The original Star Wars film was a masterpiece and redefined the way that movies were made. As a result, the series it began has become one of the most influential franchises in cinema history. As such, it holds a unique place in the pantheon of genre films…and gives us a unique perspective on both science fiction and fantasy. In this retrospective review, we explore what the Star Wars franchise’s journey can teach us about writing for these genres and how to tell amazing new stories moving forward.
They should have called it “Scoundrels: A Star Wars Story”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed this movie; I just don’t think it should have been called “Solo”. I didn’t love it, but I liked it and felt it was a good way to spend a lazy afternoon. However, I feel like it does better without the Solo name attached to it. I purposefully went into the theater trying to forget the Han Solo I knew and the original trilogy. I did not want my opinions of Han Solo as a character to color the movie. Nobody can replace Harrison Ford as Han Solo, so I made a point of separating Alden Ehrenreich’s Character from Solo entirely in my mind. On that level, it really works.
As a science fiction heist film it plays fairly well, but check your expectations of a Star Wars film at the door. There are several moments of heavy fan-service, but other than that, the film works best when you let yourself forget that it’s Han Solo or the Star Wars universe. After a few minutes or so of trying not to compare it to the Star Wars characters I know and love, it was easy to slip into the story at hand.
On that point, the story is pretty solid. It’s nothing special, but it’s still enjoyable. A couple heists, a raving villain, some double-crossing shenanigans… you get the picture. It may be what people expect, no more and no less, but that’s part of the fun. Sometimes you just want some crowd-pleasing simplistic entertainment; the same viewer mentality of Saturday morning Kung Fu movies. As long as you go into it knowing what you’re in for, you might actually find yourself enjoying it!
There was a lot of fan service, even more so than Rogue One. But, besides from a few hammy and forced moments (The Imperial March playing in-universe, weird droid crushes, and Han’s gurgling linguistics as a few examples), these didn’t interrupt the flow of the movie very much. In my opinion, casual fans will have no problem getting into this movie as it doesn’t alienate them, and yet there are enough inside-jokes for the super-fans to feel special. A previous knowledge of the Star Wars canon isn’t really needed to jump in and enjoy the story. It truly is a standalone movie, with very little impact on the larger Star Wars Universe, and with very little interference from it in return. In fact, it’s actually a little crazy when you remember that there is no mention of The Force at all in this movie (something that has never happened before in a Star Wars film); an impressive feat when you realize how iconic the Force is to the Star Wars mythos.
The movie has good design and special effects, something that you can always expect from Star Wars, and the cinematography is solid. The writing is competent, even if it’s nothing particularly memorable. The score is average, as is always the case when John Williams is not the composer for Star Wars, but it performs well for it’s purpose. The performances are actually surprisingly good for what the actors have been given, and as long as you separate Alden Ehrenreich from Harrison Ford in your mind, his performance is just fine. The real standout performance for me was Donald Glover as Lando (you probably saw that one coming); he really nails the charisma and confidence of Billy Dee Williams and does the character justice. A more surprising performance was the eccentric and creepy Dryden Voss (Paul Bettany) who really leaves a slimy impression with comparatively little screen time.
Of course, some of the characters are little bit…extreme…for my taste, with some being unique in a good way, and others not so much. There was one character that I felt was a little bit preachy. I felt like the droid, L3-37, monologued about her political ideals a little too much. she could have gotten the same message across with little more subtlety, but that’s just my personal opinion. I freely admit that I’m very picky when it comes to subtlety in characters; preferring actions to speak louder than words when it comes to motivation.
However, even with this personal preference, I wasn’t bothered by the character and still enjoyed her antics. So no harm done in the end I guess. In the end, all of the characters fit well with the tone of the story.
That’s another thing; the story could be better, but It’s a miracle that it’s not awful. Let me explain! Now, I’m just speculating, and I could be completely wrong, but I believe that we almost got a very bad movie! In my opinion, Lucasfilm seemed to abandon hope over Solo as soon as they fired Christopher Miller and Phil Lord. They released Solo a mere month after Infinity War, and had Incredibles 2 come out not long after, which bespeaks a fear that Solo wouldn’t do so well at the Box Office. Usually a company will only plan releases so close to each other if they expect one of them to be a failure. It’s no secret that Ron Howard is a ‘safe’ replacement and reshot 60-75% of the movie not long before its release.
In my opinion, this was because the previous directors’ work was so bad that Lucasfilm was in emergency mode and made last-minute changes to try and salvage the situation; not even expecting someone as competent as Ron Howard to fix it. Now this is all speculation of course, but there are enough irreverent “21-Jump Street style” Jokes in the movie (They are awful and my least favorite part of Solo) which feel too much like Lord and Miller’s style for us to ignore this idea. Imagine a whole Star Wars movie of cringey wink-at-the-audience and fourth-wall-breaking jokes. I believe this sophomoric humor was the direction the film was going, and that’s why the directors were fired so disgracefully. If this was true, it’s a miracle that Ron Howard managed to make anything decent out of it.
But all that speculation aside, what we got wasn’t that bad at all! Solo is a solid film and not the complete disaster everyone was expecting it to be.
Why Fans Hate Solo: A Star Wars Story
Solo: A Star Wars Story is coming to theaters this week, and it’s safe to say that not that many people want to see it. Expectations for the next Star Wars movie are at an all time low. But what is the reason for this? There are quite a few reasons, but there is one that seems to get a lot of attention. It’s a question that seems to pop up a lot on the internet; are fans upset with this film because they don’t want to know Han’s origin?
Well, you might be surprised by the answer…It’s quite the opposite really! Most hard-core fans have low expectations for this film because they already have what they consider to be a perfectly good origin story for Han Solo. Some people think this film is cheapening their childhood memories by not only wiping 40 years of Solo continuity from existence, but also replacing it with something that they expect to be inferior. These fans are perfectly justified for having those feelings, but that doesn’t mean that they will come true! So, let’s find this out, shall we?
We’re going to cover the fan-accepted origin story of Han Solo as established in the original Extended Universe, so that when you go see Solo: A Star Wars Story, you can judge for yourself which version is better! That way, the decision of who is right is up to you! Ready? Let’s begin!
The Surprising Origin of Han Solo
The abbreviated story, which was once canon under the Star Wars Expanded Universe, goes something like this…
Han Solo was born on a highly civilized and well-respected planet called Corellia, seven years before the Clone Wars began. The specifics of his birth and early years of life are unknown, due to him suffering memory loss. However, it was known that he was orphaned at a very early age. Living on the streets, Han Solo was soon discovered by ex-bounty hunter Garris Shrike. Shrike immediately put Han Solo to work as a pickpocket and thief, discovering that the boy had great skill. Han’s natural wit and charm allowed him to pull of heists that many others couldn’t. During that time, Han Solo met the Wookiee Dewlanna who was serving under Shrike as ship’s cook. She took the boy under her wing and practically raised him; teaching him to be a good person and various life skills; including her language, Shyriiwook.
Due to several scams executed under Shrike’s leadership, Han also quickly learned how to fend for himself, and even discovered that he had an uncanny ability for piloting.
Not too long after joining Shrike, Han surprisingly learned that he was descended from Corellian royalty! His ancestor was a benevolent king who had introduced democracy to the planet. Ecstatic for the possibility of meeting his family, Solo ran away from Shrike to track down his surviving relatives. Unfortunately, this went horribly wrong when Han learned that his aunt and cousin were sadistic and mad. They quickly betrayed Solo back to Shrike.
Solo’s remaining career under Shrike was quite legendary; his first indirect encounter with Boba Fett was probably the standout of these formative years, as it hinted a famous rivalry lasting their entire lives. But eventually, tiring of Shrike’s villainy, Solo once more tried to leave him. Sadly, Shrike attempted kill Solo instead of letting him leave in peace, and it was only the sacrifice of Dewlanna that allowed Solo to escape. As a result, Han Solo swore that he would always show kindness to Wookiees, no matter the cost.
A few years, and a couple of shady undertakings later, Han Solo entered to most interesting and surprising part of his life: service in the Imperial Navy! Believe it or not, Han had always dreamed of becoming an Imperial pilot, and thanks to some connections he made earlier (which take place in ‘The Paradise Snare’ by A.C. Crispin if you want to learn about them), Han Solo was accepted into the highly prestigious Imperial Academy. Solo quickly gained a reputation as the best pilot in the Navy; pulling off maneuvers that others thought impossible. He graduated the academy with top honors and immediately became a Lieutenant in the Imperial Navy. As an Imperial Officer, something would happen to him that would change his life forever.
Han Solo was assigned to a duty related to slaving. It was here that he saw the atrocity and evil of the Empire by witnessing the slavery of Wookiee children. He watched in horror as Wookiee adults and children were forced to build monuments to Imperial dictators. When one of the slaves, named Chewbacca, revolted against his captors, Han Solo could not stand idly by and let the Wookiee be killed. So, Solo turned on his commanding officer and fled with Chewbacca into space. The Wookiee swore a life-debt to Han, serving him forever in return for his life.
After that, Han became involved with many crime-lords (including his fateful employment under Jabba The Hutt) and various schemes as he ran from the empire. He gained infamy wherever he went, and bad luck seemed to follow him everywhere. It seemed as if everyone wanted to kill him! During these years of living in danger, Han met a gambler named Lando Calrissian and won two very important things; a valuable friendship with the charismatic Lando and a gambling victory against him which gained Solo the legendary Millennium Falcon. Unfortunately, Solo’s friendship with Lando turned sour when Solo was tricked into losing money that he owed Lando during a job they pulled together. It would be years before the legendary scoundrels forgave each other.
The rest is history, as the remainder of Solo’s unlucky smuggling career, and his ill-luck with Jabba, is already summed-up in A New Hope! No matter which origin you prefer, Han Solo will still always be regarded as ‘the best pilot in the galaxy’, and one of the greatest anti-heroes in cinema history.
So, what do you think of these origins? If you see Solo, please let us know what you thought and how you think it compares to this version!
Who Are the Knights of Ren?
Last Jedi Spoilers Ahead!
Some people were not happy with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The film seems to have split the fans down the middle. There are those that love it and those that hate it. There are people who don’t fit into either of those two groups of course, but those two viewpoints have received the most attention. What if I told you that there’s a way that might satisfy both viewpoints in the future? What if I told you that the key to respecting both groups of people (as much as much as possible, you can never please everyone) can be found with one simple question.
This question, if answered correctly, could save the Star Wars storyline from some serious problems in the future, and it might even help them improve the plot. Well, it’s a possible solution. What’s this question, you might ask?
“Who are the Knights of Ren?”
It can’t be that simple, right? ‘The answer to a single question can’t do that much for a story’, you might think. And you’d be right, if we took the question at face value. But if we dig deeper and look at how the answer affects other points in the plot, we might find the question is deeper than it might seem.
Let me start at the beginning. What do we know for sure about the Knights of Ren so far? Practically nothing, except for the fact that Kylo Ren leads them and that they’re the origin of his ominous name. They’re supposed to be elite warriors based on what the filmmakers have said. That’s not a lot to go on, is it? Maybe there’s something more to this group than meets the eye, especially since Kylo Ren thinks they’re important enough to name himself after! Why would Ben Solo change his name to Kylo Ren instead of something like ‘Kylo, Master of Ren’ or some other fancy Dark Side title. I might be thinking too hard about it, and it could be as simple as it sounds. But, I believe that he chose to name himself after the group he led because they were crucial to what he would become.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Kylo is very close to the Knights on a personal level and he’s not just their leader. What would make the Knights so special to him? What if the Knights were always with him? What if the Knights of Ren were there since Kylo’s days in Jedi training?
What if the Knights of Ren are the other Jedi apprentices…
Can we assume that Snoke would be able to manipulate more of Luke Skywalker’s students than just Kylo Ren? In both episode VII and VIII it was stated Snoke had twisted Kylo’s mind from a distance, without Luke even realizing it was happening until it was too late. I don’t think it’s too much to say Snoke could have done this with the other students as well. Snoke showed that he could read every thought of someone as powerful as Kylo and connect the minds of Rey and Kylo over vast distances, so it’s not a stretch to say that he could’ve twisted the minds of less powerful Jedi.
If that’s true, why not take it a step further? Why couldn’t Luke be manipulated by Snoke as well? What if, when Luke went to attack Kylo in his sleep in The Last Jedi, it wasn’t the Luke we know. What if his mind was being poisoned by Snoke against his will? ‘But he’s too powerful for that!’, you might think, and you’re right. Luke doesn’t follow through with what his poisoned mind tried to do, he snaps out of it at the last second. Instead of hesitation or second thoughts, I think it’s plausible that his change of heart might have been him breaking free from the Dark Side Influence and going back to his right mind.
This would also explain why Luke felt so guilty and tried to hide when Rey came looking for him. Not only did he lose most of his students to the Dark Side, with his own nephew as their leader no less, but he was also manipulated himself into doing something against his own beliefs… Something he swore he would never do, but he did and he’s afraid that he might do it again, so he hid away from the galaxy. That way Snoke could never control him again.
After that, nothing could stop Snoke from pitting his new apprentices against one another as a test for Kylo. They could’ve fought until Kylo was the only one left; a brutal way to ensure Kylo would walk down the path to the Dark Side, and an explanation for why he doubts the Dark Side in Episode VII. It certainly shows why Kylo would want to kill Snoke so badly.
And so, when Snoke finally dies Luke decides to face his nephew and leave his exile. The threat of his mind being manipulated by Snoke’s power would finally be over! This might also be why Luke ultimately sacrifices himself. Snoke’s power could have prevented Luke from manifesting as a Force Ghost. Luke would be far more powerful than Rey and Kylo as a Force Ghost, just like Obi-Wan and Yoda. So, it’s possible that when he was freed from Snoke, he could have let himself be killed to ascend to an even greater power. Maybe that last one is a bit of a stretch even for me, but it might be possible.
This solution isn’t perfect, and it won’t please everyone but it’s a start! And think about the implications this could have on the plot moving forward! Not only would it help fix some of the problems that fans had with the movie, but it would open amazing new possibilities for telling stories… maybe we can even see more of Snoke and his origins in the future…
What do you think? Do you have any other ideas to help the story of Star Wars in the future? We’d love to hear them!
Anakin’s Not the Chosen One?
[Want more theories? Check This out!]
Recently there’s been some argument among Star Wars fans about one of the central themes in the Star Wars Universe; the concept of the Chosen One. Specifically, there has been some confusion about who the Chosen One really is because of a line in the TV show ‘Star Wars Rebels’. Some say that the Chosen One may be somebody else besides Anakin Skywalker… It might be Luke Skywalker instead! What in the world, crazy… right?!
Fortunately, a definitive answer to this conundrum has been given to us by Disney. They have confirmed that Anakin is still the Chosen One. However, why would fans think that Luke is the Chosen One instead? Is there enough evidence to support that conclusion? That’s what we want to talk about today! Even though the Chosen One is confirmed to be Anakin, we want to analyze this theory and see if it even makes sense!
The prophecy of the Chosen One is very ambiguous. We know that the Chosen One was supposed to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force. There are three separate theories as to what the prophecy means by ‘bringing balance to the Force’. Some people believe that bringing balance to the Force refers to the Sith and Jedi being balanced (I.E. equal in number). Others speculate that ‘balance’ is referring to more of a ‘peace’ in the galaxy through the Force. Then there’s a third group that says that ‘balance’ refers to something in-between the Light and the Dark Side of the Force (Gray Jedi).
Regardless of which is the ‘real’ interpretation of ‘balance’, Anakin fulfilled all of them anyways. Anakin accomplished the first interpretation in a roundabout way by turning to the Dark Side. He brought ‘balance’ to the Force by destroying the Jedi until there were only two remaining Jedi to match the two Sith, he accomplished ‘peace’ by ushering in a new era through the defeat of the Empire, and he also accomplished the ‘Gray Jedi’ status by converting between both the Dark and the Light Side. Finally, Anakin completes the first half of the prophecy (destroying the Sith) when he turns back to the Light Side and kills his master to save Luke.
However, this begs the question; regardless of which ‘balance’ theory is correct, aren’t they all undone? If ‘balance’ is created by making the Sith and Jedi equal in number (two of each), then wouldn’t it be undone when Anakin kills Sidious? Wouldn’t that leave one Jedi and no Sith?
What about the second theory, the one about ‘peace’ in the universe? Wouldn’t the continued conflict with the First Order in ‘The Force Awakens’ make that null and void? If there’s ‘balance’ in the galaxy, why is there still so much conflict? Even the ‘Gray Jedi’ interpretation has the problem of Anakin coming back to the Light Side with his subsequent death. He has no chance to forge a new path between the Light and Dark sides!
Some people may argue that, once the prophecy is fulfilled, it doesn’t necessarily have to stay fulfilled for long. While this could be true, we also see that Luke may fix these apparent problems permanently. Making him a possible candidate for ‘The Chosen One’ if Disney decides to go that route!
Most of the confusion over who the Chosen One is stems from a line in the show ‘Star Wars Rebels’ when Obi-Wan himself literally calls Luke the Chosen One. The show’s writers clarified that this is simply Obi-Wan’s perspective. However, if Disney had chosen to make this statement literal, there is a surprising amount of evidence to support this idea.
First of all, one could argue that Luke was the very reason his father destroyed Emperor Sidious in the first place. Making Luke, in a roundabout way, also responsible for destroying the Sith.
consider Luke’s role in the new films. Luke tries to start a new Jedi Order and fails when Ben Solo falls to the Dark Side under Snoke and becomes Kylo Ren. However, there’s a new hope when Rey comes to Luke in order to learn the ways of the Jedi. This could all potentially combine to fix the first interpretation of the prophecy; the balance between two Dark Side users (Snoke and Kylo), and two Light Side Users (Luke and Rey). Then the ‘destroy the Sith’ part would still be valid because Disney confirmed that Snoke and Kylo aren’t Sith, but something new!
The second interpretation of galactic ‘peace’ could be fixed if Luke has a major hand in the downfall of the First Order. It looks like he might, if only by training Rey and inspiring her to do it for him, but only time will tell. Finally, the ‘Gray Jedi’ idea might be fixed by Luke as well! In the first trailer for ‘The Last Jedi’ Luke says, “it’s time for the Jedi to end”, it hints that he might be going down the path of a Gray Jedi and forging a new order between the Light and Dark Sides. This line is probably just marketing to spark debate and make fans anxious to see the truth for themselves. It’s most likely pure misdirection to gain publicity, however There’s no denying it’s still a possible explanation that might fix the holes in the third interpretation of the Chosen One prophecy.
In the end, we understand why some fans may be confused about who the Chosen One is. There’s obviously quite a bit of evidence supporting Luke Skywalker as a candidate. Anakin remains the canonical Chosen One for now, but Disney could plausibly change it to Luke if they wanted to do so. With new Star Wars lore becoming canon every day, who knows what the future holds for things like this? To quote Yoda “hard to see, the future is.”