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
The Hypocrisy of Star Wars Fans
Without question, the biggest hurdle Solo had to overcome was finding a younger actor to inhabit the role. Harrison Ford is so synonymous with the character it's difficult for viewers to separate the two. So, when Lucasfilm confirmed plans for Solo, several dismissed the project believing nobody could adequately fill Ford's shoes. While that mindset ignores the fact there have been six cinematic James Bonds and a plethora of big screen Batmen (among other parts that have been recast), the skepticism of the daunting search for a new Han is understandable... that is if Star Wars fans weren't advocating for other "young X" films.
Lucasfilm is now in the business of annual tentpole releases, and viewers have no shortage of ideas they'd like to see. In the wake of Stranger Things' success (and comments from Millie Bobby Brown herself), there's a campaign for the young actress to star as Princess Leia in a spinoff. Due to Sebastian Stan's uncanny resemblance to Mark Hamill, people would like to see the Winter Soldier bring life to Luke Skywalker (possibly training Finn Wolfhard's Ben Solo). Since Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and now Adam Driver are just as defined by their Star Wars characters as Ford, it begs the question why these are deemed acceptable, while Alden Ehrenreich's Han Solo isn't widely welcomed. It's true the Hail, Caesar! standout has won some people over following a solid marketing campaign, but there are just as many still giving him the side eye simply for not being Harrison Ford, doubting he could do the role justice.
Another issue viewers have had with Solo from its inception is the supposed low-hanging fruit it's set to cover, revealing how Han befriended Chewbacca and won the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian. A criticism is that these are questions nobody wanted answered, which again, would be a fair comment if there wasn't a constant clamoring for an Obi-Wan Kenobi spinoff movie. The Jedi Knight's life has been covered more extensively in the various mediums of canon than Han's, seeing that just in the films Obi-Wan went from a 20-something Padawan learner to wise, old mentor. This doesn't take into account his key role in the Clone Wars animated series, plus a memorable guest spot on Rebels. Still, a movie chronicling Obi-Wan's Tatooine exile has been oft-requested for years, even though there's little left unexplored for it to tackle. This isn't to say an Obi-Wan spinoff (or one about Lando, which has also been called for) couldn't make for a strong film, but we have to crack the story.
Solo lends itself very well to film. It combines buddy elements (Han and Chewie), coming-of-age (Han going from idealist to cynic), and crime/heist to coalesce into a fun summer blockbuster. This is probably why Lucasfilm saved it for the movies and used non-film canon mediums to fill in other gaps. Brown's Leia movie would most likely be Claudia Gray's Leia: Princess of Alderaan novel (and a book is a better fit for Star Wars politics). The comics detailed certain incidents Obi-Wan handled on Tatooine as he kept an eye on young Luke (mainly helping the Lars family resolve issues). Flashbacks from The Last Jedi sucked the air out of a Luke/Ben Solo movie (and Force training is more effective as part of a larger story, not the story). Han's backstory is rich for a movie (and possibly more), while these "preferred" concepts come across a bit thin on-paper. If it lands, Solo is going to enrich rewatches of the saga films.
If somebody takes issue with Solo's writing, directing, or performances and pens a negative review, they're more than entitled to that opinion. Part of what makes film great is the fact the medium is subjective, and the same product can impact everyone differently. However, naysayers need to do more than proclaim Solo has no reason to exist, because the same can be said about any movie - whether it's an acclaimed Best Picture winner or a goofy action flick. Solo shouldn't be viewed with this odd double-standard because circles of the community aren't willing to accept a new actor as Han. Like all films, the spinoff should be judged on its merits, and if its various elements make for a worthwhile experience, regardless if someone personally wanted it or not.