This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Garrett Smith’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Without further ado, my spoiler filled review of SOLO.
If you've seen the movie, this review should be read in tandem with my previous one. I have a lot of positive things to say about this movie and still do - mainly that it really feels like STAR WARS to me. However, I also have plenty of nitpicks about the movie that I address in a general sense in that review. Here, I'd like to address two of these specifically, as I think they represent opposite ends of the spectrum of issues these movies will continue to have as prequels if they keep going this direction.
That spectrum can be summed up thusly - SOLO is both its own movie, and a piece of this larger universe. There are some things that occur in the movie that only make sense in the vacuum of this movie, and other things that only make sense in the larger context of the SW Universe. These are both issues I think, and I'd like to illustrate them using two significant scenes from the end of the film.
One one end of the spectrum we have the reveal of Darth Maul as the true leader of Crimson Dawn (credited here as Maul). This is a completely meaningless scene to the movie SOLO. In a vacuum, this scene has absolutely no value to this movie. It adds nothing and means nothing. It's only in the greater context of the SW Universe that this has any meaning, and even then it's tricky. If you had never seen Episode I or either of the cartoons, you wouldn't know who you were looking at or why it mattered. And if you had only seen Episode I, you'd be confused as to why you're seeing him, and be forced to suddenly question when exactly this movie is taking place on the timeline. They've essentially squeezed a post-credits scene into the actual movie, and it's meaningless at best, confusing at worst. I don't want STAR WARS to be MARVEL. I don't want to feel like the intertextuality of this property is necessary to my enjoyment of it - STAR WARS was never that way, the extra material always existed for us to whet our appetites with, but they never mattered. I think if you want to bring Maul into a movie, great, do it, but actually do it. Don't just tease that he simply exists and may or may not show up in further movies. That's not what STAR WARS is about for me.
Now, on the other end of this spectrum is Han essentially funding the beginnings of the Rebel Alliance. I know the movie isn't clear as to whether this is THE Rebellion or A Rebellion. But they use the words Rebellion and Alliance to refer to it at different times, and it's clearly supposed to make us think about the beginnings of the Rebellion. The movie also tells us early on that one of those fuel cells is worth like 800 credits and that that could buy a ship. So they establish that 800 credits is A LOT of value in this universe. Han hands over 6 MILLION CREDITS to this Rebellion at the end. He quite literally gives them the money they would need to build an army and a fleet to combat the Empire with. Now, in the context of this movie, in a vacuum, that works great! It makes the arc of the movie Han discovering his own good will and turns it into a hero's journey of a kind. I like this plot point a lot as it pertains to this movie and this movie alone. However, this movie does in fact exist in the larger SW Universe, and the Han we meet in Episode IV seems to know very little of the Rebellion, not give a shit about their cause, and has never really done a good or selfless thing in his life. The ending of SOLO is in complete conflict with what we know about the character in the original STAR WARS, and even kind of ruins Han's arc of... you guessed it, discovering his good will.
So we've got some things that can only work if this movie exists in the greater SW Universe, and some things that can only work if this movie is it's own movie that doesn't exist in that Universe. That's a huge problem I think, and continually put me at odds with this movie both times I saw it. And I think ultimately this is just a prequel problem - you are always going to run into these kinds of issues if you keep looking backwards and trying to fill in details. It's not worth it, especially with a universe that has endless potential and could always be expanding and marching forward.
All of that said, I really like this movie and can forgive these super nerdy complaints because it's just a damn entertaining movie. Also, it gave us space R&B and for the love of god please, please Kathleen, release an album from this duo. I'm ready to retire my D'Angelo albums and fuck to sexy space jams for the rest of my life.