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The Further Adventures of Lance Nova (a no Spoilers Solo: A Star Wars Story Review)

Decided to check out the late night screening of Solo: A Star Wars story last night (thanks MoviePass, I’ll sure miss you when you die). Well, I guess this is what movies are now. One of my normal criticisms films that are franchise reboots or sequels or prequels clearly based on extending IP rather than telling a story is “would I have liked this if it weren’t connected to the other thing?” This was actually my main problem with the most recent Planet of the Apes movie. When I’m watching a movie, I want to enjoy the movie, not be hit constantly with the “franchise hammer” of “this is all connected, see! See! SEE!!!” The one thing I hated most about Rogue One was the bajillion times the movie just STOPS COLD to remind me “hey, in case you weren’t pay attention, this is a Star War!!!” as if the title weren’t enough. In fact, my least favorite part of Rogue One is all of the Darth Vader stuff that happens at the end, which I think most people love.

So I was worried about Solo. For one, there’s been a lot made in the geek and film press about the multitude of production problems the movie faced, including firing the directors half way through and reshooting almost the entire movie. Furthermore, given what the film is, a prequel to the story of a specific character with four other films and 40 years of immutable lore, it just seemed kind of pointless. It’s hard to put emotional stakes on a action story for a character who continuity demands is essentially invincible and immortal for the duration of your story. And I was not looking forward at all to the inevitable litany of forced cameos and easter eggs that usually pull me completely out of the story.

I was pleasantly surprised. I liked the movie a lot. Was it amazing? No. Was it world changing? No. But it was a pleasant and enjoyable action romp that I probably would have really enjoyed if it weren’t a Star War. In fact, I would have probably enjoyed it even more. Alden Ehrenreich never quite manages to “become” Harrison Ford’s Han Solo in the film. And in fact, anytime I started to try and compare them the movie begins to break down a little bit. But if I let it go, and allow myself to enjoy the film as it is… without assuming that the characters ever have to match up (in much the same way that I never assume that somehow Sean Connery has to become Roger Moore and eventually Daniel Craig) then I enjoy his performance quite nicely. The same is true of essentially every Easter Egg or cameo (and there aren’t that many). Unlike Rogue One or War for the Planet of the Apes, they never felt forced. They were references that one could easily ignore if one had never seen the other films in the series. They MOSTLY don’t seem hamfisted at all, actually. If I were to watch the movies  for the first time “in order” so that this came before episode IV, as it does chronologically, I don’t think anything would really “bother me” so much as there might be a scene here or there that I’d think “well, that could be cut.”

Really, I might have enjoyed the story even more if it had simply been called Lance Nova and the Great Space Heist or something along those lines. The franchisness of it doesn’t really add anything at all. This of course begs the question of why it even exists in the franchise at all. It doesn’t really need to. Han’s (or Lance Nova’s if you will) story doesn’t really need to be a part of the greater Star Wars saga at all. Unlike Rogue One, nothing that happens in this film really enhances the greater mythos in any real way, nor does the greater mythos have much to do with the events of this film at all. In fact, the most relevant tie-ins to the greater story are sort of incidental and happen in the last ten minutes or so of the film… and really, they’re kind of dumb and I would have just cut them out entirely. They’re two points that most seem like director Ron Howard just said “look, I’ll fucking acknowledge the Rebel/Skywalker storyline… ok, just leave me the fuck alone!” It’s not awful, but out of context of the other films it they just feel like “ok, so what? I guess maybe they’re setting up a sequel? Sure, I’d like to see Lance Nova in other stuff if this does well, I guess.”

But since those movies are already made, that just seems… weird. There is a sense that I have to actively ignore things. I’m never worried about Han dying, because I know when Han dies. I’m never worried about Lando or Chewie either. And this is sort of a weird feeling, because the mortal peril of the rest of the cast seems very prevalent at all points. This isn’t exactly fair. I certainly know that Luke, Leia and Han don’t die in Episode IV every time I’ve watched it after the first one. But it somehow feels different than the disjointment of what has happened in these. A disjointment that disappears entirely if I am enjoying the protagonist as Lance Nova, but returns every time I notice someone calling him Han Solo.

I almost wish there was less connection. This would be all the more compelling if it were an alternate universe. I don’t at all expect the Tom Holland’s Spider-man to adhere to the timeline fo Andrew Garfield or Tobey Maguire, and as stated before I’m completely ok with the Bond continuity being entirely nonsensical. Perhaps that’s the best way to understand this as well. Perhaps Lance Nova isn’t the Han Solo we know and love. He is an action hero in the Han Solo mold… but unique unto himself. And so long as I can cling to that, this is a quite fun summer action flick.

But why do they keep calling Han? Maybe it was a mistake in editing.

★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)

14 comments for “The Further Adventures of Lance Nova (a no Spoilers Solo: A Star Wars Story Review)

  1. avatar
    May 25, 2018 at 10:57 am

    exactly, and it’s weird. Because its the kind of thing that I don’t have to worry about EXCEPT when the movie reminds me to. That’s really the difference, if I am watching a suspenseful movie (Like Episode IV) for the second time (or millionth), I can be concerned for the safety of Han and the others in the trash compactor because the movie doesn’t constantly remind me that they’re going to be appearing again in the next film. A New Hope allows you to “forget” that Empire is coming.

    Prequels, often want you to be reminded that they’re in the franchise. Key point… MINOR SPOILER.

    SPOILER
    SPOILER
    SPOILER
    SPOILER

    There’s a moment when Han has to face “a monster” and it turns out to be Chewbacca… and the Lance Nova film wants you to go “oh no, will our hero be killed by this scary monster?” And of course you know he won’t be because there’s like an hour and a half of movie left… and he’s the star. But there’s a aura of “oh my god… that giant bear thing is crazy scary. What’s going to happen here.?”

    But when the movie is about Han Solo instead, the camera pauses to show you “hey kids, this is Chewbacca! Now we get to see how they become friends!!!” and there’s no sense of danger at all because it’s impossible to view it and not say “oh, so they’ll be buds after this!!!” and so the moment when Lance manages to turn things around and befriend the monster rather than dying, killing it or escaping is undercut because “of course they become friends… it’s Han and Chewie!”

  2. avatar
    May 25, 2018 at 10:58 am

    yeah… I mean, I did enjoy it… But it certainly loses something. I have a pretty good example that involves and incredibly minor spoiler (that you will see coming a billion miles away, because that’s kind of the point) in the Brian Herman comment above that I think really illustrates what I’m talking about. I just don’t want to say it here without explicitly warning of the spoiler like I did there.

  3. avatar
    May 25, 2018 at 11:15 am

    Again. I mean. It’s fine. It’s what you would expect from a movie about a space heist.

  4. avatar
    May 25, 2018 at 11:26 am

    I didn’t say they weren’t there. I said they weren’t hammery.

    I like world building. I don’t like stopping the movie to give R2 and 3PO lines that are otherwise completely irrelevant to anything going on.

  5. avatar
    May 25, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    Dammit. It looks like something changed with Facebook and comments are no longer syncing to my blog from anyone but me.

    Which looks really dumb.

  6. avatar
    May 25, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    I honestly don’t care about any of the EU stuff (old or new) one way or the other. I’ve played some games. I’ve read a comic of two. Whatever.

    I’m far more interested with how each individual film stands on it’s own and in conjunction with what it specifically and reasonably calls for you to be aware of.

    That is empire assumes a knowledge of New hope. And that’s kind of fine. Honestly to the extent that it does, if you missed Ep IV you’d still be fine.

    Rogue One REQUIRES you to be up on Ep IV. The entire last 30 min of the movie is utterly pointless if you aren’t. And in fact it’s not really watchable in chronological order because whole wasted egg sight gags require you to have knowledge of films that chronologically come after it. Even the central thesis of the film essentially ruins all dramatic plot and tension to Ep IV.

    Solo more or less avoids this. It’s probably a better movie if you don’t think about the connections. I only get annoyed the few times it forces me to.

  7. avatar
    May 25, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    That’s not exactly fair. But not exactly wrong either.

    I mean Mikey is right. I don’t ask for MOST movies. I didn’t ask for Lady Bird. But it was my favorite film of last year.

    That’s said the problem becomes that in a franchise you essentially are entering into a partnership with the fans. No one marketed this movie as “go see superstar director Ron Howard’s new space heist movie!” They said “go get more Star Wars. Pay money because it’s Star Wars and you love Star Wars!” And that comes with certain responsibilities to the fan base that are inherent in reaping the rewards of the loyalty.

  8. avatar
    May 25, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    Sure. But there are always more stories to tell. The “cheat” as you put it of assuming familiarity with the character to short circuit having to make the audience care is actually just lazy writing.

    This film more or less avoided that. But most prequels (and many sequels) really don’t.

    This is really obvious in the Die Hard franchise. The magic of the first film is that it’s a story of a guy who is completely out of his element. He’s not prepared for the situation he’s been dropped into. Raiders does this too, to an extent. But each successive McLane or Indy film makes this seem “more normal”. And the prequels especially (for which both franchises are currently planing) seem weird because “well damn, why did he have so much problem with the villain in the first film. He’s been doing this shit since he was 12”

  9. avatar
    May 25, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    Yes. But that’s a separate issue. I mean I liked Last Jedi. Or mostly I did. My issues with it weren’t the issues that the fanboys had. My issues were that they tried to do too much and crammed 4 tonally distinct films together which left all four feeling undeveloped. I actually want more from all of them.

    But the problem is when you’re short circuiting like that and not earning your narrative you cease being a story and you’re only selling spectacle. There’s nothing wrong with selling spectacle. I go to fireworks shows too. But when the medium devolves to pure spectacle with no substance you reap diminishing returns. You become transformers. You become the hobbit movies.

    People didn’t fall in love with Star Wars because of laser swords. They think they did. But they didn’t. They fell in love with a multilayered epic story. That was the entire point last Jedi was trying to make.

  10. avatar
    May 25, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    and that’s fine… like I said, there’s nothing wrong with world building. The key is to use it as world building as opposed to homework.

    Best way I can explain it…. You may love the story of plucky cantina barback Brando C’pp-Mill from Tattooine in little known 1983 novel “The Mos Isley Menagerie” and the four sequels it spawned… And that’s great. This is an independent story that inherits from the rich world that is Star Wars…

    BUT, I should never be forced, as a fan of the main series, to know shit from that novel. If you have to mention Ensign Link C’pp-Mill in Ep IX, and those in the know get he’s the son of Brando, then yay! But you can’t require any of the rest of us to understand the very important plot point that he is still carrying around the Mystic Gem of Pl’tdevyce that his father inherited during that first adventure. That’s broken.

    Think of it as a real event rather than fictional world building. I like the movie Saving Private Ryan. I like the movie Dunkirk. And I like Captain America: The First Avenger. They all use WWII as a backdrop. That is their world. I don’t know that the three movies DON’T happen in the same universe. They very well might. But I’m not required to know anything about one to enjoy the other two.

  11. avatar
    May 25, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    well, there were many themes. There’s always many themes. But I meant that point in particular was important. Johnson wanted to say that the story matters, the character development matter, not just the spectacle. Luke straight up tells Rey that…

  12. avatar
    May 25, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    I believe it’s mostly risk aversion. Movies —especially tentpole cgi heaven big budget blockbusters — are super expensive. Studios would rather bank on what they assume is a surefire ROI with something that says “Star Wars” on it than risk dumping money into something that might not pan out (like valerian or Jupiter ascending) the problem is if you keep doing that you never generate new franchises to milk and sooner or later the existing IP burns out,especially if the quality is bad. That’s what’s now happened with transformers and pirates of the Carribean.

  13. avatar
    May 25, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    Mikey is right. That’s a major subplot.

    Of course it also falls into the problem you mentioned. Without spoilers, Han, Chewie and Lando (all of whom you know survive) are clearly aware of the issue of droid rights and slavery of sentient beings from this movie. I won’t say where they fall on the issue. But they know it’s a thing.

    And then apparently 10 years later they just decide to never mention it again.

  14. avatar
    May 26, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    The thing with the dice is that literally no one cares about them til 6 months ago. I get that they were always there. But they weren’t important. They were just set decoration. They’re never mentioned until Luke gives them to Leia in ep VIII. They could have just as easily built a story about how important a random wall panel is.

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