One of the more common critiques of Solo: A Star Wars Story is that it isn't a narrative that "needed" to be told, but the same can be said about every installment in the famed franchise. When Lucasfilm first officially confirmed Solo back in the summer of 2015, it was the new Star Wars film met with the most trepidation. Despite the prequel trilogy's improved reputation in the past two decades, the fan base still has a shaky history with origin stories of beloved characters, and this one had the added wrinkle of recasting Harrison Ford as the iconic smuggler. When you factor in the various production issues Solo endured, some wondered why the studio was bothering to go through all this for a film nobody asked for.
When Solo held its world premiere earlier this month, many were curious to see what the reactions were. While the reviews are mostly positive (arguably better than one would expect given the behind-the-scenes drama), the consensus is that the spinoff plays it a bit safe and has no higher ambition than to be a fun heist movie in the Star Wars galaxy. A refrain that's popped up post-embargo is questioning Solo's necessity, though that's a rather curious complaint and paints viewers in a somewhat hypocritical light.
No Star Wars Movie Was Ever 'Needed'
The problem with using "this movie doesn't need to exist" in a review is that it's not a valid form of film criticism. Much like sports, music, and other forms of entertainment, movies are a luxury available for people to consume as they please. It's hard to argue that any film ever made is "needed." This isn't to say there aren't those that can take a greater sense of cultural significance and empower millions of people around the world (as we've seen with Wonder Woman and Black Panther in recent years), but the main objective of movies - particularly genre tentpoles like Star Wars - is to simply be escapism and thrill audiences with otherworldly stories.
This exact point was raised by Solo screenwriters Lawrence and Jon Kasdan in a recent interview, where Jon said Solo is as "needed" as Iron Man 2 or Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. Of course, creatives aren't going to bash a film of theirs prior to release, but the two make fair points. Batman Begins was a series relaunch coming after four entries from the 1980s and '90s, while the Marvel Cinematic Universe built its foundation on secondary comic book characters few were clamoring to see onscreen (something proven by Sony opting to only pursue the Spider-Man film rights, not all of Marvel). So if the "necessary" question can be applied to two of the most successful (and industry-changing) franchises of the 21st century, the harsh reality Star Wars fans need to accept is that their favorite galaxy wasn't needed, either.
Related: Read Screen Rant's Solo Review
George Lucas' struggles to get A New Hope off the ground illustrate how little demand there was for a Flash Gordon-inspired space opera at the time. Even when Fox decided to bet on the project, Alan Ladd was investing more in Lucas as an artist, not the concept. It might be more blasphemous to suggest none of the subsequent Star Wars installments were "needed" (including the beloved Empire Strikes Back), but that's also true. In a vacuum, A New Hope operates as a self-contained story with a beginning, middle, and end. It wraps up with a celebratory medal ceremony after our heroes save the day, with no cliffhanger left for a sequel. If it never spawned followups, A New Hope still works. The prequels essentially flesh out backstory alluded to in the original trilogy. The sequel trilogy is less a continuation of the first six episodes (the rise, fall, and redemption of Anakin Skywalker) and more just the next chapter in Luke, Han, and Leia's lives. Solo's fellow spinoff Rogue One expands upon a line from an opening text crawl, and audiences knew for 39 years how its story would end.
Since no movie is needed, the goal for any director is to make it a worthwhile experience for an audience. Star Wars has succeeded at that for four decades, and Solo looks to be the latest instance of that. While reviews for Ron Howard's prequel aren't as glowing as its Disney era brethren, it's still encouraging many have said it's an entertaining heist movie fueled by strong performances. Considering everything Solo went through just to be completed, that's most likely the best case scenario, but instead of celebrating that the spinoff didn't die the way of Justice League, many are pointing to the lukewarm reviews as evidence this movie wasn't needed in the first place. However, issues with Solo seem to stem from something else.
Page 2: The Hypocrisy of Star Wars Fans
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019