The toys that support the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story have been officially unveiled, and they're a little disappointing. The whole reveal wasn't helped by most of them leaking online weeks ahead of time, and while photos can't reveal every aspect of the new toys the way hands-on time could, most of what can be seen is a big letdown. Let's take a look.
The two big hitters here are Lego and Hasbro. The former has five brick-building sets based on vehicles from the movie - two Landspeeders, an Imperial Patrol, a new TIE Fighter. and the redesigned "Kessel Run Millennium Falcon" - and a handful of $10 Microfighters — miniature versions of popular vehicles like the Falcon and TIE Fighter. Hasbro's got their usual action figures (complete with "Force Link" connectivity), vehicles, and board games. Safe to say, there's a lot of ways for Solo hype to grow beyond the film.
The thing is, none of this is terribly exciting — or surprising.
Why The Solo Merchandise Is Underwhelming
At the core of the audience wariness over Solo is the risk of it being a reference-heavy run through Han's backstory, and the toys embody that unavoidably. There is some new, unique stuff in there, but when you get to the proposed "highlights" it's all a bit familiar. The new TIE Fighter doesn't look much different than TIE Fighter sets of the past, aside from some new details. Likewise, the new Millennium Falcon has some additional plates and different coloring, but it still looks an awful lot like the same old Falcon just re-skinned, especially the Lego version. Every detail — from the top and bottom turrets to the landing ramp, to the unfolding Lego top with petal-like panels that open outward — can be seen in previous versions released. There is, of course, the new nose and radar dish, but the base model isn't that fresh - nor does it appear like it can be stripped down to reveal the version we know (as is expected in the film).
The two biggest sets being revised versions of sets Lego has done several times already is extremely disappointing. Perhaps the movie doesn't lend itself to more original Lego set ideas, but the five they have announced feel halfhearted. Regardless of if that's a problem stemming from the movie's production design, right now there's just no big incentive to shell out hundreds of dollars for carbon copies of sets that serious fans already have. Even the same Microfighter sets have been done before.
Likewise, the new Hasbro toys and board games feel like they're merely going through the motions, offering the expected products for a new Star Wars movie without any real innovation. The Falcon does offer a couple of play features that look to be lifted from the events of Solo, but at the end of the day, it's not far from Malibu Stacy with a new hat.
The Solo Merchandise Leaks Preceded The Trailer
There seems to be some knowledge that these toys aren't quite up to the standard we've come to expect. The release has been pretty muted, with the merchandise revealed across several websites in direct contrast to the massive "Force Friday" events for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. The same level of hype can't be expected for the Anthology films as the Saga entries - Rogue One too had a more measured release - but they really should play into the movie's marketing. For Solo, things feel to be just dumped. We've previously praised Lucasfilm's decision to delay the trailer, but the knock-on effect on the toys is less deft.
Indeed, most of these toys were leaked before Lucasfilm had shown a single frame of footage from the movie; it was from merchandise art we got our first look at Alden Ehrenreich's Han Solo, Donald Glover's Lando, and the redesigned Millennium Falcon, months ahead of the eventual Solo teaser trailer. This felt disorganized and meant many got their first taste of Solo in less than ideal fashion.
That context is important in assessing the toys. We're now three films into Disney-era Star Wars and have a fourth movie wave of toys that don't offer more than we had before; the last Millennium Falcon from Hasbro and Lego was released less than six months ago. Again, much of this seems to come from the movie's release method - hitting just over five months after The Last Jedi, Lucasfilm has had to change tact - but doesn't excuse Solo from not stepping up.
There are still some positives in this. At the least, the Hasbro figures and Lego Minifigures are the usual high standard and over a wide range of characters - Han (Ehrenreich), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke), Lando Calrissian (Glover), Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) - and from what we can tell the merchandise is still up to the expected quality. It's just not what we expect from Star Wars at this point, nor what Solo needs.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019