A defence of Solo: A Star Wars Story and why it works

Han Solo, Star Wars photo via Walt Disney Studios Media File
Han Solo, Star Wars photo via Walt Disney Studios Media File /

Solo: A Star Wars Story has been released, and while critical reception is warm to middling, the box office performance has been dismal. Which is incredibly confounding, given that this Solo is the most accessible Star Wars movie since the original trilogy.

The most recent non-saga Star Wars movie is creating quite a fervour in the film industry for it’s terrible box office performance. The usually successful Star Wars franchise, known for raking in the green no matter what, has finally seemed to have hit an obstacle with Solo’s poor box office numbers. Our very own Wesley Lara breaks down the more objective, and behind the scenes reasons for Solo’s failure.

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I personally enjoyed Solo: A Star Wars Story. The film is definitely not without its drawbacks. There are tonal shifts and characterizations that could have been drastically improved. John Dotson’s movie review of Solo: A Star Wars Story provides more insight into those problems from an audience perspective.

But for me, Solo: A Star Wars Story was the most accessible movie in the Star Wars universe thus far, which, is kind of exactly what Disney and Lucasfilms need to do to keep this franchise alive. Especially with the more divisive reactions to its latest saga movie, The Last Jedi.

The goal behind a prequel

Solo: A Star Wars Story was always meant to be an origin story for the character of Han Solo, first introduced in Episode IV: A New Hope. The story arc of this rebellious smuggler with a murky past, deciding to join a cause, finding love and friendship all for selfless reasons was the true appeal of Han Solo. So an origin story needed to provide context for his personality, explain his heart of stone-turned-gold, and provide insight into how Leia was able to make a place for herself within it.

And in that regards, I think Solo succeeds in spades!

Warning: Lots of Spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story ahead!

Humble beginnings

I’ve heard many complaints about the beginning of Solo taking place not in his childhood, but with a 20-something year old Han. Valid complaints abound about the fact that going such a short period into his past doesn’t really qualify as an origin. However, given the bitter taste left by the previous exploration of an iconic character with an origin story, it makes sense why they didn’t.

Han Solo, Star Wars photo via Walt Disney Studios Media File
Han Solo, Star Wars photo via Walt Disney Studios Media File /

If Solo began with a child-Han, showcasing his family life, and how those experiences affect him, it would be very reminiscent of Episode I: A Phantom Menace, when we were introduced to a child-Anakin Skywalker. Given the fan and critical reaction to those elements of the prequel trilogy, I think it was smart for the makers of Solo to veer as far away from that as possible.

There’s also something to be said of our adolescent experiences being the ones that shape us the most into our adult lives. Experiences from the formative years in the teens, into our 20s, where relationships, love, heartbreak and betrayal truly make us into the adults we are. As is the case with Han Solo.

The early sequences in Solo, also help showcase just the type of suppressed and trapped life that Han has lived from childhood, thereby explaining his need to never want to settle or be tied down to a place or person in his future.

The love story

While many have had an issue with the romance in Solo, featuring Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and his former flame Qi’ra, (Emilia Clarke) it makes perfect sense in the larger picture. It’s the trope of an idealistic young man turned bitter due to the betrayal of a past lover, until he finds love again. It’s been done, and done again in Solo, but it works.

Han Solo, Star Wars photo via Walt Disney Studios Media File
Han Solo, Star Wars photo via Walt Disney Studios Media File /

Han and Qi’ra’s relationship in their youth was founded on a mutual desire to escape their current lives, find freedom from their masters and live free. They dreamed of creating a life together, and they both seemed to be idealistic dreamers. Qi’ra’s betrayal as she leaves him behind to return to Crimson Dawn, after lying to him, ultimately causes Han to abandon those lofty ideals, in exchange for a harsher and more brutally realistic way of thinking.

So is it any wonder that Han Solo eventually finds love again with Leia Organa? A princess with similarly lofty ideals and selfless principles of freeing her people that sees her fighting for a cause, can understandably be very appealing to the younger and more innocent Han who wanted to share his life with someone. But she is also a diplomat and freedom fighter, who is aware of the harshness of the universe, and acts accordingly; which appeals to the more seasoned Han. Is it any wonder that Leia causes Han to soften and helps him find his idealistic and exuberant younger self, through her eyes?

Related Story: Solo: A Star Wars Story movie review

To me, it’s a wonderful arc of redemption for the character of Han Solo, knowing that his personality is shaped by tragedy, but one that he is able to overcome, find a balance in love and a greater cause. Essentially finding the life he always wanted, and the love that was never fulfilled.

Han, without a doubt, shot first

Rarely does a prequel subtly showcase key moments in a character’s past that shapes him in the future, without obvious winks and nods in the story itself. That’s when I usually roll my eyes profusely. Throughout Solo, we’re teased to Han’s selfish nature in the original trilogy. Losing his love. Experiencing the cruel nature of the Empire’s soldiers. And constant betrayal at the hands of people he trusts.

Han Solo, Star Wars photo via Walt Disney Studios Media File
Han Solo, Star Wars photo via Walt Disney Studios Media File /

When Han does eventually find friends, most notably Beckett, (Woody Harrelson) his constant advise is to not trust anyone. And it’s not until moments in the climax that we see the culmination of these experiences and how they shaped the character of the Han Solo that we eventually see in A New Hope.

The moment that Han shoots Becket in mid-sentence, not only ends the long debate in Star Wars fandom of “who shot first,” but it can be pinpointed as the moment that the personality of the self-serving Han in the Cantina scene of A New Hope came into being.

The most accessible Star Wars movie for new audiences

Fan reaction of The Last Jedi showed the negative side of long-term fandom, proving that loyalty will not always translate into approval. So for the Star Wars franchise to succeed, like any other, new audiences must be drawn to the franchise. That was also the goal of J.J. Abrams with Episode VII: A Force Awakens; to bring back classic characters, while introducing new ones for a new generation of audiences.

Han Solo, Star Wars photo via Walt Disney Studios Media File
Han Solo, Star Wars photo via Walt Disney Studios Media File /

So when Disney & Lucasfilm wanted to do standalone films, or trilogies independent of the now-eight saga films, that seemed like the most reasonable goal. To bring in new audiences to the franchise without the pre-requisite of having seen multiple films for context into the story and characters. And Solo: A Star Wars Story does just that.

While fans of the franchise like us watch Solo from a perspective of looking for explanations, origins, backstory, etc. new audiences with no knowledge of the Star Wars franchise are immune to it all. For them, Solo will be a buddy-action comedy, set in space, featuring a charismatic lead, and his adventures as he navigates life, love and deals with the tragedies that befall him, with a smug smile throughout.

Solo has none of the baggage of the films before it. No understanding of the universe is needed to experience the jokes, the action, the misunderstandings and character interactions between the cast. And it’s the first Star Wars movie to do so, since A New Hope.

Compared to Rogue One

The accessibility is even more apparent if we compare Solo to Rogue One, the only other standalone Star Wars live action film, from a story perspective. The entire premise and plot of Rogue One is reliant on pre-existing knowledge of A New Hope and, to a lesser extent, its subsequent films. The stakes within the movie only matter if you know the end goal, the importance of which is lost on audiences who don’t know the plot premise of A New Hope.

Walt Disney Studios
Walt Disney Studios /

Note: I am not saying Solo is by any means a better movie than Rogue One, (it’s not by a long shot) but rather that is it more accessible to newer audiences that don’t know Star Wars.

Solo however, requires absolutely no knowledge of anything within the Star Wars universe, which is entirely the point of a standalone movie. And if anything, for audiences that will like Solo, it may create new fans of the franchise, who may then want to go watch the original trilogy to see how this character turns out years later, and his continuing adventures.


I can definitely understand all the shortcomings of Solo: A Star Wars Story, as I have a few complaints about the movie myself. (Origin of Han’s last name, Chewbacca’s nickname.) However, the fun and light-hearted nature of the movie makes me overlook those complaints in exchange for a breezy and fun story about a space rascal with a heart of gold.

All of which is in keeping with the character of Han Solo in the original trilogy as well. Han was always the lighter character in a trinity where the other two characters were Skywalkers, linked to the overall plot of the entire trilogy. Han had jokes, the best one liners, and kept things moving even when everyone else was all doom and gloom. And to me, Solo’s light hearted tone definitely makes it the Han Solo of the three most recent Star Wars movies we’ve gotten in Rogue One and The Last Jedi.

Next: 4 possible Solo: A Star Wars Story sequel ideas

While I cannot fully explain the failure of Solo: A Star Wars Story, as others have done so more eloquently, in my mind Solo is a great addition to the types of Star Wars movies we are experiencing in his renaissance of the franchise, and one that can serve to bring newer views to the iconic franchise.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is now playing in theatres.

Sound off in the comments below if you likes Solo as much as I did. Don’t worry. This is a safe space.