In a deleted scene from the Solo: A Star Wars Story 4K Blu-ray, we see Han Solo piloting a TIE-Fighter. The effects aren’t complete, but it’s obvious that Han is having some problems with his ship as it spins out of control. Han is talking to someone on his radio – we don’t hear this voice either due to this being an unfinished scene – but we get the idea that Han is disobeying some sort of command and, instead, crash lands his TIE into a Star Destroyer docking bay. The next scene is Han standing trial in front of a military tribunal. What a weird thing: Here’s Han Solo, wearing an Imperial TIE Fighter pilot uniform, defending himself in front of Imperial officers who think he’s too out of control. His eventual punishment is to be sent to the infantry, and this is why we see Han in the film as a grunt on the muddy planet of Mimban. But I wish this scene were in the final movie. It’s weird. And Solo is a weird movie.
There’s another deleted scene where Han and Chewbacca get into a snowball fight. That’s it! They just wrestle on the ground and then throw snowballs at each other. I kind of liked it. I also wish this scene was in the movie because it’s so absurd.
Since it’s release in May, I’ve seen Solo: A Star Wars Story two more times. Once on a recent flight, then again this week while watching the 4K Blu-ray. I think I’ve finally come to a conclusion on this entry into the Star Wars saga: What a weird movie! Now, I know, on its surface it’s pretty straightforward. It doesn’t take the risks that entries like The Last Jedi or The Empire Strikes Back take. It’s not necessarily weird for its narrative; it’s just weird that it exists at all.
Disney CEO Bob Iger did an interview with The Hollywood Reporter where he suggests that Disney is going to alter the production of Star Wars movies. “You can expect some slowdown,” says Iger. Between 1977 and 1999 there were four Star Wars movies. And now, just since 2015, we’ve had four Star Wars movies. (It’s kind of crazy that The Force Awakens came out less than three years ago.)
So, with that bit of news, Solo somehow becomes an even bigger outlier. It doesn’t really fit anywhere. It doesn’t belong to the Prequels (even though a Prequel character shows up at the end), because the aesthetics don’t look the same at all. It doesn’t belong to the Original Trilogy like Rogue One does. It’s just kind of floating in its own world, waiting to be attached to other movies that probably aren’t coming now. It’s funny, if you have never seen Star Wars before and watch the movies in the order they take place, by the time you get to A New Hope you probably think Han is the main character. “Well, they made a whole movie about this guy that I just watched. Why does it take so long for Han to show up and why is he hanging out with this kid in the white robe?”
Rewatching Solo, I enjoyed it a little more than I was expecting to. My opinion of the movie has been trending downward over the last few months, so I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed watching it again, especially the second half of the movie. Everything about the Kessel Run is legitimately a fun time. And one of the biggest issues that a lot of people had with the movie, that it was physically too dark, is now corrected on home viewing. The dark colors that cinematographer Bradford Young (who is one of the best in the business) was going for is truly realized in the 4K release on a properly lit screen. Movies already have a tendency to look dim at the local theater, the way Solo was shot had no chance.
If you haven’t seen it, Solo co-writer Jon Kasdan did an extremely interesting breakdown of the film on Twitter. The most interesting part was when he wrote, “In retrospect, Thandie Newton may actually have been too good and too interesting as Val … Thandie is so compelling to watch that the death of her character feels a little like a cheat.” Rewatching Solo, he’s right, it’s totally a cheat. (I do love when something doesn’t make sense in a movie it’s referred to as a “cheat” to make it sound a lot more mischievous than it really is.) And that’s the biggest problem with Solo, there are a few “cheats” to move the story along that throw the whole thing out of whack.
That one specifically, why would Val blow herself up for a heist? Before you answer, imagine yourself robbing a bank with some friends. (Look, I’m not here to judge you for what you and your friends do in your free time.) Now, due to situations, the only way for your buddies to maybe get the money is to kill yourself. Who would do that? This isn’t sacrificing yourself to save someone else’s life, it’s killing yourself so your friends can have the chance to steal something you’ll never get to enjoy. And, of course, the heist doesn’t even work so she killed herself for nothing.
Honestly, if you start watching Solo right when Beckett, Han, and Chewbacca show up at Dryden’s yacht, it’s a much better movie. We don’t get the clunky “Hey, you’re alone, you’re name is now Solo har har,” line. And the movie still makes sense. Here are these three outlaws showing up at a party to make good on something they just messed up. Got it! Now let’s do the Kessel Run and have some fun. And, as Kasdan also points out, the scene when Han pilots the Millennium Falcon for the first time is a really well shot, great scene. So, yes, that is my official recommendation, start watching at the yacht scene. Everything is pretty much explained again and, strangely, Han’s relationship with Qi’ra make more sense the less you know about it. The exposition in this scene works better than actually seeing them together early in the movie.
At least for the foreseeable future, Solo is this weird outlier of a movie. A beginning that doesn’t really have a resolution. As we get further and further away from Solo, it will become stranger and stranger that it even exists. Honestly, after rewatching it, I think I’ve become legitimately fascinated with Solo – for both good and bad reasons. (But, just to see Bradford Young’s cinematography the way it was supposed to be seen, is reason enough to watch Solo again.)
You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.