Let me start off by saying this is not a persuasive essay; it’s an explanatory one. I’m not trying to convince anyone to skip Solo: A Star Wars Story nor do I think they should if they want to see it. I hope everyone who wants to see it, does. And I hope they enjoy themselves! I’ve talked to a few close friends who saw it and thought it was great. I’m happy for them. I don’t want the movie to do poorly or for people to be disappointed. I just can’t see myself seeing it (at least not yet). I wasn’t even going to write about this because I didn’t want to seem like I was being contrary just for the sake of it nor that I was trying to trash the film. But people keep asking me if/when I’m seeing Solo. I’ve discussed it in Facebook posts, messages and texts, emails, and more than a few times in person with family, friends, and students. So I just decided to write about it.
Here it is – I’m not going to see Solo: A Star Wars Story and I’m okay with that.
I will admit, it’s a very weird feeling to know a new Star Wars movie is out there and I’m not experiencing it. Kalie and I went to see Deadpool 2 (again) the night Solo came out. I was pleased with our choice…but it was still a foreign feeling to see lines – lines for a Star Wars movie I might add – and not be in them. I’ve never missed the opening night for a Star Wars movie since the Special Edition re-releases and opening nights in general are something I love to be a part of. Not being there is still something I’m trying to sort out. This piece may be as much an attempt to fully explore my own thoughts and feelings on the matter as to explain them to others. But I want to underscore I am not trying to trash this movie. I know there’s a lot of that going on online. I don’t want to contribute to it nor do I believe it’s warranted. Just because a Star Wars movie doesn’t interest me doesn’t mean it’s not a good film.
So then…why doesn’t Solo interest me?
Well, I was never excited at the idea of a Han Solo prequel to begin with. I think he’s perfect in the Original Trilogy. I’ve never felt he needed “more.” Despite my deep love of the Expanded Universe, it took me decades to finally read the six novels we have about him set before A New Hope in the EU. Even as a kid, I felt Han’s story was solid. I didn’t need to know what happened “before” (unlike Obi-Wan and Anakin whose expansion in the Prequels felt essential). I was given those novels as gifts and I was legitimately uncomfortable at the thought of reading them. Take a second to soak in this image of overthinking – little thirteen-year-old me, all angsty about reading novels I got as a present because it felt narratively superfluous. But they for real stressed me out! I couldn’t read them!
Now, I’m not saying I’ll never watch it. The fact that I eventually read and really enjoyed those novels suggests I may eventually watch and really like this film too. It’s just – if I’m being honest – Disney’s given me serious Star Wars fatigue. It’s all coming so fast and I’ve yet to truly love anything the Disney Canon’s done (with the exception of the Rogue One film/Catalyst novel combo). I’ve written of how it took me over a year to come to the point where I can enjoy The Force Awakens. And when I saw The Last Jedi I had to frame it as a folktale instead of myth in my mind in order to appreciate it. I realized I keep having to find ways to enjoy what I’m seeing. The instant love and awe I always felt with George Lucas’s work rarely hits me in the new canon. I’m tired from trying to figure out how to love these movies. Is it another issue of overthinking? Perhaps. But it’s who I am with regard to Star Wars.
Part of it, I think, is the speed with which I’m getting all these new films. Solo: A Star Wars Story marks the fourth Star Wars movie Disney’s released. They released four movies from December 2015 to May of 2018. It took George Lucas from May of 1977 until May of 1999 to do the same. I guess I like more time and more thought put into my Star Wars movies with more space in between them to soak it all in. I grant, in order to not appear hypocritical, this is not something I expect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But, as the title of this piece suggests, I’ve different expectations for different universes. The MCU has dozens of corners to their universe and hundreds of characters to explore. I grant this can be the case with Star Wars…but it’s never been how I approach Star Wars nor, I’m learning, how I want to approach Star Wars (although I will say the pace of Marvel’s releases is problematic as well – I hadn’t even begun to soak in all Black Panther was before Infinity War hit; I’d like more time to appreciate what I have there too). Again, I acknowledge this is a me issue. I’m not saying Disney is wrong in how they are producing Star Wars content, nor that people shouldn’t engage with all of it if they want to. It’s just that I’m struggling with it personally.
The other part of it, certainly, is the Disney Canon hasn’t given me anything with the intentional theology and mythology Lucas always delivered. I’m really struggling to get around this. I tried, in my post on The Last Jedi, to approach it as folktale instead of mythology. But I’m still having trouble. Star Wars that isn’t intentionally theological and mythic is a larger problem for me than I would like it to be. I don’t know if I can change this part of myself…but I’m not sure I would want to anyway.
Hannah, my Star Wars & Contemporary Myth co-teacher, captured my feelings perfectly:
As I discussed in my piece on The Last Jedi, George Lucas read over fifty books on world religions as well as delving into Joseph Campbell’s work on comparative mythology before he wrote Star Wars to make his story authentically function as a modern myth. Even though it was always aimed at children, he wanted to tell an ancient story in a new way. Lucas introduced the Force to get kids thinking about what the Divine could be and he intentionally modelled Star Wars on what prominent theologian Marcus Borg calls, “one of humankind’s most widespread archetypal stories: the ancient cosmic combat myth.” Borg continues, “The cosmic combat myth appears in many cultures, ancient and modern, and it takes many forms. The archetypal plot is a story of cosmic conflict between good and evil. In the ancient world, the conflict was between a god (or gods) of light, order and life against an evil power of darkness, disorder, and death.” Borg makes the connection to Lucas’s work directly himself, writing:
In our own time, this ancient myth is the central plot element of the Star Wars movies; the battle between good and evil symbolized in the conflict between Jedi knights wielding light-sabers against an empire of darkness whose most vivid representative is Lord Darth Vader, commander of the ‘Death Star.’ The popularity of the Star Wars saga is due not simply to the stunning special effects, but also to the re-presentation of this ancient story. The series taps into something deep within human memory and consciousness: the awareness of conflict between good and evil and the yearning that good will triumph.
All this is to say, the mythology/theology has always been a part Lucas’s Star Wars and without it…I just can’t have the same relationship. Again, so as not to seem hypocritical, the absence of this is something I accept within the MCU. But Lucas set out very intentionally to create modern mythology. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby didn’t. Comics and comic book characters quickly took on mythic roles in our culture. They embraced social issues sooner rather than later and progressive messages have always been a part of them. But an intentional theological/mythological message wasn’t integral to their inception. So if an MCU movie’s “just fun,” that’s fine and I enjoy it. If it goes deeper and has something more to say, I adore it all the more. But if Star Wars is “just fun,” for me it’s forsaken what it was always intended to be. As such, it doesn’t mean the same to me. While the Disney Canon movies have all been fun and exciting, they haven’t delivered the intentional mythology/theology I look for in Star Wars.
If I’ve yet to find something that’s essential for me in my Star Wars stories in the Disney Canon films, I can’t imagine how going to see a movie I wasn’t especially excited about to begin with (one which I doubt will have this intentional theology and mythology in it) will help me. I think it will just frustrate me. Why would I do that to myself? Instead of going and feeling angsty again, I’m sitting this one out (at least for now).
As counter-intuitive as it feels to skip an opening night and a new Star Wars movie, I felt a wave of very real relief wash over me when I decided I wasn’t going to see Solo, so I knew it was the right call (I know, first world problems). It’s just not the right movie for me, at least not now. Maybe, like those Han Solo novels in the EU, I’ll see it eventually and be able to appreciate it for the fun it is and not what I need it to be. But I’m not there yet.
I want to reiterate once more what I said at the beginning of this post. It’s not my goal to convince anyone else not to see Solo. If you want to see it, I hope you do and I hope you love it! I don’t think my perspective on this film is in any way the “right” one. But it is very personal and what’s right for me. I also want to be clear that I realize I’m a dying breed here. I’m okay with this too. With new content coming all the time and new fans coming into this saga every year, my Lucas-centric, intentional mythology approach to Star Wars will increasingly become a thing of the past (outside of the students who take the Star Wars class with Hannah and I 🙂 ). When the Prequels came out, a lot of “adult fans” were frustrated by them. Now I’ve hit that age, wrestling with the Star Wars movies that are coming out not feeling “right” to me. But just as I grew up at a time where the Expanded Universe novels and the Prequels were always an essential part of my Star Wars experience (The Phantom Menace coming out when I was in tenth grade), so too are fans entering this saga with The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi forming the foundation of their love of Star Wars. There’s the potential some new fans are meeting Han, Chewie, and Lando for the first time in Solo this weekend. And, depending on how it does, there’s the chance Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo and Donald Glover will play Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian in more films than Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, and Billy Dee Williams have.
This FREAKS ME OUT. But it’s the future. Skipping Solo: A Star Wars Story may be the right move for me, but it isn’t for many existing fans of the Star Wars Saga and it certainly won’t be for new ones. I’ve made my peace with this, even if I can’t quite figure out how to make my peace with Solo and this new age of Star Wars.
In the mood for more Han Solo? Well, who isn’t?
For more on why Han Solo is so perfect in the Original Trilogy, check out Jeff’s post “The Audacity of Solo” here.
For a look at the EU Han Solo novels I mentioned above, as well as a bit of speculation as to how they may shape the new film, check out Mei-Mei’s post “Hints of Han’s EU Past in Solo: A Star Wars Story?” here.
 Laurent Bouzereau, Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, (New York: Ballantine, 1997), 35.
 Bill Moyers and George Lucas, “Of Myth and Men: A conversation between Bill Moyers and George Lucas on the meaning of the Force and the true theology of Star Wars,” Time, April 26, 1999, 90.
 Ibid., 93.
 Ibid., 92.
 Marcus Borg, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but Not Literally. (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), 281.
 Ibid., 282.
 Ibid., 282-3.