Solo: A Star Wars Story

I went to see the new Star Wars movie on Thursday night, Solo, and I have to say, it was pretty damn good!

There will be extensive spoilers throughout this post, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!!

The film follows Han during his early years prior to the events of A New Hope, and I was actually surprised by how much of the existing back story for him has been kept. He starts out as a street kid on Corellia, mixed up with the crime lords there, and attempts to flee for a better life with his girlfriend, Qi’ra, but the two are separated while escaping. Han joins the Imperial Academy in an effort to gain the money to come back and rescue her, but three years later, he has washed out of the Navy and is part of the Infantry on a hellish action on Mimban. There, he comes across the smuggler Tobias Beckett and his gang, posing as Imperial soldiers. For insubordination, Han is thrown into a cell with “the beast”, a Wookiee named Chewbacca and, due to his ability to speak Shyriiwook, Han manages to break out, and they both escape to join Beckett.

Solo Vandor

Beckett’s gang is on a heist to steal the hyperfuel coaxium on the planet Vandor, a job that goes sour when the Cloud Riders pirate gang then try to steal the shipment. Beckett and the others get away, but the job was taken on for Dryden Vos, head of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate. Vos is not happy, but Han and Chewie go along with him to try to retain favour and offer to steal another shipment that will replace the refined fuel from Vandor. Han explains there is some unrefined fuel held in a vault under the spice mines on Kessel, so the gang head off to steal it. Han also discovers that Qi’ra is now working for Vos, and she is sent to keep an eye on them during the job.

Solo movie Lando

In order to get a ship fast enough that will get the coaxium to a refinery before it degrades, Qi’ra introduces the gang to Lando Calrissian, a retired smuggler who owns the Millennium Falcon, said to be the fastest ship in the business. Han attempts to win the ship in a game of sabacc, but he loses – however, for a cut of the profits, Beckett persuades Lando to join the crew. The gang then heads off to Kessel and stages a prison break out to cover the theft of the coaxium, however an Imperial patrol shows up as the smugglers are about to make it out. Han manages to out-fly the Imperials, and the group makes it to an old refinery on the planet Savareen.

There, the Cloud Riders show up to steal the fuel just as Dryden Vos appears to collect it. They learn that the Cloud Riders are a nomad group attempting to rebel against the tyranny of the Empire, and need the fuel to continue their raids. Han comes up with a plan whereby they can help the Riders, but Beckett doesn’t want to fall foul of Dryden again and walks away, saying he has heard of a gangster on Tatooine and offers Han the chance to join him if he makes it out alive. Han then gives Dryden the coaxium, but Dryden has been told of Han’s double cross by his inside man, who is revealed to be none other than Beckett. Dryden’s men are sent to collect the real coaxium from the Cloud Riders, however, Han has triple-crossed everyone by presenting the real coaxium to Dryden, and giving the Riders nothing. The plan works to lure out all of Dryden’s men, however, and Beckett attempts to steal the fuel, leaving Han and Qi’ra alone with Dryden.

Qi’ra, who has been taught Teräs Käsi, manages to kill Dryden, and tells Han to go collect the fuel from Beckett, whereupon she’ll join him. However, Qi’ra sends a message to Dryden’s boss – none other than Darth Maul! – telling him that Dryden is dead and she has now assumed command of the Crimson Dawn. Han recovers the coaxium with Chewie, killing his mentor Beckett in the process, but is dismayed to see Qi’ra leave in Dryden’s ship.

The movie ends with Han playing sabacc once again with Lando, but this time, Han manages to win the Falcon, and he and Chewie head off to Tatooine to look up the gangster Beckett had mentioned…


This was a really good movie! It follows a lot of the established storyline we’ve come to know about Han from the expanded universe, which I thought an interesting choice, but at the same time it’s nice to see how much of that has been retained. Some random thoughts:

It was really nice to see Kessel in the film, and interesting how much of that lore has been retained in so far as the deadly approach and the Maw are still a thing.

Alden Ehrenreich is signed up for two more films, which makes a lot of sense as, while the film was really good, I thought it definitely set up at least another story, but if the quality can be maintained, then a Solo trilogy could be a wonderful thing. Much more than Luke or Leia, Han Solo at this point in the timeline can be such a vehicle for seeing the wider galaxy, but the seedier side of it as well. We could get to visit the Corporate Sector, which we know to be a thing in the new canon thanks to Catalyst, among others. But I think we need to see how Han came to be under the thumb of Jabba the Hutt, and we need to see more of Han and Lando beyond this one adventure. Lando is the guy Han turns to when he’s in a jam, but I didn’t get that from their relationship here.

While Rogue One was fine on its own, I think a Solo sequel would be great.

The references to the wider expanded universe were off the charts with this one, and I absolutely loved it! Lando makes at least two references to the godawful L Neil Smith trilogy from the early 80s, which was actually really fun; however, for the main part we get a lot of really nice throw-away lines that help to really fix the place of this film in the wider Star Wars lore. While you could argue against calling on the same small pool of names when you’re dealing with a galactic wide cast, mentioning Bossk as a potential hire for Beckett’s gang was a cool touch. We also learn that Beckett killed Aurra Sing, at which point I had a huge grin on my face!

I really want to know why Maul is now head of the Crimson Dawn. I should probably catch up with the Clone Wars cartoon series, not to mention Rebels, in case we can learn anything there! It was good to know that he was played by Ray Park once again, and while Peter Serafinowicz doesn’t return this time, we do get Sam Witwer, who played Vader’s Secret Apprentice for The Force Unleashed back in the day.

Hopefully we’ll find out more in the Solo sequels…

The Cloud Riders are an interesting bunch, and I think I’d like to see more of those guys – while it’s always a bit worrying seeing the amount of pre-Alliance rebel groups hanging about in the galaxy, the fact that Benthic from Saw Gerrera’s Partisans is a part of the group was a nice touch, and serves to help pull these people together I think.

I think it’s an interesting point here that both of the stand-alone movies released by Disney so far have been instant hits for me, while the episode movies are a lot slower to burn. I’m still a little undecided about The Last Jedi, while I didn’t even need to wait until the credits to know that I liked Solo a whole lot more! I suppose it has something to do with Disney tapping into the original trilogy era, and the sense of nostalgia we all have for those movies, by creating a universe that draws on that same style. It’s a lot more difficult, I suppose, when you’ve got the task of creating something that must move away from that look by definition of the fact it takes place decades later. There’s probably more to be said on that topic, but this blog is already running quite long already, so I think it’s time to stop for now.

If you haven’t booked your tickets already, definitely go check this movie out! If you’ve read through this entire post to get here, you probably don’t need to go see it for yourself of course, but it’s definitely an enjoyable movie!

Easter!

First of all, Happy Easter everyone! Whether religious or not, I hope we can all at least appreciate the chocolate festivities of this time of year. Though, sadly, I have been chocolate-less for some time now – it’s a trauma I’ll just have to live with. Anyway! For me, Easter is always synonymous with my discovery of the Star Wars expanded universe – many many years ago, a schoolfriend pointed me in the direction of Heir to the Empire, and I have not looked back since. It’s hard to believe now, but for a long time my love of Star Wars was confined to just the three movies, and I had no idea of this whole load of accompanying literature! But twas over the Easter break that I first read Mr Zahn’s absolutely amazing work, followed swiftly by the graphic novel Crimson Empire, which was the sum of our school library’s Star Wars collection, but these two books launched me on a career from which I have not had a moment’s regret!

This Easter, I read another Timothy Zahn novel, Scoundrels. Released last year, I’ve taken so long to read it for a variety of reasons, not least being that I dislike reading books in hardback, so always wait for the paperback release before sampling them (I did once request the local library order in Star by Star upon its release, because I just couldn’t wait for that to come out, but otherwise, yeah…) Scoundrels is set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and is really a book that’s focused on Han Solo (as the cover might have led you to believe!) Han isn’t quite in with the Rebel Alliance yet, so is still off around the galaxy smuggling and getting up to all sorts of shenanigans on the fringe of galactic society, and he still hasn’t paid off Jabba the Hutt.

The book was publicised as “Oceans 11 meets Star Wars”, and that’s a pretty close description, really. Han is recruited to break into a vault for a guy who has had some money stolen, and recruits a team to help him do it. If you’re wondering how Zahn manages to spin this out to cover nearly 450 pages of story, then you’re obviously not familiar with the man’s work! A whole raft of colourful characters, some old favourites and some new blood, are assembled, and the criminal organisation Black Sun are thrown in along with Imperial Intelligence – if you haven’t read this novel yet, you’re in for a really fun experience!

I really liked seeing the nods to Zahn’s previous work, but the new characters he has come up with are so well-done that I was racking my brains for the first few chapters trying to think if they’ve come up before – they mesh that well with the whole. But this is the guy who gave us Thrawn, Mara Jade and Talon Karrde, so I’m not really surprised there. Of all the newbies, Bink Kitik and Rachele Ree were probably the two most interesting, and the two I’d most like to see more of. Fortunately for us, then, Zahn has written two other short stories that feature Bink, one of which is handily included in the back of the paperback release!

Something I was really concerned about with this book was Lando’s inclusion. In case you don’t remember, there is some bad blood between Han and Lando, as suggested in Empire Strikes Back (“You’ve got a lotta guts coming here, after what you pulled”, remember?), which is explained in the 1998 novel Rebel Dawn (part three of the excellent Han Solo trilogy, which I can recommend to anyone if you can pick it up!) by Han recruiting Lando, among some other smugglers, for a similar sort of heist-job that goes sour on all the scoundrels involved, Han included. Lando blamed him for it, and smacked him in the mouth, telling him he never wanted to see him again. This has, for years, been the accepted reason for Lando’s comment, but now we have a story with the two of them set between these events, and I was concerned that it wouldn’t pan out. Well, it does – kinda. Zahn really captures the changed dynamic in their friendship since the Han Solo Trilogy, but unfortunately I felt it seemed to resolve the tension too much for the events of Empire to feel right. Instead, I suppose I would have preferred it if Lando had been left out altogether, but then how would you have a book called Scoundrels without him? Hm. Zahn does a great job, but it does somehow feel unnecessary.

Something else that I was a bit baffled by was the very end, which I won’t spoil here. Suffice it to say there was a surprise twist, but I felt it was completely redundant, and done more for fan-appeasement than for the demands of the story. If you’ve read the book, I’d love to know what other people think of this!

In addition to Scoundrels, I’ve also read some shorter fiction by Zahn, including one of the aforementioned short stories – Winner Lose All. This is a great prequel to Scoundrels, featuring Lando in a high-stakes sabacc game, and serves as an introduction to three of the new characters, including Bink. I kinda like Lando a lot, and feel he’s been terribly underused by the expanded universe. The L Neil Smith trilogy is just apalling, but any other time I get to read about the dashing gambler is usually good. Having his own short story here is just great – there are no galaxy-spanning massive events taking place, it’s just a good piece of fun fiction that is written really well, with some really compelling characters. Hopefully we’ll see more of Bink and Tavia soon, anyway!

The other short story I read this Easter was Command Decision, which was originally published in the Star Wars Adventure Journal in 1994, a now-defunct publication for a now-defunct Role Playing Game line from a now-defunct publisher. Sigh. I’ll probably wax lyrical about the Role Playing Game in another blog, but for now, suffice it to say that it was awesome, and has some really awesome stuff in it. Including short fiction! Zahn wrote four stories for the Journal’s 15-issue run, if I remember correctly, and Command Decision appeared in #11. It’s basically a short piece featuring Grand Admiral Thrawn, but uses some characters that were taken up again in his later work – including a whole other species that wasn’t properly investigated until 2005! It’s a good bit of backstory to the blue-skinned, red-eyed Grand Admiral, and I enjoyed it very much!

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So I hope you’ve all had a tremendous Easter, whatever you’ve been up to, and I’ll be back again soon with more awesome stuff!