Solo: A Star Wars Story Movie Review

An attempt to rehabilitate a reluctant hero

An attempt to rehabilitate a reluctant hero

Solo: A Star Wars Story 
Director Ron Howard 
Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, and Donald Glover
Writers Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan

I finally watched Han Solo’s origin story. I really liked it. I saw it as an attempt to rehabilitate the reluctant hero Han of the original Star Wars.

I don’t say that lightly. The poor box office for Solo was widely interpreted as a failure of a Star Wars movie starring a white man, but there is a counter-narrative that the failure of Solo was really a delayed reaction to the identitarian overreach of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.

In a cruel twist of fate, it turned out that Hilary’s avatar lost too.

In a cruel twist of fate, it turned out that Hilary’s avatar lost too.

With my Straussian hat on, I’m starting to lean towards the latter interpretation. Aside from Chuck Wendig’s lackluster novels, the recent entries in the new Disney Star Wars canon have been subtly reactionary while checking all of the proper boxes. Rogue One was a carefully crafted homage to the original Star Wars that was in fact more Star Wars than Star Wars. It filled in the plot holes of the original movie, while also honoring it. On the other hand, it was the love story of a father for his daughter, full of regrets for the life of hardship he had bequeathed to her. On the gripping hand, it was also about the unsentimental hard-asses the Rebellion was full of in order to win.

Star Wars Rebels turned into the way Disney rehabilitated the most popular character in the Extended Universe. A character who is as unforgiving as any Roman general.

Thrawn is where justice meets mercy and crushes it unsentimentally

Thrawn is where justice meets mercy and crushes it unsentimentally

Solo is the least woke Star Wars movie of this decade. Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra is a tragic hero, compromised by her own cooperation in evil. L3-37, the droid revolutionary, is played for laughs, Lando is a cheater. Only Han [and Chewie, neglected hero of the Rebellion] comes out well.

In part, that is because he is still young and naive. I can see a plausible character arc, in which Han, as he gets more experienced and more jaded, finally finds out that cowardice and betrayal really does pay off, à la Woody Harrelson’s Beckett. Which isn’t quite what happened in Episode Seven, which involved a remarkable feat of self-sacrificial love, but is close enough in spirit to generate hard feelings in fans.

To be fair, Harrison Ford wanted out, so they wrote him an out. I can just imagine a different way to play it all out, since I was deep into the Extended Universe from the beginning. This is not the EU, but I think Ron Howard and the Kasdans, father and son, did pretty well, given what they had to work with.

I’m sorry Solo didn’t do that well at the box office, I think it deserves a second look [or a first] from Star Wars fans who feel betrayed. Also, props to whomever retconned in the West End Games attempt to make sense of the twelve parsecs line. I always kind of liked that explanation.

My other movie reviews

Another Thrawn: Alliances Excerpt

Thrawn: Alliances alternate cover  I hope they blend the eyes on that actor a little better for the final version

Thrawn: Alliances alternate cover

I hope they blend the eyes on that actor a little better for the final version

Another excerpt from Timothy Zahn's new novel Thrawn: Alliances has been released.

Taking a final look at the nav display, Anakin pointed the Actis toward the horizon and poured power to the drive—
Abruptly, R2-D2 trilled a warning. “What is it?” Anakin said, frowning as he checked his rear display.
And felt the back of his neck tingle. There was a ship back there, the size of a medium freighter but of unknown configuration.
Settling into orbit right beside his hyperdrive ring.
“Unknown ship, this is General Anakin Skywalker of the Galactic Republic,” he called. “Identify yourself and state your purpose.”
Nothing. Maybe they didn’t communicate on any of the Repub­lic’s standard frequencies.
Or, more likely this far out, didn’t speak Galactic Basic.

I enjoyed Zahn's reboot of the Grand Admiral last year, so I have fond hopes for this one as well.

Thrawn: Alliances Except

An uneasy alliance...  TM & © Lucasfilm Ltd. 2018

An uneasy alliance...

TM & © Lucasfilm Ltd. 2018

An except of Timothy Zahn's new Thrawn: Alliance novel is available at

“I have sensed a disturbance in the Force.”
Emperor Palpatine paused, stretching out his thoughts to the two men standing before his throne, awaiting their reactions.
No. Not men. Of course not men. Men were insignificant, pitiable creatures, fit only to be ruled, or intimidated, or sent to die in battle. These were far more than mere men.
A Chiss Grand Admiral, a strategic and tactical genius. A Sith Lord, ruthless and powerful in the Force.

You can pre-order the novel from Amazon, or elsewhere, and in the meanwhile you can check out my reviews of the early 1990s Thrawn Trilogy, or the more recent reboot.

I know I'm excited. Zahn has been writing great books for 35 years, I expect this will continue.

Legionnaire: Galaxy's Edge #1 Book Review

Galaxy's Edge: Legionnaire concept art via Jason Anspach's blog

Galaxy's Edge: Legionnaire concept art via Jason Anspach's blog

Legionnaire: Galaxy's Edge #1
by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole
Kindle Edition, 308 pages
Published June 12th 2017 by Galaxy's Edge

Jason Anspach and Nick Cole's Galaxy's Edge series has been described as "more Star Wars than Star Wars". After reading the first volume, Legionnaire, I wholly agree. Anspach and Cole nailed the feel of being a stormtrooper, if stormtroopers were actually the elite shock troops described by Ben Kenobi in A New Hope, instead of the comically inept mooks who were slaughtered by Ewoks in Return of the Jedi.

The Republic Legionnaires, leejes for short, have the technological resources of the whole galaxy to call upon, and it feels like it. Their gear is both effective [their armor actually works!], and fantastically expensive [because it is both sophisticated and an exercise in pork barrel politics], which makes the Legionnaires fierce and effective fighters, but limits their numbers.

As to the purposes to which all that warfighting capability is turned...that's over their pay grade. Legionnaires are usually happy to do what they are told, which for the most part is kill people and break stuff. However, like many elite units, a Legionnaire's primary loyalty is to the Legion, which in practice is your fellow Legionnaires. Politics are pretty abstract, except and unless it affects the chances of you and your buddies getting dead.

There is a tradition of military sci-fi books from the grunt's point of view going back at least to Heinlein's Starship Troopers, but the books that Legionnaire most closely resembles are Pournelle and Stirling's Falkenberg's Legion series, as well as David Drake's Hammer's Slammers. The hallmarks of these books are realism about the ugly face of war, a love of technological detail about the tools and gear of conflict, and an imitation of the military tactics of a particular era.

For Pournelle and Stirling, that era was 80s and 90s maneuver warfare as practiced by Western militaries. For Anspach and Cole, the model feels like Afghanistan blended with Star Wars and Imperial Rome. And I think they nailed it. I am a fan of this style of fiction in general, but I love how Anspach and Cole were able to riff off of the Star Wars universe, and end up with something that is both familiar and different.

I really, really enjoyed reading Legionnaire, and I'm excited that there is a whole series full of books to follow.

My other book reviews


Legionnaire (Galaxy's Edge Book 1)
By Jason Anspach, Nick Cole

Star Wars Super Graphic Book Review

by Tim Leong
Chronicle Books, 2017
176 pages
ISBN 978-1452161204

I received this book for free as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program.

This is a great book. And I'm a huge Star Wars nerd, which is why I think it's a great book. Hear me out, this one is really well done. First, it is simply well made. Nicely laid out, heavy paper with a satin finish, and a fine attention to detail that warms my OCD heart. 

Of course, it is also full of Star Wars trivia. Like what is the speed of various ships in MGLT (megalights per hour).

Copyright Lucasfilm Ltd 2017

Copyright Lucasfilm Ltd 2017

Or all the times someone said "I have a bad feeling about this...." 

Copyright Lucasfilm Ltd 2017

Copyright Lucasfilm Ltd 2017

Perhaps the single best graphic in the book is this, a chart of all the books, movies, TV shows, videogames, and comic books that are considered part of Disney's new canon. Everything else got swept into the Legends category by Disney, although some fan favorites have been brought back.

Copyright Lucasfilm Ltd 2017

Copyright Lucasfilm Ltd 2017

This book is a great buy for any Star Wars fan, or even just a lover of nicely done graphics. I even learned a few things about the characters who have been introduced into the new storyline. Well worth your time and money.

My other book reviews

Death Troopers Book Review

Death Troopers
by Joe Schreiber
LucasBooks, 2009
ISBN: 9780345509628
$7.99; 256 pages

A friend recommended this book to me nearly three years ago. I finally picked up a copy, and it was a blast! Oh, the days when you could throw iconic characters into any situation you wanted! As long as Han doesn't die in the end, you could write just about any kind of story.

Thus we have zombies in spaaaace! And Star Wars! It was a fun and a quick read. For those who like this kind of thing, you are likely to enjoy it as much as I did. Things moved along quickly, sufficient explanations were offered, and our heroes escaped to return to the canonical Star Wars universe. Although I have to think Han might have ended up with PTSD from this one.

My other book reviews


Linkfest 2016-12-23

IT Jobs Explained

I'm sure this applies to more than just IT.

How a Pen and Paper RPG Brought 'Star Wars' Back From the Dead

A more detailed look at the way West End Games' Star Wars RPG set the stage for everything we have now, creating places, characters, and plot points that have been worked into the official storyline.

The Maillard Reaction

The science behind tasty french fries.

The case for protecting infant industries

Noah Smith makes the argues that we should take a second look at protecting infant industries.

What it's like to be brought back after an overdose

I suppose there is a reason you use opiates for palliative care.

How a greedy corporation saved Star Wars from a stubborn artist

Thanks, Disney.

Paul Fussell - Ties and Class

An except from Fussell's masterpiece Class.

LinkFest 2016-05-28

Unplugging the Colorado River

Here is something that should give you pause: without Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the biggest city on the west coast of the United States would be either San Francisco [population 864,000] or Seattle [population 608,000]. Even if you include the metro areas of each city, you don't get over 4 million or so. Los Angeles proper is 4 million, with another ten million in the surrounding metropolitan area. LA would be a sleepy little desert town without the water from the Colorado River.

The history behind this is fascinating. And contentious, at least for us locals. The state of Arizona once tried to use the National Guard to prevent the state of California from taking water from the Colorado River.

How Anti-White Rhetoric is Fueling White Nationalism

Much anti-white rhetoric amounts to a back-handed compliment to racists.

Could we see a four-way race for President?

Possibly, and I'm not sure it will turn out well.

A Pentecost on Crete?

I'm always interested to see what my Orthodox brethren think.

At 96, Dr. Heimlich finally uses his life-saving technique

You have to like this story.

TIE Fighter Fan Film

Animated by one man over 4 years.