Writing Movie “WRONGS”
By Jim West
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Directed by Ron Howard
Written by Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan
For decades the character of Han Solo as played by Harrison Ford has long been a huge fan favorite character from George Lucas’ Star Wars films. A sort of rebel without a cause attitude, and a fly by the seat of his pants life is what really draws fans to his character. So with a film that intends to show us how the man we know as Han Solo become to be; needless to say the bar is set pretty high. Lawrence Kasdan is the co-writer of many of the best Star Wars films in the franchise, and again the fans expectations were very high for this one. So high that the expectations weighed down any success this film could have had at the box office.
Here comes the spoilers.
The films starts off introducing us to favorite young rapscallion stealing coaxium which is described as a very expensive fuel that powers hyperspace flight. He brings it to his girlfriend, Qira, and they decide to make a break away from their gangs that enslaved them. During their escape, they are separated at the transport center and Han vows he will return for her. He enlists in the Imperial forces expressing his desire to be a pilot. We flash forward to his life as an infantry solider. During a military battle he come across a group of soldiers who are really smugglers posing as soldiers to rob supplies from the Imperial forces. He joins them for a fast way to earn the money he needs to rescue Qira. The film throws in little details like how he was given the name Solo, and he came to meet Chewbacca, his lifelong friend and co-pilot.
They plan a train robbery of coaxium and during the heist members of the team are killed when things go wrong. Facing their financier and crime boss, Drydan Vos, they are faced with having to steal raw unrefined coaxium and bring it fast to the refinery on another planet. This sets up the fabled Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs (distance not time I know I know!). Along the journey we see how he met Lando Calrissian, and won the Millennium Falcon in a game of sabacc. Now all of this may sound like a good film, and in some ways it was. Yet it felt too ‘clean’, too ‘safe’. The characters who die there isn’t a huge emotional loss for other characters. They just move on. The weight of their deaths feels too light. The risks don’t feel like risks at all. The villains and anti-heroes just don’t appeal at all. This may have been the Achilles heel of this film. Trying to make everyone likeable left nothing to truly like.
Now how do we fix this? Easy. Make Qira more menacing in the second half of the film and do it in a way that everyone else sees it but Han. Have her be brutal and harsh, but Han only sees through the lens of his love for her. Then when the veil is lifted for Han and she leaves him in the ship he then realizes she is a completely different person then the one he knew. In fact have their last scene together be the infamous “I love you.” and “I know.”, but in reverse with him telling Qira he loves her and her replying with what would be his reply to Leia in the original trilogy. This would lend a deeper layer to their relationship and infuse the film with the most iconic line from The Empire Strikes Back.
Finally limit the humor during fight scenes as this greatly detracts from the grit and risk of danger. When a droid dies in the film it is just a bit much and handled in essence better than the human deaths is just sad (I mean that condescendingly). Showing us Darth Maul at the end as the one in charge over Vos was a nice twist and quite frankly would beg for a sequel Solo film. Given the poor box office for this film it is highly unlikely we ever get that.
The real lesson for Disney is to stop playing it safe. Take risks, and deliver a real thrill of an action film.
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