SOLO Is Too Fun To Take Fighting Seriously
Yesterday night at around 9:30PM, I was wide awake. It's usually around that time that the pangs of tiredness start to emanate from the back of my eyes, culminating in me fighting sleep and slowly succumbing to it over the course of the next three hours. But as the beneficiary of a midafternoon nap – a siesta, if you will – I probably had an extra couple of hours before the drowsiness came for me. On a hunch, I found a 10:30PM showing of Solo: A Star Wars Story, and decided to go.
Ever since I heard of and got my hands on Moviepass (the movie-watching service that lets you watch one movie a day in theaters every day for $10/month), I've found that movies have become more enjoyable. No longer do I have to be mad at the movie if I didn't enjoy it (before Moviepass, if I saw something that was bad enough to be considered not-worth-the-money, I'd movie hop to catch the end of something else just so I could feel like I wasn't robbed). No longer do I have to sit through a movie if it sucks – I can just leave halfway. No longer do I have to go see insufferably long movies (anything over 111 minutes is usually too much) just to prolong the once-a-month-at-most experience of going to the silver screen.
As I was in line for Solo, I saw that it ran for 2 hours and 15 minutes, an almost instant turn off (though nothing will compare to Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and Titanic's 200 minute slogs). Coupled with the fact that December's The Last Jedi had me asking a question every couple of minutes and that Solo seemed like a generally unnecessary movie, I almost thought of just going home. After all, it would still be out on DVD before the next Star Wars movie came out. But I decided to stay – the theater had reclining seats, and at the very least I could get a head start on that night's sleep (for the record, I've fallen asleep during three other in-theater experiences: Guardians of the Galaxy, Tomb Raider, All The Money in the World). But 135 minutes later, I walked out of the theater, still unburdened by droopy eyelids or neck soreness, overall pleasantly surprised.
It was the Spiderman: Homecoming (or even Fantastic Beasts) of the Star Wars universe – remember that Homecoming didn't deal with the fate of the world, or infinity stones, or feel the need to force plot points for future movies. It was just about a high-schooler going to prom with a 27-year-old actress. Beasts was literally about a zoologist who happens to be in a world where magic and wizards exist. Solo didn't mess with the force, the Jedi, the Skywalkers, or anything else of major consequence really. It was unburdened from the weight and expectations of the Star Wars universe, letting it be a fun standalone romp without major plot implications (since Rogue One was actually a movie that served to fill a plothole) but with just enough tie-ins (Maul, references to Jabba the Hut, etc.) to make it feel like a Star Wars movie. It thrives in its unnecessary-ness, relishing its place as a "hey, that was fun" kind of movie instead of the polarizing, controversial fare we've grown accustomed to.
Sidenote: There were a lot of things I didn't like about the movie the more I thought about it, but they didn't infringe upon my enjoyment in the slightest. Quickly, they were Donald Glover's changing accent, the expendability of Dryden Vos (hasn't Paul Bettany suffered enough), the ultimate irrelevance of the worm alien crime lord in the beginning, the gloss-over of Thandie Newton's character's death, the lingering shots at Han's dice (yeah, we get it, they're symbolic), Alden Ehrenreich's weird tendency to smile literally every time he says something (seriously, go back and watch it, it's creepy), Darth Maul pulling out his lightsaber for no reason while facetiming with Qi'ra, the annoying text at the beginning (who needs exposition when we can just read shit in a movie theater), the Millennium Falcon's general overpowered-ness (seriously, how does this specific ship manage to survive through two trilogies and a spin-off?), and Woody Harrelson's foreshadowing "don't trust anyone" line.
But Solo did serve one larger purpose in context of the entire Star Wars franchise. It had no lightsabers. None. (Well fine, one, if you really count Maul's, which you shouldn't because that should have been a post-credits scene.) It was an interesting (and in the end, a great) choice to leave out the most iconic symbol of the universe, instead reverting back to standard blasters, cannons, and TIE fighters. When characters have lightsabers, they may as well have complete immunity in any combat scene – it's like they have Deadpool's swords built in. A long-running joke of the franchise is how incompetent the storm troopers are, which is the galactic equivalent of useless cops in any other movie. The hand-wavy explanation tends to be "something something THE FORCE something," which doesn't exactly help build any tension or emotional investment, especially when The Force Awakens introduces us to a storm trooper who can… wield a light saber by movie's end? In Solo, while we don't have saber-immunity, the variable aim of the antagonists borderlines on ridiculous. The same rebels who thwarted the train heist at the beginning despite their poor aim somehow found time to improve their shot before they turned out to be good guys after all.
An example to look to (just the book, NOT the movie) is Christopher Paolini's Eragon (the first book of the four-part Inheritance series). It's a classic young adult premise that centers around dragons and an unsuspecting hero bestowed with unexpected responsibility, but one with an incredibly fleshed out fighting system. In Paolini's universe, the use of magic is directly tied to one's energy. Casting a spell to lift a boulder, for example, takes the same amount of energy as actually lifting that boulder; alternatively, pinching a nerve to cause a fatal heart attack barely requires any energy, but immense focus. He puts together an entire language through which spells can be cast, but emphasizes that words are simply a focusing mechanism for magic, and that magic can be performed without them (kind of like wands and staffs for wizards). The storing of energy is allowed into gemstones, and one warrior has people come to him every day to pour more energy into the stone at the hilt of his sword. Protective wards can be cast around you in a permanent fashion, so if an axe comes hurtling at your head, the ward will stop it but drain some of your energy – meaning that you can be killed by your own ward if the attack is strong enough. In all, it's a beautifully crafted combat mechanism, something that a franchise with rich history and canon like Star Wars should look to emulate.
This is the kind of thing that would be – and has been – glaring in any other Star Wars movie. but for Solo, a lack of seriousness is a part of the charm.