Throwback Thursday: The Humor in Solo: A Star Wars Storyby Todd King, contributing writer
Solo: A Star Wars Story seemed to have misfortune with timing. Many now think it came out too soon after The Last Jedi, which fans were still… discussing, and which had been through a somewhat troubled production. Still others thought we just didn't need a backstory for our favorite smuggler-turned-hero—that we had already experienced his character's arc in the original trilogy and in the more-recent The Force Awakens, where he was shown as a true believer in the Force but someone who may have been too late to accept the problems that come with it. In any case, Solo turned out to be not quite as successful a film as previous ones in the Star Wars franchise. It wasn't a bomb but it didn't meet expectations enough to convince Disney execs to slow down the film output. We've seen over the last two years that one planned film trilogy has been dropped and that the Obi-Wan movie was changed to a TV series for Disney Plus. We're at a point now that after next month's release of The Rise of Skywalker we don't really know what is coming next to cinemas. Regardless of this somewhat negative vibes surrounding it, Solo is a fun adventure movie with great action, nerve-wracking heists, and funny comradery.
The funny parts is what I'm focusing on here as I have explored the comedy of Star Wars movies this entire year. So let's forget box office figures and take Solo out of its release time and see it as it was meant to be seen: as a stand-alone. By itself and at its heart, Solo is a Western in space, but also a crime-heist movie, an adventure, and a buddy flick. That's enough to pass any studio exec's checklist for a blockbuster. Let's take a look more at the humor, no matter what genre its scene is painting.
The Comical Moments of Solo
Yeah, it's not much of a "throwback" for this Thursday, since Solo came out just last year. But hey—let's just keep with theme anyway.
We quickly meet Han trying to make a getaway—from what, we don't know. He soon meets up with Qi'ra, his partner. For as much as we may have thought of Han as a loner, as somebody who goes "solo," he is always united with someone close to him. At first it is Qi'ra, later with Chewbacca (and still later with even more friends). We see that when he is indeed solo, he is lost and in peril. Even later when he is separated from Leia, things don't go so well. Things are always better when he's with those he loves. Those others bring out the best in him, and he brings out the best in others.
Flying in No Time
The only thing left of the hapless droid is its head as its dying word is to finish its previous sentence with, "protocol." There is the start of piles of collateral damage throughout this story. © Lucasfilm.
…and in both instances of Han saying, "Watch this," his progress is halted. Here on Corellia his speeder gets stuck in a narrow passage. Turns out he learns from this mistake and adjusts his skills accordingly while he's a pilot. © Lucasfilm.
Their escape doesn't go as planned and Han pursues his dream of being a pilot. The Empire puts him to work saying, "We'll have you flying in no time." Cut to the next image and it's Han literally flying, but not from within a ship but from the impact of a blast after he's demoted to infantry. © Lucasfilm.
On the battlefield, Han notices an Imperial officer with some extra arms that pull up his loose pants. Dexter Jettster introduced himself to us in a similar way in "Attack of the Clones." © Lucasfilm.
The officer in question turns out to be Rio Durant, the Ardennian pilot of Tobias Beckett's outlaw group. Here, Rio sheds the gear saying, "How do they breathe in these suits," which I've taken as a send up to the introduction of Dark Helmet in "Spaceballs." © Lucasfilm.
When Hairy Met Solo
When you think of great duos in movie history, Han and Chewbacca are among the best.
Han doesn't make friends too quickly and Beckett (impersonating an officer himself) turns him in where the commander tells his troopers to feed Han to the beast. Han, shocked, shouts, "Wait! There's a beast?!" © Lucasfilm.
The beast turns out to be Chewbacca but he and Han aren't friends yet. As the wookie nearly strangles Han in the mud, the human lets out a loud gurgle—but it turns out Han can speak Shyriiwook (a little) and it makes Chewie stop and consider this human in a different light. © Lucasfilm.
Han, speaking Chewie's language, devises a plan to escape which involves knocking down a support beam holding the platform where the troops were standing. I love their crumple physics as they flail about the instant their floor collapses. © Lucasfilm.
Rio helps convince Beckett to take Han and Chewie with them to work on their team saying that you'll never have a better sleep than when "you're curled up in a wookie's lap." And yes it sounds like he's speaking from experience. © Lucasfilm.
Han doesn't back down saying that they could have taken showers "one at a time," but this scene shows the initial phases of their friendship—that it's not one a time, but that they're in this together. Even this shower. © Lucasfilm.
The Coolest Scoundrel
The party gets started when Lando strikes a deal with Tobias Beckett and the gang and joins the adventure. Donald Glover steals the scenes as Lando Calrissian and is likable right from the start.
They need someone with a fast ship. Qi'ra says, "I know a guy." We already know who she means but it is a humorous way to introduce Lando by having Qi'ra confirm both his fame and notoriety. © Lucasfilm.
Lando plays with this and calls Han with a short "a" and Han corrects him back. What's funny is that when we see Lando again in "Empire Strikes Back," he still pronounces Han's name like this, probably to provoke him continuously. © Lucasfilm.
Han and Lando's rivalry is portrayed with such language throughout their stories. They don't always punch each other with fists, their fights are more often with their words, like here when Lando says, "The grown-ups are talking." © Lucasfilm.
He can't get enough of himself. When alone on the Falcon waiting for the others to pull their heist, he goes into what is obviously a routine of keeping an audio journal of his adventures that he calls, "The Chronicles of Calrissian" of which he's beginning Chapter 5. © Lucasfilm.
As they look upon the tattered Millennium Falcon, Han realizes it got them this far and praises it, "She's a hell of a ship." Lando, however, seems to consider all he's lost or nearly lost and replies ..." © Lucasfilm.
Lando: "I hate you." Han, being Han, says: "I know." This, of course, is a call back to his famous line in Empire Strikes Back, but here it serves as a reversal; he's being a bit sarcastic here, but later with Leia, the same line takes on a new and sincere meaning. © Lucasfilm.
Like in westerns, you're always going after somebody and somebody is always going after you. Beckett can't seem to shake Enfys Nest off his tail--much the same way Han had a difficult time with another masked rival, Boba Fett. Unlike westerns, this showdown defies expectations.
Confronted by Enfys Nest, Han once again tries to talk his way out of a situation, and once again failing. He tells the group that onboard the Falcon are 30 hired guns that will surround them in an instant—and in the next instant, Lando flies away. © Lucasfilm.
As the allegiances begin to shift, Beckett turns on them all and makes off with the coaxium saying to Dryden, "Why you gotta be so negative?" I think it's his funniest moment for a guy who has been mostly negative on this entire journey. This needs to be memed. © Lucasfilm.
Fair and Square
We knew this moment was coming and to see it played out is an absolute joy. Tapping into the western motif again, we find another high-stakes card game with a little bit of revenge tossed into the pot.
Chewie and Han, ever the team, enhance the drama at the sabacc game when he shows his wookie friend his hand and Chewie recoils in apparent disgust. It's enough to give Lando an even greater false sense of security. © Lucasfilm.
As we had expected, Han gets the better of Lando, calls him out on his cheating, and wins the bet and the Falcon. As we view Lando's look of defeat, we hear Han say he won "Fair and square!"… Han brings this moment back up in Empire where Lando keeps his cool and lets it go. © Lucasfilm.
I believe there is so much more that could be explored in the stories of Han, Chewie, Lando, and Qi'ra that I'm left wanting more. There are lots of adventures that could be told, and the chemistry of these characters and the actors themselves is too good to pass up. So if anybody of any influence is reading allow me to join the movement supported by the Resistance Broadcast podcast: Make Solo 2 Happen!… er… #MakeSolo2Happen
This basically concludes my series on highlighting the humor in the Star Wars movies. While there's still The Rise of Skywalker to talk about, that one will have to wait until it is available on video or streaming. Thank you for reading this series and hopefully it has reminded us of the light side of things and of the fun in our favorite movies. Even in the darkest and most-serious of times, there is still true humor to be found both in the movies and in our lives. These moments help us find the joy in life. Laughter brings us together on a common ground where we realize we face many of the same problems in life and that we're not alone in our struggles. I look forward to more humor, but also epic stories, in Star Wars stories for years to come. And now with Disney Plus…
Oh yeah, Disney Plus started!
…and now with Disney+ started I can finally catch up on all the Star Wars stuff I've been missing—namely, The Clone Wars, Rebels, Resistance, and most-recently The Mandalorian. Yes, I'm quite behind in these adventures, but with the new streaming service I will have a great time exploring these stories and that is probably what I will cover in this new year of 2020. While I will still discuss the humor, I may take a general approach and offer a new take on some of these shows that have been around for awhile but that I've not yet seen. As an old Star Wars fan maybe I can bring some fresh eyes to these stories and share my long-winded thoughts with you. Over all this time it's been hard to avoid spoilers but I'll be going into these without many expectations and a sense of anticipation. Good thing, too, since we don't know when the next movie will come. Until then, the Force will be with us, always.