The Story Geeks blogger Ashley Pauls responds with an additional perspective to the same topic discussed in this week’s podcast – how to improve “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” Want to share your own take? Join the conversation in The Story Geeks Facebook group!
Even though it wasn’t as big a box office success as Disney was hoping, I actually really enjoyed “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” While it’s further down my Star Wars ranking than the other three Disney-era Star Wars films — “The Force Awakens,” “Rogue One,” and “The Last Jedi,” which all land in my top five — it’s still a fun movie.
With all the drama happening behind the scenes during the film’s production, I think Lucasfilm made the right call to bring director Ron Howard on board (I think the film could have been even stronger if Howard was involved from day 1, though). Alden Ehrenreich is great as a younger, more idealistic Han Solo, and Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian serves as the perfect foil. Of course, it’s always wonderful to see Chewie back in action, and there are a lot of great new characters rounding out the cast. Qi’ra has quickly shot up the list of my favorite Star Wars characters, and is probably in my top five now.
Still, even though I do enjoy watching “Solo,” I think there are several changes that could make it even better. Here are three tweaks I’d like to suggest:
1. Make it a miniseries rather than a feature film.
I can’t take credit for this idea myself, because I actually heard it on one of the Star Wars podcasts I listen to. But it’s an intriguing suggestion, and I think it could work really well, especially since the film already feels episodic.
Imagine if Disney had decided that, instead of releasing this as a movie in theaters, they promoted it as a miniseries on their new streaming service. That definitely would have motivated me to sign up for the service (although let’s be real, they already had me when they announced “The Clone Wars” revival and the new show “The Mandalorian”). 😉
This builds positive buzz for the new streaming service, and also avoids the negative buzz surrounding what “Solo” should have made at the box office. One could argue that this film was never going to draw the same size of audience as one of the main “episodes” or even “Rogue One,” but on a streaming service, that’s okay.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” now becomes, say, a five-or-six part miniseries, broken into separate hour-long episodes. You get more time to develop key relationships, like the friendship between Han and Chewie, and provide more background for new characters like Beckett and Val. You can show more of Han’s involvement with the Imperial military, and you can show more scenes with him and Qi’ra growing up on Corellia. It also would have been nice to get more detail about Enfys Nest and the Cloud Riders.
Maybe they want to keep the story’s open ending, with the teaser involving Darth Maul, so there are opportunities for other miniseries in the future. Or maybe the final episodes could feature Maul more extensively, so the whole story is neatly tied up in one series. Either way, I think the miniseries route may have worked better for this story.
2. More character development for Val.
One of the common complaints I’ve heard about “Solo” is that Thandie Newton’s character, Val, is killed off too abruptly. I don’t know how much about her character may (or may not) have changed as part of the time-crunched nature of the reshoots and script alterations. But it is a shame that such a cool character gets killed off so soon, especially since it seems like maybe she didn’t really have to die in order for the train heist plan to work (and in the end, it fails anyway).
I’ve heard some suggest that Beckett should have died instead, and Val should have become Han’s mentor, which is an interesting idea. However, I just adore Woody Harrelson, and I don’t want to lose him so soon in the movie, either. Plus, I think he provides an interesting mirror for Han’s character; Han ultimately isn’t like Beckett, but he wants to be like Beckett. Han’s interactions with Beckett in this film shape the character he becomes. The Han we meet in “A New Hope” is very Beckett-like, although Han cares more about the people around him than Beckett does.
So, I think that Rio should be the only character who dies in the train heist. This allows more time to focus on his death and the emotional impact of that loss on the crew. Val continues to be a part of the gang, but I think she should disagree with Beckett and Han’s plan to try to bargain with Dryden Vos. They all vote on what to do, and she ends up being the only dissenter. She goes along with the plan, but cautions everyone that this is probably going to blow up in their faces.
She stays with the crew until after Enfys Nest unmasks on Savareen, and then she decides she just can’t be a part of this operation anymore, due to the risks and the true nature of Crimson Dawn. She tells Beckett she’ll be waiting for him on Glee Anselm, if he ever decides to be smart and actually retire (and, of course, make time to learn to play the valachord).
This gives her a more active role in the story and an opportunity to stand up for her beliefs, and leaves an opening for her to pop up in spin-off stories in the future.
3. Provide more explanation about L3’s character.
In the film, Lando’s co-pilot is a self-made droid named L3 who is an advocate for droid rights. I think it’s an intriguing idea for a character, but I feel the film doesn’t handle her in the best way. Her advocacy for droid rights is (mostly?) played for laughs; however, I kept wanting them to get into a deeper discussion about the ethics of artificial intelligence, which, to my knowledge, Star Wars hasn’t really delved into before.
Other science fiction films and stories have, of course, explored the ethical issues surrounding the use of AI (if you want to see Poe Dameron and General Hux — a.k.a. Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson — debating the merits of AI, check out the movie “Ex Machina”). How should we treat AI like the droids in Star Wars, who have personalities and something close to “feelings,” yet aren’t truly “alive” and don’t have a soul like humans do?
Anyway, it just felt weird to me that “Solo” brings up the issue of AI/droid rights but then doesn’t really do much with it. They should have either gone deeper, or saved this plot point for another story where it could have been developed more thoughtfully. Maybe L3 would have fit better in another film or TV series down the line.