Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fun comedic crime film that stands out from the franchise’s other offerings because of its setting. Where the film fails however, is acting as a Han Solo origin film. In a review of the film, one of my criticisms of Solo: A Star Wars Story was that Han has no story arc of progression in the film and that he is a static character. This prequel does not properly convey how he developed into the selfish arrogant rogue we meet in A New Hope. The only discernible change in Han by the end of the film is he seems to be far less trusting, which in consistent with the character we meet in the original Star Wars. The problem is that this arc is poorly executed, is contrary to the film’s tone and ultimately contradicts Han’s progression throughout the original trilogy.
As far as I can tell from watching Solo: A Star Wars Story, Han is supposed to develop from a naïve protagonist into one that realizes no one can truly be fully trusted. There is no moment in the movie that makes you aware of this change in Han; no moment where he realizes that Beckett was correct in thinking that people should only rely on themselves. The first time he suffers a betrayal is when Beckett turns on the Han and the assembled team, at which point the young Solo reveals that he saw it coming before Beckett made his entrance. Even when Qi’ra abandons him for the power that comes from the Syndicates, Han seems to have expected this of her, never feeling hurt by this action. Solo lacks that moment where Han’s character shifts after a startling realization. The two betrayals he experienced should have hurt him to create this affect on Han’s character, but neither surprise him whatsoever.
There is no moment where Han is double-crossed by those closest to him, people he trusted, that greatly affects him. It can be argued that Han has subtlety come this conclusion in his mind throughout the story, but the film never has a story beat where the character has an experience that proves Beckett’s philosophy. One other possibility would be when Beckett abandons the team to save his own skin, but the scene never carried enough emotional weight to act as a moment of revelation for Han. He spends the early parts of the film not listening to Beckett’s words of wisdom, which is a natural fit for this type of story, but there’s no moment where this ignorance leads him to any harm. With this lack of on-screen revelation, Han just seems to randomly expect people to fail him.
Another notable oddity about this movie is that, as mentioned earlier, Han helps a group of rebels in the film’s climax. This group of criminals that plague Han and his cohorts are revealed in the third act to be people who were oppressed on their home worlds by the Empire. They wanted the fuel that Han steals to help them start a ‘rebellion’ against their enemy. Han decides to help them with their plan, which contradicts everything that character experienced in the original trilogy. Han’s story arc in the first three Star Wars movies is about how he eventually learns to be a part of something bigger than himself – so having this occur in a prequel undermines all that progression. It does nothing to devalue the original trilogy in any way, but this element of the Solo’s story shows that the film has little to offer audiences in regards to its main character. In regard to the defense that this could have been the first film in a series that would have added more to the character, he does all of this after he supposedly became less naive and trusting. Not just inconsistent with the larger franchise, but within the film itself as well.
A tragic story like Solo should not have been combined with the tone of an Indian Jones movie, as one does not compliment the other. Solo is actually very reminiscent – not so much in atmosphere but in its plot – of a noir crime film, as the femme fatale gets the best of the outlaw male lead. This should have been film’s strength, the emotional core that makes it feel relevant to Han’s character, but it is complicated by the film’s incessant need to imitate the tone of George Lucas’ original space opera.
Beyond the film poorly defining how this new attitude affects Han’s character, it also completely contradicts it as well. In the end Han risks everything he fought so hard for to help a young group of rebels – how familiar – even though he is supposed to be less trusting. Han helps them by defeating Beckett and Dryden Vos, ending the film as a hero who risked his own life to help a group of desperate people. Solo’s feel-good ending that is reminiscent of the original Star Wars and Return of the Jedi, providing a healthy does of nostalgia. This is the best example of why this film fails the protagonist as there is nothing remotely optimistic about Han learning that everyone will eventually fail him. If this was the point of the film, it is a tragedy and not a humorous space adventure. There is nothing remotely upbeat about this plot development – though whether it actually occurred is debatable – but the film is determined to give viewers a happy ending. Due to this inconsistency in the tone that Han never feels like he has changed, because he starts off the film as a happy go-lucky adventurer and ends that way as well.
Solo’s great in that it explores previously untouched elements of the Star Wars universe on film and is a fun film to watch, but it fails its titular character in every way. It contradicts what George Lucas originally crafted in the acclaimed original trilogy and, while it sets up a rather enticing future for the character, it misses the mark with forging what Han Solo should have been prior to his fateful meeting with Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. The future is more or less bright but this is not a strong start to the rumored trilogy of Han Solo films.