30th May2018

Opinionated: The Devil in the Detail – The So-lo Point of the Star Wars Saga

by Rupert Harvey

Opinionated… Where we give you our thoughts on everything and anything geeky and nerdy. This time round Nerdly team member Rupert gives us his thoughts and opinions on Solo: A Star Wars Story – in a article he’s dubbed “The Devil in the Detail – The So-lo Point of the Star Wars Saga”


There’s a scene in Ridley Scott’s Alien where a small team from the Nostromo sets out across the bleak terrain of an alien planet to investigate the source of a distress signal. It’s coming from a vast, horseshoe-shaped alien ship, which has apparently crash-landed. They venture inside and come across a huge skeletal figure, calcified on a strange throne. As the team moves on and their torchlight fades away, Scott’s camera lingers on the murdered giant. For a few seconds we are alone in the dark with this sorrowful creature, and we’re chilled by a sense of infinite mystery.

Who was he or she? What were they looking for through that great telescope of theirs? Were they pioneers, scientists or soldiers?

Three decades later, Scott decided that we wanted definitive answers to these questions; and in providing those answers – via a mallet of a movie named Prometheus – he ruined one of the eeriest moments in one of my favourite movies. The problem is that, no matter how hard you try to eliminate such nu-canon events from your mind, it’s impossible. Forevermore, I will watch that scene from Alien and be haunted not by the wonderful mystery, but by the spectre of a daft pre-pre-prequel that mistakes exposition for intelligence.

Solo: A Star Wars Story – a blaring parade of nothingness; the very pinnacle of pointlessness – is a perpetrator of a similar crime, and all of its pre-release obituaries (which were right, by the way) are evidence of this. Because we were never asking the questions the film seeks to answer. Hence, even the most positive genre enthusiasts – for example, the eminent MovieBob – can only concede that Ron Howard’s repair job is the best it could have been (read: it shouldn’t have been made in the first place).

A great many people will want to see the next numbered episode of the main Star Wars saga because there is genuine mystery as to where it will go next – especially after Rian Johnson’s mould-breaking Episode 8. Yet far fewer are excited to see a story that’s already played out in their own minds. Because that’s what we do when we’re given fully-formed protagonists like Han Solo in A New Hope: we use our imagination to fill in the blanks.

In Howard’s film, written by Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, there is undeniable pleasure in seeing the camaraderie between young Han and “young” Chewie. But is it vital? Do we need to be shown this level of detail to understand the episodes that (chronologically) follow? Embellishment is not the same as enrichment. Their friendship was evident in the original trilogy, and right through The Force Awakens, to the point where Chewbacca’s howl of anguish at his friend’s death gives us the chills.

More time with the pair over the years could have deepened the poignancy of that loss further, of course. But it’s too late. We stumbled into their bromance mid-term, and we got what we were given, and then Han died. What a prequel seeks to provide is context, and Solo highlights the very problem with that concept: it is an origin story concocted after the event. After the audience has already created the backstory in their minds, based on the evidence before their eyes.

The impact of Han’s death is down to the progression of the characters in the series up to that point. We weren’t sitting there in 2015, waiting for its dramatic impact in three years’ time. All Howard’s film does is trade lazily on the hard work others did in creating the bond between characters across multiple films. Their fate is predetermined, so their journey is shorn of conflict, therefore it is drained of drama. At best Solo satisfies curiosity (albeit at the expense of fan speculation, one of the internet’s few true joys). But let’s be real: the swaggering, mythic enigma of Han Solo is replaced by a kind-of-okay impersonation.

Like Prometheus and its “Space Jockey” revelations, this sort of post-rendered detail-filling can only bring us loss. Because whatever callbacks and nods and air-punch moments that Damon Lindelof or Ridley Scott or the Kasdans conjure, they can’t ever match the retro-activated marvels of the well-informed, empathic, devoted fan’s imagination. We’ve already done the work, and we enjoyed it. So don’t ruin it for us – give us something new instead.


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