#9 in my Ranking of the Star Wars franchise.
This feels more like several episodes of television stitched together rather than a single movie, and I think it suffers greatly for it. There’s also a conflict of directorial styles that pops up from time to time that makes the experience just a little bit more jarring on top of the rest.
The first episode of the film is Han’s life on Corellia. He’s a street thug who steals a car as the very first thing he does in the film. He runs back to his home in a subterranean tunnel and finds Qi’ra, his girlfriend. In a quick conversation of pure exposition, the two establish that they have a relationship and they want to escape. There’s no real emotion here because the dialogue is too short and delivered too quickly while the relationship created is too shallow. We get no real sense of their lives on Corellia and there’s no tangible reality to their dreams. It’s not about some specific place, but an idea of just going. It’s all very thin stuff from which to build a relationship that’s supposed to carry Han’s entire emotional journey for the film, but there we are.
The two end up escaping to an spaceport where they get separated. Qi’ra disappears into the crowd while Han gets through the doors (with apparently no plan for how he would afford tickets) and immediately signs up for the Imperial Navy.
Three years later, he’s a grunt in the middle of a fight and we get the second episode. This revolves around Han escaping from Imperial service and joining a criminal crew led by Beckett out to steal highly valuable fuel from a train on another planet. Oh, and he picks up Chewbacca because of course. The job involves five characters, two of whom get a surprising amount of screen time before their quick deaths never to be mentioned again. The actual heist is excitingly filmed but more of an action scene than a heist. Still, it straddles the line and I think it pulls it off.
They end up screwing up the heist and needing to come up with another way to get what they promised Crimson Dawn, the criminal organization that had hired them. This is the beginning of the third episode where Han reunites with Qi’ra who works for Dryden Vos, the Crimson Dawn bigwig who’s pulling the strings. This emotional reunion falls flat because we never really got a good sense of the relationship between the split nor of Qi’ra’s character at all. Together with Qi’ra, Han, Beckett, and Chewbacca fly to find a ship. Why Crimson Dawn doesn’t have fast ships to use…eh…they need to bring Lando into this movie somehow, right?
So, they find Lando, have a fake out for the gambling match where Han will win the Millennium Falcon from Lando, and rope him into their plot along with the incredibly abrasive L3-37, an android who’s only drive is to tell people about how oppressed she is. Together, they go to Kessell where they plan a heist. This heist never really actually gets a plan and immediately turns into a chaotic action scene where L3 frees slaves, Han gets the valuable fuel, L3 dies, and the rest get away. We then get the much ballyhooed Kessel Run, designed to justify Lucas’ misunderstand of what a parsec is when he originally wrote Star Wars. It’s a special effects sequence that’s occasionally beautiful to look at but often incomprehensible, ending with a black hole and giant tentacle monster.
Finally, we get the final episode of this miniseries where Han and the gang land on a planet and figure out that some unimportant marauders that pestered them in the second episode are actually good guys and the beginning of the rebellion somehow. Han goes completely out of character and gives them a fortune, leaving nothing for himself. He also does something completely in character by killing Beckett before Beckett has a chance to kill him.
The feeling of a television series never really left me, and it’s largely because of the second “episode”, more specifically because of the two characters who die then. Those are Val, Beckett’s wife, and Rio, a four armed CGI alien. We spend a pretty good scene getting to know them. In fact, the relationship between Val and Beckett is better established than the one between Han and Qi’ra, but then both Val and Rio die in the action. They are then, literally, never mentioned again. They feel like guest stars in one episode of television, but audiences can’t be expected to remember a guest star from three weeks ago, so they just never come up again.
That’s another way of me saying that there’s really no story here. It’s just a series of events that happen to involve the same character. What’s Han’s journey? Becoming Han Solo, the lovable rogue from Star Wars? I don’t really see the journey because there’s simply so much other stuff going on. Han kind of falls to the side for surprisingly large chunks of the film.
I don’t hate this film completely. I really like Alden Ehrenreich as Han. I think he has a swagger that fits the character really well. Donald Glover is great as Lando, just full of overbearing self-confidence. I also like a lot of the design of the film. The gangster at the beginning who’s a giant practical worm extending from a pool of water is great, but the movie’s so darkly filmed that everything’s just so hard to see. My theory on that is that the special effects were done too quickly and didn’t hold up to great scrutiny, so they cranked down the contrast on the images to try and hide the flaws.
I find this movie really frustrating at best.
Netflix Rating: 2/5
Quality Rating: 1.5/4