathos?