When George Lucas started writing the screenplay of Star Wars in the 1970s, his self-produced film American Graffiti (1973) got stuck in the pipeline of Universal Studios and he found himself in a dire need of money. He had a rough idea about the kind of film Star Wars was going to be – “a space film” – which he then pitched to all the leading studios so that they could fund his ambitious project. Having been rejected by some of the leading production houses in Hollywood, Lucas caught a break with 20th Century Fox who found his idea interesting and agreed to pay him $20,000 for writing the screenplay. Desperate to find a footing in a cut-throat industry where outrageous ideas like his were often dismissed, not just because of business risk but also because of the sheer audacity that was required to even attempt them, Lucas poured his heart and soul into creating one of the biggest sagas in movie history.
In the gigantic scale of Star Wars, it is very easy to overlook the smaller stories that constitute the larger story arc. Through the decades of fandom, we have come to associate Star Wars strongly with Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. It was only after the universal luke-warm response (no pun intended) to Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) that the creators decided to take a step back and rethink the retelling of Lucas’s legacy. J J Abrams took on the mantle almost a decade later and decided to shift the storyline into a time when Jedis had been systematically wiped out and an unknown character, a young girl had risen to the scene with possible Jedi-like abilities. The strategy worked and Star Wars had taken its place back in the centre of pop-culture. The creators also decided that it was time for them to explore individual character arcs through anthology films that would draw inspiration from decades of lore and cannons that various writers had created. Planned between consecutive Episodes, anthologies acted as essential prequels which delved into the history of the rebellion and into the lives of lesser known heroes who had never gotten the spotlight before.
Directed by the legendary Ron Howard, who also directed the Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind in 2001, Solo marks the second film in the anthology series after Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One (2015). No points for guessing, Solo takes you back to the time when Han was a young 20-something scrounger who struggled to survive on the grimy streets of Corellia where people paid for their existence by living in abject squalor, looking for anything valuable that they could take back to Lady Proxima who promised them protection and shelter, providing neither. Having grown up in the drudgery, Han now seeks ways to escape out of the planet. Coaxium is a highly sought after substance that is an excellent energy source but hard to come by, except for him. Being a natural conman, Han is able to get his hands on a vial of refined Coaxium which can help him get aboard one of the many Imperial ships with his love-interest Qi’ra. However, things don’t go as planned and Qi’ra is captured by Lady Proxima’s henchmen just when the doors close, trapping Han inside the space-vessel. As he leaves Corellia, Han promises to himself that he would get a ship of his own and come back for her.
During his time away, he joins the Imperial Flight Academy as an infantryman but is chucked out soon after due to insubordination. Through the few battles he fights alongside soldiers, he finds that all war is just farce perpetrated by political rivals under the pretext of establishing “peace” in the galaxy. He meets “a certain wookie” in a battle on planet Mimban under the most unusual of circumstances where he is almost ripped apart by the yeti-like creature. Through a hilarious scene where he promises freedom to Chewbacca using the ceremonial grunts that characterize the wookie-tongue, Han is able to make friends with the furry guy and together the duo gang up with Tobias Beckett, the leader of a pack of seasoned smugglers. After a highly orchestrated robber goes wrong, the group finds themselves in bad business with a smuggling overlord called Dryden Vos (played by the talented Paul Bettany) who answered to the feared syndicate Crimson Dawn. In exchange for their lives, Dryden tasks them with another assignment which would require a fast space-ship to pull it off. Their search takes them to a suave gambler Lando Calrissian who strikes a deal with them in exchange for his ship – the Millennium Falcon. And this marks the beginning of their next, nail-biting adventure that would take them to the very edge of annihilation.
Solo strikes all the right chords that any Star Wars fan would have expected from a Han Solo origin story. Every important moment that defines Han is crafted with nostalgia – his first meeting with Chewie and the start of their lifetime of brotherhood, their acquisition of the Millennium Falcon which has since become a symbol for the best smuggler slash pilot in the galaxy, his first time piloting the Falcon, proving to himself and the world that he was not a small-time Corellian thief anymore. Alden Ehrenreich’s uncanny resemblance to Harrison Ford adds a lot of appeal to his accurate embodiment of Solo’s sarcastic quips that make him the outcast and outlaw that he is. Woody Harrelson, as Tobias Beckett, is every bit the rowdy gunslinger who involuntarily takes in the young man under his wing, teaching him life lessons that would eventually shape him into the man that we know of. Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino, as Lando, is suave and sophisticated unlike any of the compadrés that he ends up with. The one-upping rivalry between Solo and Lando makes for some of the best scenes in the film where Lando finally finds his equal and Solo finds a potential friend. Qi’ra, played by Khaleesi aka Emilia Clarke, remains a mysterious character after their reunion on Dryden’s ship. It would be interesting to see her role in shaping Solo’s future journey.
On Millenium Falcon’s look in Solo
Jon Kasdan, who co-write the script along with Empire Strikes Back scribe and his father, Lawrence Kasdan, had this to say in February prior to the movie’s release.
“Where Han gave it a certain shabby coolness and a dinged up quality that reflected where he was at that point in his life, this Falcon reflects its owner very clearly in its shape and aesthetic and his needs, even if those needs be a little more space to entertain…One of the things Larry [Kasdan] and I had talked about was the Falcon should always reflect the personality of its captain.”
Source – movieweb.com
Also read: How Solo fits into the Star Wars timeline
Ron Howard does justice to the story-telling without infusing it with complex, intertwining story-arcs. Through some of best visually pleasing Star Wars films, Howard keeps it grounded to Solo with generous sprinklings of its connections to the larger Star Wars universe without being too in-your-face about it. The screenplay is crisp and fast-paced, consistent with the personality of the protagonist. With the open-ended wrap to the film, you may pretty much end up getting a sequel as they head to Tatooine.