So yeah, I saw Solo. First of all, just want to mention I didn't do one of these for The Last Jedi mainly because one: it was quite a bit to process at the time, and two: lots of people said things way better than I ever could have. To summarise: I liked it a lot! Don't know if it's my favourite Star Wars film, but I liked it a lot more than The Force Awakens (even as it has since grown on me, even if I still have issues with things like not enough context on the state of the Galaxy and maybe playing it a little too safe). Most of the criticisms I've seen of it seemed either subjective or just nitpicky to me, the only serious problem I actually had was that while Snoke being killed off is a nice twist in the context of the Sequel Trilogy itself, it's kind of annoying because it's not long after Return of the Jedi and suddenly some new guy shows up with ridiculous Force powers. Like, where the hell was Snoke this whole time if he had this level of power? The novel does kinda suggest how he came to power, but it's nothing direct and just talked about. But yeah, that aside, pretty great and I don't get why it ticked so many people off.
Anyway, now for the main topic, a film I DO have some thoughts that are probably unique compared to others. I will put a warning for SPOILERS since they will be discussed, but to summarise: it's decent. Nothing outstanding, and it wasn't meant to be. I'm just happy it doesn't totally suck given the issues with the directors. I'm also surprised at how little negativity there is towards the film, I've only come across one or two people who actually didn't like it and most people are overall quite positive. Anyway, SPOILERS below, you have been warned.
- The actors were good. I'm amazed at how many people have accepted Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, because he does play the part really well. All the other actors were good too, though Donald Glover while good didn't really stand out as much as I expected him to. Phoebe Waller-Bridge does sometimes slightly overdo it as L3-37 (though maybe it's just the droid audio lol), but she's my favourite character in the film (I'll get to her in a bit). Paul Bettany was a late casting choice but he did a good job as Dryden Vos, even if he was quite a bit of a creep (which I guess is intentional).
- Han himself: his story is good, but nothing remarkable. I guess part of it is that it didn't really give us anything that new to chew on? I guess being motivated by Qi'ra is of course a new thing but I'm thinking in terms of all the big things everyone knows about Han's backstory. Like seeing it all happen was good and all, it just didn't really offer much of substance. Not to say there aren't themes and stuff you can dig into, but it's not like Rogue One or The Last Jedi where there's a lot going on. The film also reminded me why I don't think I was as into Han Solo as a lot of people: he's really cocky and arrogant here, even more so because he's younger and more reckless. He can only do so many stupid things before I sigh (and The Last Jedi deconstructing the whole "let's do random shit and hope it works out" thing makes it even weirder). XD
- Chewbacca I kinda feel faded into the background overtime. In the earlier parts of the film he's in the story quite prominently, but he slowly fades into the background, like after Kessel I'm not even sure if he contributed to the story in any major way. It also didn't go as in-depth into Han and Chewie's relationship as I was expecting, like after the first act and definitely after Kessel there's not much besides "we're buds now"? I mean, the Life Debt surprisingly doesn't even come up, I mean some have said maybe you can infer it but maybe that is something for a different story. I actually missed the whole thing where Han acts selfless ends up being the thing that makes Chewbacca stay with Han instead of the wookies on Kessel funnily enough, silly me. They way they met and escaped was cool, though.
- Yeah we all know Donald Glover is good as Lando, but I feel like this was a real case of style over substance. Besides the plot contributions like having the Falcon, meeting Han and losing the Falcon to him, he didn't have much of a presence to me. There's the stuff with L3, but I'm saving that for later because I have a lot of feelings about her. Also no, I didn't get the vibe he was pansexual in the film, the most I got out of it was him being into L3 and she's a female droid so uh yeah.
- Beckett is fine and does what he needs to do. Woody Harrelson plays the part well, and he serves the part of being a mentor and foil to Han well. I actually wasn't too surprised when he decided to betray Han at the end, because when I saw the teasers with him going "assume everyone will betray you" and "don't trust anyone" I really got the feeling it was foreshadowing him doing just that to Han.
- Val REALLY got screwed over. She was cool from what we saw, but there's not much that. And then we have like one of the only black women in Star Wars ever get fridged just to give Beckett manpain that doesn't come up later but one time where it's never discussed. It's just sad. Rio I guess is in a similar category, he's fun when he's around but nothing that remarkable exists about him and of course he dies before we get more of him.
- L3-37 is my favourite character in the movie, but I am NOT a fan of how she was handled. I really like her, she's emotional, passionate and doesn't take shit from anyone. She fills a similar role to K-2SO from Rogue One but while K2 is more just really blunt, L3 is really emotional and kind of annoyed by the people around her. It's also good to see a droid who actually cares about her rights and autonomy, honestly the thing with the droids breaking free was probably one of my favourite scenes in the film. Like, it's cool to see that addressed. However, this is kind of where I start to roll my eyes at how the film treats her. First of all, I can't help but feel Lando is kind of a dick to her? Like, he's attracted to her but also doesn't like her actually giving a shit about droid rights, and there are a couple of moments where L3 voicing her opinions seem to be played as punchlines. And then there's when she dies. Yeah, so she starts her rebellion among the droids and they also free all the slaves there, but she pays the price for being shot down. It's pretty brutal and actually kind of hard to watch. Lando panics and brings her head to the Falcon with Han's help, and she has this "what's happening to me?" moment before she shuts down. Okay seriously, it's pretty disturbing, but it then gets even more uncomfortable for me. So they're in the Kessel Run and need help plotting a way out, and since L3 is really good at navigating, they upload her brain into the Falcon. Like okay, you're trying to survive and have to use all you have, but in a meta sense it really disturbs me. Like, you have this droid who cares about her kind and wants freedom for herself and other droids, but not only is she shot into pieces after freeing some of her kind on Kessel, but basically her brain is ripped out from her body and merged with the computer of another ship, meaning that she will never have the autonomy she fought for and will be stuck serving organics for as long as she lives. It's horrifying, and people actually think it's a cool touch that L3 is part of the Falcon because of the ship's computer talking back to C-3PO in a weird way or something. Like okay, maybe it explains that, but I never cared and knowing the Millennium Falcon is basically a ship with a zombie brain forced to serve its masters is just really wrong to me. No wonder Qi'ra apologised when she took her CPU out.
- Qi'ra, she's... interesting. She's not flat by any means and works fine into the story, but there are still issues with how she's written. It really comes down to how they've tried to make her all mysterious and such, which doesn't pay off as well as it should have. Everyone talks to Han about how she's done all of these awful things and how we can't trust her, but I feel it would have more impact if we actually saw the consequences of something she was responsible for or at least compliant in. Also for someone meant to have her own agenda and be so ambitious and such, she seemed to be awfully nice in some parts, like sincerely? I guess maybe it ties into how she does still love Han but her own desire for power in Crimson Dawn ends up being stronger, and she tricks Han into leaving her, breaking his heart as he sees the Crimson Dawn yacht fly off.
- Dryden worked as a villain. He was played well as mentioned before, and he is pretty different to other Star Wars villains. He was also quite a bit of a creep, I'm sure he's supposed to come off that way but still, eww.
- Okay let's talk about the elephant in the room: Maul's surprise cameo. I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, it was a genuine shock and quite exciting to see him again, and it makes me wonder what plans they have for him (they BETTER have such plans). On the other, it felt so out of nowhere that it ended up taking me out of the movie completely, and I couldn't focus on the end on my first watch because of what a surprise this scene was. To be fair, it's not exactly out of nowhere, there are some vague clues and allusions that point in Maul's direction, and of course as mentioned Dryden does have to answer to someone but thing is: only hardcore fans like me will notice these things, and even less would think that they all lead to Maul running Crimson Dawn. And if this is how I, a huge Maul fan who loves his canon story reacted, then I feel bad for all the casual viewers who watch this scene and think anything from "wait he's alive?" to "what the hell?" to even "this is the stupidest thing I've seen ever".
People have accused the film of sequel baiting as well, but this is the only scene I feel really calls attention to itself to the point where it's demanding a follow up. I'd rather it not be in a direct sequel since Han directly facing Maul would not only be unevenly matched but also it would REALLY risk breaking the whole "Han doesn't believe in the force" thing since I doubt Maul would feel the need to restrain himself in combat with some new smuggler. I feel like if they want to follow up on Maul tracking down Han and Chewie, maybe have it be a different film about different characters hired by Maul to track down Solo, maybe even the Boba Fett film that's supposedly happening (as in, Maul hires bounty hunters to track down Han and Chewie and keeps lurking in the shadows doing whatever he's doing running Crimson Dawn).
It's also a massive surprise because between The Clone Wars and Rebels, I really thought they were done telling Maul's story, but since they felt like going as far as giving him a massive tease, it clearly isn't. To be fair, the sixteen years between his appearances in The Clone Wars and Rebels leave a lot of room for imagination, so I guess him building his own crime syndicate is one of those things. It still raises many questions though. If Crimson Dawn like the other crime syndicates does corrupt deals with the Empire, are they eventually going to discover that Maul is the secret leader of the organisation? It also makes me want to see the Siege of Mandalore even more, they've only teased it but it really sounds like a pivotal moment in Maul's story, and maybe it could even give us ideas on how he goes from losing Mandalore to going back to the criminal underworld. Heck, it could tie in with Ahsoka and maybe this is how they bring her into live action (think something like she's doing her Fulcrum stuff, but then she discovers Maul is in charge of Crimson Dawn and decides to try and make up for him escaping Mandalore), since Maul would need someone to fight given Ray Park is gonna want to have a lightsabre fight (though it would have to be interrupted again I guess because of the whole "RUNNING AWAY AGAIN, LADY TANO?" thing). I mean, it would have to be her, some unlicky Jedi fugitive (Quinlan Vos, maybe?) or some Inquisitors (maybe even with Vader) being sent after him if the Empire discovers his operation (maybe him losing to Crimson Dawn is even what gets him running again and gets him stuck on Malachor). There's so many ways Maul in Crimson Dawn could go, and it's really exciting. It's just... I'm not sure if this was the place to tease it, because now people will be expecting Maul in future movies and we don't even know what Lucasfilm is planning.
- The world building is pretty cool, actually. Finally seeing Corellia was nice, and the stuff with Lady Proxima had a very Dickensian feel. The presence of the Empire was really felt across the film even if they were only minor antagonists. More of the criminal underworld was cool, of course there's lots of Easter Eggs everywhere for fans to pick up. Personally I liked how the Pykes showed up, though I guess only a few know how to speak basic. I kinda wish they more closely resembled their design from The Clone Wars, but it's cool to see everything connecting.
- Production values were good as always. The Kessel Run was also pretty cool, especially in that one moment where the Falcon's engines fail as it's sucked into the Maw before boosting out. The Falcon got pretty beat up though lol.
Don't really have much else to say. If you want something lighter and more adventurous, you'll probably dig it. If you're looking for something more substantial, you probably don't have much to work with. But yeah the film is decent and worth seeing, even if it's weaker than all the other Disney/Kennedy era films we've gotten so far.