After months of waiting and countless stories about a disastrous production period—and even a couple fired directors—Solo, the latest “Star Wars Story,” hit theaters this weekend. There’s plenty about this Han Solo origin story to discuss—from Donald Glover’s performance as Lando Calrissian to a surprising last-minute cameo—so let’s not waste any more time.
1. What is your tweet-length review of Solo?
Sean Fennessey: Walked into a Star Wars movie and found myself watching an Indiana Jones movie.
Ben Lindbergh: The lowest-stakes Star Wars movie is also the saga’s most pleasant surprise.
Amanda Dobbins: Not the worst!
Justin Charity: It was the worst Star Wars movie since Attack of the Clones.
David Shoemaker: I cannot imagine a better pilot for a new series on Disney’s OTT network.
Kate Halliwell: I’ve disliked other Star Wars movies more (prequels, hello), but I’ve never been this bored by a Star Wars movie.
Miles Surrey: Rogue One exists to explain A New Hope’s biggest plot hole (the Death Star’s catastrophic weakness via exhaust port) and now Solo is doing the same for the Kessel Run. These movies are fun, but can we get a spinoff whose primary objective isn’t amending George Lucas’s script?
2. What was the best moment of the movie?
Shoemaker: The loot train attack.
Dobbins: I have basically spent my whole life training to not type the following words, but: I thought the Kessel Run (??) was pretty fun? It’s the moment when the movie turns from bizarre zombie remake to credible heist blockbuster with a hint of romance. Also I think Alden gets at least two genuine jokes in?
Fennessey: The Coaxium cargo-train heist, one of the most coherent, engaging action movie sequences of the past 10 years.
Gruttadaro: This exchange:
Lando: Need anything?
L3: Equal rights?
Their relationship was beautiful.
Lindbergh: L3 freeing her first droid. Removing restraining bolts from every droid would probably bring ruin to the galactic economy and devastate countless sentient species, but it’s always nice to see someone discover their vocation.
Halliwell: The droid rebellion was like the “rogue robots” scene from Wall-E on steroids, and I loved every minute. Stomp on those controls, little droid guy! Be free!
Surrey: Not a particular moment for me, just the vibe: Solo exists in the Star Wars universe without dealing with the Force, a Death Star, or (for the most part) the Empire. If we’re going to keep getting Star Wars movies every year until the end of time, I want a couple of them to deal with things like sleazy smugglers and daring space heists instead of the cosmic struggle between the dark side and the light.
Charity: The musical swells during the listless, incomprehensible train heist.
3. What was your least favorite part of the film?
Charity: The listless, incomprehensible train heist.
Shoemaker: To learn that Han’s proudest moment came 10 years before A New Hope and that he did nothing worth bragging about afterward.
Surrey: That Chewie was not only imprisoned by the Empire, but ate people for their entertainment!
Fennessey: Everything on Corellia, home of shifting story tones and dimly lit chase scenes.
Dobbins: The first half of the movie is tough in general, but I would say the low point is “Alden Ehrenreich emoting next to some Imperial storage units while making a totally implausible escape.”
Halliwell: The first half hour was a slog, and I genuinely thought there was an issue with our projector in that opening underground scene. Did everything have to be so blue? Granted, I was probably overthinking the color grading because I was already super bored.
Gruttadaro: The opening sequence on Corellia—my lord did that drag. Just because a setting is supposed to be drab doesn’t mean it can’t be interesting.
Lindbergh: The hint that Han may have unwittingly supplied seed money to the rebellion felt to me like a transparent attempt to assign greater significance to a smaller-scale stand-alone story than it needed or deserved.
4. Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo—did he pull it off?
Fennessey: He seems like a nice person.
Charity: Yes. A thankless role, and the writers gave him really sour lines to deliver—“What’s your name? Chewbacca? I’m gonna have to come up with a nickname to call you.”—but he really does nail the vibe, assuming the mission was for Ehrenreich to channel the Han Solo of A New Hope.
Lindbergh: Kid, don’t get cocky, but yes, Alden defied the doubters and made the alleged acting coach that he may or may not have had look good. I don’t think he could have made the character iconic on his own, but he didn’t fumble the handoff from Ford.
Halliwell: Alden was one of the few parts of this movie that really worked for me. He was given an impossible task, and he came as close as anyone could.
Shoemaker: He wasn’t Harrison Ford, but who is? (Besides Harrison Ford, I mean.) I think he was fine, and as far as I’m concerned that’s a big compliment.
Surrey: He was pretty good, and that’s more than enough for me after all the rumored production drama. Going in, I figured Alden and Emilia Clarke, who’s never really impressed me in Game of Thrones (sorry!), would be the weak links, but they more than held their own.
Gruttadaro: Did they film Solo in order? Because I felt like you could tell that he grew more confident in the role as the movie progressed.
Dobbins: I have been among the most skeptical Alden watchers, on the basis of a) literally every single report about this movie and b) this video of young actors reciting the garden party speech from Clueless. Han Solo is a character that relies entirely on charisma—he’s the cool guy in a galaxy of nerds—and Ehrenreich is more of a mumbly handsome guy. (The whole Hail Caesar! character is a gag on Ehrenreich being a handsome but truly mumbly guy!) That said, there were a few moments in this movie where you could see an actual movie star peeking out: some Chewie banter, every single makeout scene with Qi’ra, the action run to save Lando and L3. (Ehrenreich: surprisingly good action star!) It’s not enough to save the movie, but what I’m trying to say here, as delicately and respectfully as possible, is that by the end, I was convinced that this Han Solo had a fulfilling offscreen sex life. So in that sense: He passed.
5. Who was the MVP of Solo?
Halliwell: The space capes really carried this movie.
Surrey: Donald Glover and Woody Harrelson’s facial hair.
Fennessey: Director of photography Bradford Young, a genius working on planets near and far.
Lindbergh: It wouldn’t have worked without Alden doing a passable Han (which had the highest degree of difficulty), but L3-37 may have made the movie.
Dobbins: Emilia Clarke is 40 times better in this movie than she has ever been as Khaleesi, come fight me. (Honorable mention: Paul Bettany.)
Gruttadaro: The easy answer is Donald Glover, who looked great in a galactic Hawaiian shirt, and who’s clearly been working on his Billy Dee Williams impression for decades. (Colt 45 should have Donald make ads for them.) The harder answer is Woody Harrelson, who was having a really good time as Tobias Beckett, and who gave the movie its only edge.
Shoemaker: [ducks] Alden Ehrenreich. Runner-up: Paul Bettany.
Charity: Darth Maul—still phantom menacing people after all these years.
6. Now that you know how Han Solo got his name, how do you feel?
Lindbergh: I cared about most other things in this movie more than I cared about how Han got his surname. Chewie’s never needed one!
Fennessey: Fine? I don’t think it ever occurred to me to wonder about the origin of his name. That it was answered underlines some of the curious lack of necessity around the whole project.
Surrey: … Some things are better left unsaid.
Charity: I don’t even mind the explanation, but I cannot forgive how shamelessly awful the acting is in the scene where the explanation is given.
Halliwell: I don’t really care about it from an origin standpoint, but now I understand why Ben Solo was so pissed at his parents. His mom’s last name is Skywalker, but he gets stuck with Solo just because some Imperial officer was feeling clever? And then Leia, Han, and Rey refuse to use his made-up name? Maybe antiquated patriarchal naming conventions are what really drove Ben/Kylo to the dark side.
Gruttadaro: Let’s pretend this never happened.
7. This movie’s production was tumultuous, with fired directors, reshoots, and rumored acting coaches. Do you think that had an effect on the final product, or was all of the chatter overblown?
Shoemaker: The start of the film definitely felt like patchwork, but if I hadn’t heard all the rumors, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed.
Fennessey: Any flaws the movie might have are baked into the conception, not the execution. Solo is competently made and will bring people happiness. It’s just not urgent enough to transcend that.
Gruttadaro: The movie isn’t nearly as bad as all of the stories would lead you to believe. But the movie is pretty bereft of verve and artistic vision, and I feel like that’s a result of Disney bringing in an extremely straightforward director as a course correction.
Lindbergh: It definitely had an effect, but I don’t know whether it had a harmful effect. The chatter was probably blown out of proportion in the sense that I’m happy with how the movie turned out, but I do wish I could see what the Lord and Miller movie would’ve looked like.
Dobbins: I like drama, so I had fun trying to figure out which scenes were Lord and Miller (the opening set piece? the weird octopus monster?) and which were reshoots (everything inside the ships?). That I could tell is perhaps the real answer to the question.
Surrey: You’ll notice it a bit on the seams—there’s lots of close-up shots, which were probably a cost-saving measure for reshoots. But it’s surprisingly streamlined—if someone went into the movie with no knowledge of the production drama, they wouldn’t second-guess it. Still, it’s a shame: We’ll never know how the guys behind The LEGO Movie and 21 Jump Street would’ve tackled a Star Wars movie.
Halliwell: You could absolutely tell that it was stitched together. And did Donald Glover adopt an accent in one scene and then abandon it completely? This is what ADR is for!
Charity: The many calamitous reports about the production of Solo seem to have debased everyone’s expectations for the movie so thoroughly and dramatically that the “chatter” will inevitably seem “overblown” if only because the movie doesn’t show microphones crashing onto Ehrenreich’s head. But the story’s a mess. Worse yet, it’s boring.
8. So … Darth Maul is alive? Talk about that.
Fennessey: I guess? It’s not good when your final-act twist is more confusing than it is exciting.
Charity: I don’t know. I don’t think Ron Howard knows either.
Lindbergh: I hate to break this to everyone who just discovered that Darth Maul survived The Phantom Menace, but … Darth Maul doesn’t die until a little later in the timeline, in another duel with Obi-Wan. (I know, not confusing at all.) Sorry to subject you to this eMaultional roller coaster, but it sort of serves you right for not watching Star Wars Rebels before.
Shoemaker: So, according to Star Wars Rebels lore, he got cut in half and his bottom half was replaced with robot spider legs. No complaints there. But it was a weird gambit to have your big surprise be something that isn’t a surprise to the part of the audience that should be excited about it and completely befuddling to the rest.
Gruttadaro: I appreciated his turn as the guy-in-movies-who-literally-says-plot-developments-out-loud.
Halliwell: I have mixed feelings. Darth Maul is cool, but I think I’d be more excited about this franchise if it continued to tell stories largely unrelated to the Jedi.
Surrey: It’s definitely surprising, but I couldn’t stop thinking about him whipping out his infamous double-bladed lightsaber. He was basically having a Skype conference call with a subordinate, and for no reason in particular was like, “Let me just stand up mid-call and take out my lightsaber before hanging up.” Strange, and kind of rude—Crimson Dawn’s Glassdoor rating will suffer for this!
9. Should there be a Solo sequel?
Lindbergh: I wasn’t sure that there should be a Solo, and I’m now very glad that there is. On the surface, a Solo sequel sounds similarly inessential, but I like the core cast, and there’s space for the story to grow. I wouldn’t mind seeing what a single director—preferably one not named Ron Howard—could do.
Halliwell: I absolutely think a sequel would be better in every way than this one, but I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it if the franchise ended here.
Surrey: We might not have a choice! But if it means more Darth Maul and explaining what the hell happened to Qi’ra (death, probably), it’s not the worst idea in the world. Star Wars has done much, much worse.
Fennessey: Yes, but it should be a Scarface-like rise to power for Qi’ra.
Charity: No—in general, I think singularly character-obsessive Star Wars movies are a bad idea. My reasons for this skepticism are the Star Wars prequels about Anakin Skywalker and now, also, Solo.
Gruttadaro: No. First of all, it seemed like the time gap between the end of this movie and Han and Chewie bumping into Luke on Tatooine was pretty small. Second of all, I super do not need to see Alden Ehrenreich and Emilia Clarke reignite their nonexistent chemistry.
Shoemaker: Yes … on TV.
Dobbins: “Let go of the ‘should,’ accept the ‘will,’ and peace you shall find.” —Amanda Dobbins and Yoda
10. Alternatively, Lucasfilm has announced a slew of other character-driven spinoffs. If you had the choice, what would be your ideal character-director pairing?
Surrey: Princess Leia during her formative years on Alderaan, directed by Greta Gerwig. Give us Lady Bird: A Star Wars Story!
Halliwell: It’s high time we get a Star Wars movie focused on a nonhuman character, and Ahsoka Tano would be a fun choice. I’m not sure how Clone Wars canon would fit into the current movie landscape, but give the movie to Karyn Kusama and I’d be in no matter what.
Shoemaker: Either Greedo by Andrew Dominik or Chewbacca by Brad Bird.
Dobbins: Hear me out: Emilia Clarke, as James Bond, directed by Sam Mendes. It will be just like a Star Wars movie, except not in space.
Fennessey: Blue Light: the story of Aayla Secura, the Clone Wars, and the history of the Jedi order, directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
Gruttadaro: Not a movie, but a series: a six-episode season of Chef’s Table dedicated to the cuisine on Dryden Vos’s ship. Those oyster things looked delicious!