‘Solo’ Gives Us Star Wars’ First Clitoris Joke, And Gets A Bit Weird With Race

‘Solo’ was a solidly enjoyable adventure film. In fact, ‘Solo’ is basically what the original ‘Star Wars’ would have been if it was made today. There are some issues, though, most of which come from my nerdy background. There’s also a lot of great moments. Let’s dig through. Spoilers from here on out.


The Bad

  • Han is Good, and that’s bad. This story starts with Han being a relatively reckless young man devoted to a young woman, and ends with him being a relatively altruistic and sentimental hero. Which is fine from a “making a movie” perspective, but problematic because it’s very difficult to go from Han Solo at the end of ‘Solo’ to Han Solo at the beginning of ‘A New Hope’.
    • But admittedly, that doesn’t harm this film in its own right – it just makes it sit awkwardly in the franchise.
  • The final scene should have ended with Han sitting down at the card table. We already know he’s going to win the game and hence the Falcon, we don’t need to see it happen at that point, especially when it’s as exciting as watching two people play a card game that we don’t understand.
  • The film also didn’t sell me on the connection between Han and the Falcon. Specifically, I couldn’t understand why Han would chase down Lando at the very end just to gamble for the Falcon, when he could instead just buy a ship that he knows isn’t ripped to shreds. Put simply, it doesn’t feel like an organic character motivation, and if this wasn’t an origin story for Han Solo, captain of the Millennium Falcon, that scene wouldn’t even exist.

falcon

  • The constant heel-face-turns of almost every character at the end was dizzying. Everybody was up to something, leaving it all feeling a bit ‘Where Eagles Dare’. Qi’Ra’s seeming betrayal of Han, then her actual betrayal of Paul Bettany, then her betrayal of Han again all seemed a bit ropey, and didn’t make much sense except to wind the finale out a bit more and force in a little extra tension.
    • Specifically, her knocking the gun out of Han’s hand as he’s about to shoot Paul, then getting into a fight with Paul and killing him, just to then turn on Han for real – it was all a bit weird. If she needs to kill Paul, do it whilst he’s fighting with Han, right?
  • Darth Maul’s presence bugged me, mostly because it further validates the Prequels. Admittedly, he was one of the few memorable parts of the Prequels that isn’t painful to think about, but still.
  • I really, really, really wish we could put this whole Parsec thing behind us as a species. It’s become the low-hanging fruit of wannabe cosmic intellectuals to point out that, yes, a parsec is a distance not a time, despite the fact that not only is Han’s intentional attempt at misinformation pointed out in the original script, it’s even made clear by the sceptical “Cut the Crap” expression that Obi Wan pulls when Han tries it on. We did not need to devote a significant part of the plot of this film just to try and paper over the imagined narrative cracks caused by a single throwaway line of dialogue from forty years ago that was intended as bullshit in the first place. Jesus.
  • I had originally written in the first draft of this review:

‘Solo’ teases passing Bechdel, but falls short. However, it has got some decent representation, with a moralistic masked mercenary, a self-sufficient and suave gang lieutenant, a radical civil rights activist droid and a seasoned, ruthless scoundrel who sadly dies too early in the film – all played by women. Also a weird water-centipede thing who’s a crime boss, if that counts.

  • HOWEVER, this article was shared to me by a friend and it provides a pretty key insight that I had missed, which is that two of those cool female characters get fridged, i.e. brutally killed off just to further the character development of the men in the story. This is uncool (and, admittedly, a sign that my privileged perspective meant I didn’t even notice at first, which is shitty of me.)
  • Names have always been a bit weird and inconsistent in Star Wars, and I think ‘Solo’ amplifies that to a new level. Alongside Qi’ra, Dryden Vos and Enfys Nest, we have Val and Toby Beckett. That’s his actual name. Tobias Beckett. And it’s fairly distracting in the context of a fantastical space opera. Luke Skywalker, Ben Kenobi – they work as names because they’re a mix of generic and outlandish. “Ben Kenobi” could be a space wizard – “Toby Beckett” is never doing anything except selling used cars on the outskirts of Coventry. Or maybe playing Rugby for Macclesfield or something.
tobybeckett
This is literally the first image result I got from googling “toby beckett”.
  • Chewbacca now canonically eats people. That is a thing that is true. He also literally pulls people’s arms from their bodies. He is very literally a people-eating murderer. Remember when Han jokes in ‘A New Hope’ about Chewie dismembering people for losing a game? That’s not a joke anymore, that’s true. Do you love re-watching the old movies? Every time you do, you will now do so knowing that our heroes are wandering around with Chewbacca, WHO EATS PEOPLE. Fun times. Fun Times.

The Good

  • All the performances were solid. I had read that the two directors (who were later fired) claimed that Alden Ehrenreich was terrible as Han, but he seemed pretty good to me. Emilia Clarke was great, and Donald Glover was fucking on-point as Lando, as I’m sure we all knew he would be.
  • The action was exciting, and mostly not overdone. There was a fight on top of a speeding train and it felt like a fight on top of a speeding train, rather than some massively choreographed flip-and-spin fest. Getting shot seemed to matter. Chewie literally pulls a man’s arms out of his sockets. People get brutally tased. Droids revolt. Spaceships fly.
    • It’s worth pointing out, however, that it all got a bit martial-artsy towards the end with a the dagger fighting.
  • It’s shallow, I know, but seeing the Falcon in its fancy, clean state was nice. Also nice was Lando’s cape closet. Literally a room dedicated to holding capes. So absolutely Lando.

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  • L3 was brilliant, and it’s a great shame that she was killed off half-way through the film. Her characterisation and her motivations were excellent, as was her animation. However, the context around her motivations – that of civil rights – brings us onto the next section.
  • Speaking of L3, her response “Good luck finding it,” to Clint Howard’s “I’m going to flip your switch,” easily constitutes the first clitoris joke in Star Wars. What an age we live in.

The Weird

Star Wars has always, always had issues with race. And Gender. And sexuality. Let’s just be frank, here, in a Galaxy full of different species, planets and cultures, it took:

  • Two films to get an on-screen black actor (Billy Dee Williams as Lando).
  • Four films to get a total of four named female characters (Beru, Leia, Shmi and Padme, not counting the unnamed Mon Mothma).
  • Four films to get a second and third on-screen black actor (Hugh Quarshie and Samuel L. Jackson as Panaka and Mace Windu, respectively, not counting Jar Jar Binks).
  • Seven films to get a fourth on-screen black actor (John Boyega as Finn), and still no on-screen black women (Lupita Nyong’o played the CGI Maz Kanata).
  • Seven films to get the total named female characters up to eight (Maz, Rey and Phasma, plus the assassin Zam Wessel in ‘Attack of the Clones’) – I think I missed a couple of Padme’s handmaidens but they got about six lines between them so whatever.
  • EIGHT FILMS to get the second, third and fourth on-screen named Asian characters (Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang, both Chinese, as Chirrut and Baze, plus Riz Ahmed as Bodhi, in ‘Rogue One’). The first named Asian character is “Tasu Leech” in ‘The Force Awakens’, who, as this article points out, hardly plays a major role and is definitely not an example of positive representation.
  • ‘Solo’, the TENTH film, is the first time we meet an on-screen, named black woman.

Thandie Newton is Val in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY.

In a Galaxy full of all sorts of weird aliens and strange creatures, we have roughly nineteen hours of screentime before we meet a black woman with a name.

Star Wars has still not passed the Bechdel Test.

Star Wars has still not featured any LGBT+ characters.

Which, whilst not cool, isn’t the issue I want to talk about right now. Star Wars is famous for its representational issues, but ‘Solo’ gets weird with it.

The finale of ‘Solo’ features the heroes travelling to a desert planet to refine their magical space fuel. This planet is inhabited solely by humans. We learn that these humans all had their tongues cut out by a bunch of off-world gangsters working with the Empire. They were brutally punished for attempting to resist colonialist oppression and exploitation.

And they’re all black.

Specifically, we see more black people on screen in this scene than we have in every other Star Wars movie combined.

And none of them can talk.

And they live in a desert.

And they’re all dressed in stereotypes of African clothing.

And they get saved by the handsome white dude.

Meanwhile, the one named black character who’s still alive, Lando, leaves as soon as the situation gets dicey. Lando, played by Childish Gambino, flies off to leave Han Solo and his white girlfriend to save the desert planet of mute black people from his white former mentor and a white gang boss.

And I’m not saying that all of this is inherently bad. But the context of it all makes it feel like a film that would be made in the ’60s. It couldn’t be more socially troubling if Sean Connery appeared in a wig and fake eyebrows pretending to be Japanese.

nest

‘Solo’ tries to raise the issue of droids in Star Wars being sentient but being essentially treated like slaves. Which I’m fine with. Except that this charge is led by L3, a droid voiced by a white woman, who at one point in the film demands equal rites from her owner – a black man, played by Childish Gambino. And that’s just weird.

It’s weird because, as we all know, Star Wars has a near-infinite number of weird and wonderful aliens to draw from when populating scenes. In ‘A New Hope’, when we first enter the Mos Eisley cantina, humans make up about 3% of the clientele. And yet on the desert planet at the end of ‘Solo’, they’re all human, and they’re all black.

And the point is, that had to have been a decision. At some point when making this movie, somebody decided that that was how they were going to cast this scene. Somebody put together the list of extras, and somebody, somewhere, made sure they were almost all black. And that is so weird.

I’m not trying to make the argument that ‘Solo’ is an inherently racist movie. I don’t think it is. But it does feel bizarrely tone-deaf for a movie released in 2018. Starring Childish Gambino. Especially given that it actively chooses to address issues of slavery and civil liberties.

Ultimately, ‘Solo’ is a movie that will probably be broadly forgotten years from now. Where ‘Rogue One’ is beautifully tragic, ‘Solo’ is adequately middle-of-the-road. There’s nothing to inherently dislike about it, but neither is there anything particularly exciting either.

But it’s still really weird.

‘Star Trek: Discovery: The War Without, The War Within’ Has Worse Sci-Fi Credentials Than Star Wars

The latest episode of ‘Star Trek Discovery’ is called “The War Without, The War Within”. I can only presume that title is missing the words “Consequences” and “All Expectations”, because nothing that happens seems to affect any of our characters, and nothing that happens seems in any way surprising.

Take the beautiful way the show handles the fate of two interesting, unseen characters: Mirror Tilly, and Non-Mirror Lorca.

  • Expecting that the Mirror Universe I.S.S. Discovery presumably arrived in the Prime Universe and started wrecking face, we instead find out that she got immediately annihilated by Klingons, along with Cadet Tilly’s more successful counterpart, Captain Killy. That was fun! A load of buildup for a character who lives and dies off screen.
  • We establish the status of Prime Lorca, the presumably non-evil version of the Lorca with which we’re familiar, with Admiral Cornwell stating of her former friend and lover: “There’s no way he survived over there, so I guess he’s dead.” And that’s it. That is literally all she spoke. It’s like a line out of ‘Garth Merenghi’s Dark Place’, I’m not even kidding:

Dagless: I just can’t believe the Temp is dead.
Reed: It’s alright Rick, we’ll get another one.

(Except that the Temp in the ‘Dark Place’ actually got more character progression and a more emotional death scene than anyone in ‘Discovery’. I even learned the difference between a principality and a dependent territory.)

Before I dig in, here are a few other stray observations:

  • Lots more women talk to other women this episode, which is good. I haven’t had chance to catalogue it yet, but I know we get Owosekun-Georgiou, Burnham-Georgiou, Burnham-Tilly, Burnham-Cornwell, Cornwell-Georgiou and Cornwell-L’Rell. Just in general women are talking and doing more this episode, and the men take much more of a backseat.
  • I love that the first priority on returning to the Prime Universe, now overrun with Klingons, is to change the “I” back to a “U” on the ship’s nameplate. Wouldn’t want anyone getting confused, would we?
  • Yet another Federation ship approaches Discovery without being seen. Does anyone else remember the days of neat little establishing shots of Excelsior-class ships cruising alongside the Enterprise-D? Now it all just happens off-screen. Which makes me wonder what happened to that massive budget the writers keep talking about.
  • Saru’s Ganglia shoot off when the ship is about to arrive at a ruined Starbase and not be attacked, but don’t even twitch when a bunch of armed aliens beam aboard the ship right in front of him and shove phasers in his face. Making them actually pointless. They really are good for nothing but eating.
The War Without, the War Within
Any excuse for a pic of Georgiou.
  • Saru decides not to throw Tyler in the brig. Because Tyler might be capable of redemption. Which I really like. Except, he’s also definitely still not right, and also definitely admitted to killing Doctor Culber whilst not in control of his actions. So, I dunno, Saru, do you maybe want to keep the potentially murderous enemy sleeper agent locked up for a bit until after you’ve saved the Federation? I mean, I’m not saying he deserves punishment, but if he does go all Smeagol again there’s a good chance that billions of Federation citizens might die, so you might want to take that into consideration.
    • On the subject of Ash’Voq the Hugon, it turns out that he’s a next-level dickhead. He insists that Burnham forgive him and accept him back so that he can “heal”, making no allowances for how she might feel about having unknowingly had sex with a Klingon agent, and then being strangled by that same agent. I was actually really, really glad when she decided to walk away – if she’d taken him back, I would have shat myself with rage.
    • What’s worse is Tilly, Burnham’s “best friend”, pressuring Burnham to talk to Ash’Voq in the first place. Yeah, Tilly, I’m sure he’s hurting too, but Burnham also just came back from a week-long stint of murdering people, being betrayed repeatedly and eating Kelpien, so maybe give her more than an hour to pull herself together, yeah? Or just fuck off?
    • Ash gets a big bunch of people standing around him and validating his existence. I guess nobody but Stamets had any kind of connection with Culber, whom Tyler murdered just over a week ago. I mean, Christ, if this was regular Trek I might buy into it, but this is the same crew that ostracised Burnham for a war that she didn’t start – and that, by all counts, is still ostracising her.
    • Jesus Fucking Christ, I’m actually feeling sorry for Burnham.
  • Burnham once again confirms that She Started The War. Like, that seems to be canon within the show. Except that SHE GOT ARRESTED BEFORE SHE COULD FUCKING DO ANYTHING. Why does everyone keep banging on about her starting this war? Even people who were there keep blaming her for it, even SHE keeps blaming herself for it, and yet she ultimately DID NOTHING. Did the writers not watch their own fucking show? Are they just those assholes who drop a nauseating fart at the exact moment they step off a crowded lift, spewing noxious filth that they know they won’t have to endure themselves? JESUS, GET YOUR FUCKING STORIES STRAIGHT.
  • Burnham observes of the Klingon war efforts, “There’s no pattern to these attacks, no logical progression to their targets.” Oh, sorry, Ms. Xeno-Anthropologist whose parents were killed in a “Terror Raid”, did you expect that a culture of warriors who steal all their clothes from Lordi and cover their ships in coffins would prosecute a logical, well-thought-out military campaign? Did you think the Klingons had, like, a Group Strategy Meeting at the beginning of the war, where they put a Powerpoint together highlighting the various pros and cons of igniting a planet’s atmosphere?
    • “Well, on the downside we’d lose the ability to use the planet as a base of our own, but on the plus-side, that’s a lot of pre-cooked meat, which is really going to reduce our charcoal costs for this quarter.”
  • I’m no longer feeling sorry for Burnham.
  • The writers of this show literally can’t get anything right.
  • Okay, here’s the doozy. Distances. Actually, no, fuck it, this gets its own fucking section:

warwithoutbriefingroom

HOW NOT TO WRITE TECHNICAL DIALOGUE

I’m confident that ‘Discovery’s writers are now trying to troll me. Genuinely. There’s no other way to explain this next bit beyond them hating me personally, figuring out the one thing that would flip all of my nerd-rage switches, and then intentionally getting all the cast back together and re-shooting the briefing room scene just so I’d spend the entire rest of the week angry.

Okay, listen up, here’s the thing. If you don’t understand what you’re talking about, YOU SHOULDN’T FUCKING TALK ABOUT IT.

Rich coming from me, I know, but it should be obvious to anyone with a fraction of a cerebral cortex left in their skull that as soon as you start making shit up, you massively amplify the exposure of your own incompetence. For reference, see literally anything I’ve ever written.

What this means is that when Stamets starts talking about the distance between objects in space, it is PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE for him to say:

“Starbase I is a long way from Earth, and it is an even longer way from our current position.”

That’s your first level of detail. Literally nobody has a map of Starfleet installations relative to Earth, so you can say whatever the fuck you like and nobody will give a shit.

The next level of charlatanism is to make shit up in a very non-specific way. So, if Stamets had said:

“Starbase I is dozens of light-years from Earth, and hundreds of light-years away from our current position.”

NOBODY can pick their way through that to find a fault. It’s still so generalised that it tells you nothing, but it adds a bit of space-flavour to this space-based show.

The next level is to add some actual numbers. This is tricky, but you can get around that by making the numbers BIG:

“Starbase I is forty-seven light-years from Earth, and six-hundred-and-twelve light-years away from our current position.”

Now, I’m a bit of a space nerd, but I have no idea of how I would start picking holes in that. Except, none of those versions of the line are used. Instead we get this:

“Well, [Starbase I] is, uh, 100 AUs from Earth, and over a light-year from our current position.”

Now, that may not mean much to you, and that’s fine, but let me make something clear: 1 AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

Here’s another thing that’s pretty fucking common knowledge: The closest star to Earth (besides the Sun) is more than 4 light-years away.

Here’s Starbase I:

starbase1

D’you see that lush, terrestrial planet in the background? The one with clouds, and oceans, and continents? And see how it’s brightly illuminated by a nearby star?

Well, 100 AUs from Earth? That’s roughly three times the orbit of Pluto (or twice Pluto’s greatest distance from the Sun). On Pluto, the Sun is a dim star that nearly blends in with all the other stars in the sky. The next nearest star, Alpha Centauri? That’s more than 4 light-years away, or nearly 270,000 AUs.

All of which means that the writers of ‘Discovery’ created a new star with a new planet literally within the outer reaches of our solar system, just because they couldn’t be bothered spending one minute of their lives using Google.

Literally, one minute. Sixty seconds.

And I know that Trek is hardly ever scientifically accurate, but this is a rare example of Trek writers being MORE specific than they need to be just so’s they can shoot themselves in the foot.

It’s a bizarre display of dedicated self-destruction for absolutely no creative gain. Nothing, nothing, is added to the story of this episode by making up random numbers, and I’m baffled by their decision to do so. Just how little do you have to care about your work to not even put in a pedestrian level of research?

For reference, y’know the damn parsec thing in ‘Star Wars’? Here’s an actual excerpt from the original script (the one that’s still sub-titled “Journal of the Whills” i.e. before the cameras even started rolling) covering that precise moment:

HAN
Han Solo. I’m captain of the Millennium Falcon. Chewie here tells me you’re looking for passage to the Alderaan system.

BEN
Yes, indeed. If it’s a fast ship.

HAN
Fast ship? You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?

BEN
Should I have?

HAN
It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs!

Ben reacts to Solo’s stupid attempt to impress them with obvious misinformation.

And if you think that’s been retconned in after the fact, here’s Obi Wan’s expression as he remains singularly unimpressed by Solo’s rampant bullshit:

So here’s the thing: everyone harps on about ‘Star Wars’ getting something this basic so wrong, when it’s actually one character lying to another.

Which means that unless Stamets was, for some reason, lying to everyone (which we know he wasn’t because they make the journey), Star Trek is now worse at doing sci-fi than Star Wars.

Especially when you take into account Saru’s magic Ganglia, Stamets’ magic spore drive, a Mirror Universe which makes no fucking sense, and an enemy sleeper agent plotline that relies on every single doctor on a futuristic space ship being drunk or incompetent.

So essentially, the next time you try to claim that Trek is somehow “more sci-fi” than Wars, just remember the moment that Trek writers cared so little for their craft that they couldn’t be bothered googling what a “light-year” was.