Solo: A Star Wars Story

I saw this movie opening day, an entire week ago, and I have been sitting here since,  terrified to write this article. Why? I just felt so, so many things. Good things. But I felt overwhelmed with the task of trying to put all of those things into coherent words and sentences.

Until I found the key to my thoughts. And amazingly, that key also happens to be the key to all of Star Wars and why it is so beloved.

Hope.

It’s as simple as a gentle, four letter word. H-O-P-E.

star wars hope

Hope is the summation of the entire Star Wars saga and every single story contained within the galaxy. Solo is about the heart of Star Wars…it’s about hope.

There is a lot of pain to be felt in Star Wars stories. The agony of loved ones lost, betrayal, wanton destruction, questions of value and purpose, merciless and cruel evil sweeping upon the innocent like a shadow of death.

The ache of Anakin holding his dying mother in the desert. 

anakins mother

The death of clone after clone after clone as they march into an unwinnable war, all while wondering if they are more than just forms created for endless violence.

The pain of Ahsoka leaving.

ahsoka leaves

The death of the Jedi by one of their own. Obi-Wan’s tearful scream, “You were my brother, Anakin! I loved you!”

you were my brother anakin

Padme’s death. 

Ezra Bridger losing his parents. Caleb Dumes’ sacrifice.

Ezra and Kanan

Our entire Rogue One team, gone. Alderaan. Countless Rebel pilots and soldiers. Ben Solo’s fall to the Darkness and subsequent death of many Resistance leaders and beloved friends. And so many destroyed lives in the middle.

rey crying

And yet…we stand in hope.

After every breath of darkness and pain, no matter how deep, we are always left with even a glimmer of light.

poe dameron hope

Perhaps it’s babies hidden away in the desert or the palaces of Alderaan.

It’s clones who took their stand and made their choice to live free and walk their own paths.

It’s long-lost warriors rising again from the dust of the Clone Wars. It’s Jedi returning, it’s warriors, pilots, soldiers, street rats, senators, princesses, moisture farmers, scavengers, Storm Troopers, and orphans standing up and fighting back. 

jyn's rallying hope

It’s a ragged kid from Correllia lifting his eyes above the squalor of his life and daring to dream of the stars.

Han Solo. 

corellia street boy

We know him in later years. He’s a scoundrel. He’s sarcastic, crusty even. A scruffy-looking nerf herder with enough bravado to destroy a planet and a heart big enough to envelop the galaxy.

How do you become Han Solo, the legendary smuggler who made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs? (12 if you round down). How do you go from appearing like a selfish jerk to winning the heart of a Rebel princess, befriending a Jedi, and leading in a rebellion that destroys the Empire?

Han Solo

Solo: A Star Wars Story is the tale that tells us the how, and the why of our favorite smuggler.

What the makers of Solo did is they gave us a horrible set of circumstances. Then they gave us a cast of characters each faced with the same awful world. The truth of the story came out as we saw how each character faced that world and what came of their chosen paths.

Some chose to nurture and create more evil beneath the Empire’s shadow. Some characters would have appreciated change, but when it came down to the wire, they made choices out of self-preservation and fear. Other characters gave into hopelessness and despair that anything could ever change. Some characters drowned the pain of their world in alcohol, games, and fancy capes.

And then we have Han, a rebel.

sad han

Just a street boy working for thug overlords?

“The next person who hits me is going to get hit back.”

Stuck on the ground in the squalor?

“I’m gonna be a pilot.”

Foot soldier in the mud now?

“I got kicked out of the Imperial Academy for having a mind of my own.”

Thrown in a mud pit with a Wookiee? No problem, just befriend the Wookiee and get freedom for them both. Faced with a dangerous job stealing coaxium with a crew who doesn’t really want him, when do we start? Lost the coaxium and facing sure death from a crime lord?

“What about unrefined?”

Mauraders, homicidal crime lords, card games, giant space monsters, gravity wells, explosive materials, insurmountable odds…

never tell me the ods

 

Because he will always, always defy them!

Solo tells us a truth that we have suspected for a while now.

smiling han

Han has always been a Rebel.

Han may have grown up in poverty and violence, but he was rich. Rich in heart, and in hope during a time when hope was an even more precious commodity than coaxium. Han dreamed of the stars. He was ambitious, but not cruel. He spends the majority of this movie working to take care of someone he loves. He’s incredibly driven, driven by the unbending belief that there is more for his future, that he is NOT trapped by his circumstances, that he can fight for something better.

And he is willing to put his life on the line to ensure that others around him get that same chance. If only they had all followed his lead, they would have met with the same truth we were led to.

kssel run

Han, our hero, survives. Not only does he survive, he has a hope and a future. Oh, if he only knew just how amazing that future is going to be. Yes, it’s going to be filled with many heartaches, many setbacks, and losses. His life is full of tragedy. But it’s also full of love. Full of people he loves. Full of moments where he said no to evil and yes to making a difference, and what a difference he made. We see the beginning of that in Solo, we see where the hero’s roots are planted.

And he did it without selling his soul. Without giving into despair. Without trampling innocent lives under his feet. That’s what he proves in Solo. That is the truth of this movie, this character, this thing we are all crazy about called Star Wars. It’s hope.

solo flybooys

Han clearly grew more jaded in the ten years of life lived between Solo and A New Hope. I imagine kicking around the galaxy with the worst of its citizens with his bro Chewbacca probably caused his golden heart to crust over a bit, his perspective to skew, and the miles began to wear on his soul.

That is until he meets a crazy kid who actually believes he can make a difference. Until he meets a beautiful princess who is glowing with hope and purpose. Until he meets people willing to lay down their lives because they believed that there could be more for their future, that it could be better.

Original trio

Sound familiar?

He thinks he’s big. He’s bad. He’s a scoundrel. A legendary smuggler. He always shoots first. He’s rubbed shoulders, sweet-talked, and fought with the worst scum of the galaxy. He’s an outlaw, a terrible person.

goober han

But one who knew him from childhood, Qi’ra. She knew better. Beckett, a hardened mercenary who chose to view life with harsh cynicism knew better. Chewbacca, who has seen the cruellest of people, knew better. Enfys Nest knew better. Lando Calrissian, the double-crossing fabulous smuggler, knew better.

They all knew better because they looked at this cocky kid who walks with a swagger and a smile, and they saw hope. And they knew in their hearts.

“You’re the good guy.”

And we, the world that loves Han Solo as if he is our own blood-relation reply,

“We know.”

chewie and han

Advertisements

6 Ways that StarWars: Rebels Differs From StarWars: The Clone Wars

Both Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars The Clone Wars have been a wonderful addition to the Star Wars canon. Making serial stories for the small screen has enabled Star Wars storytellers and fans to dig into some of the meaty details and behind-the-scenes plots that just cannot fit into a 2-and-a-half hour movie time.

The Clone Wars took on the great task of filling in the very rich and colorful background that we were given only a taste of in the Prequel films. The world that Anakin experienced as a boy and Jedi was far richer than was the world of Luke Skywalker. The movies only had time to skim the surface of all of this material, but in The Clone Wars we were given a chance to experience this vast world on a episode by episode basis.

swtcw

We learned about the clones, senators and rulers, the underworld of Corusant, smugglers and bounty hunters, many different Jedi, and multiple unique races and cultures. Clone Wars gave so much more meaning to the Prequels by filling in  the background and giving us all of the individual stories that fed into the bigger story.

Star Wars Rebels is another great gift to the Star Wars universe, but it is a gift uniquely its own. Here are 6 ways that Rebels is different from The Clone Wars.

1. Rebels Keeps it Simple and Intimate

The Clone Wars was layered and complex. Even though we had a primary group of characters (Obi-Wan, Anakin, Ahsoka, Padme, Captain Rex), we were introduced to literally hundreds of new characters and story lines, and we only got a fraction of the available stories. The Clone Wars was a very busy series.

Rebels by contrast, is very simple and intimate. We have 6 main characters (Hera, Kanan, Zeb, Sabine, Ezra, Chopper) that we stay with all the time. Even our cast of background characters (Ahsoka, Kallus, Rex, Commander Sato) is kept to the minimum. This enables us to just focus on our Rebels, day in and day out. We see everything through their eyes and perspective.

rebels

The Empire destroyed the connections and layers of the Republic. It destroyed trade, government structures, and long-living groups like the Jedi. Even as it encompassed most of the galaxy, the Empire managed to disconnect the peoples in the galaxy more than ever before. Therefore, it makes sense that we are going to experience fewer people at a time, fewer people are having shared experiences that they can communicate about.

This simplicity also sets the stage for our Rebels to begin fighting to join with other rebel forces. The Empire knows it cannot face a united front, so it fights tooth and nail to keep people apart through military and propaganda. In Rebels we get a front-row seat to the beginning of the unifying of the Rebellion. It starts small, but we know it will become something more.

2. Animation

The animation of The Clone Wars was very angular and structured. There were far more harsh angles and lines. This kept up with the fast pace of that series where a large-scale war was constantly raging.

clone-wars-animation

Rebels by contrast has very soft, rounded animation. It is richly colorful with layers and tones to both the settings and the characters themselves. This animation is very approachable and puts you at your ease with the more focused pace of the series.

rebels-animation

Both series have used the beautiful designs created by the talented Ralph McQuarrie, but the animators also managed to give each series its own unique look, thus separating them in our minds.

3. Rebels Has a Family Structure

This is one of my absolute favorite aspects of Rebels, and it goes along with the smaller cast and more intimate setting.

While The Clone Wars showed us people in all occupations and social levels, we never experienced a “family”. Everything was formality and rules. Sure, we knew that Obi-Wan and Anakin loved each other as brothers. Anakin and Padme carried their love as husband a wife secretly. And we especially know how much Anakin loved and cared for Ahsoka as a mentor and older brother. But none of these things could ever be acknowledged because of stifling rules and protocols that ended up contributing to the downfall of the Jedi and the Republic.

A family unit and affection is the strongest bond known to anyone. It’s stronger than any government, organization, or group. That is part of why our Rebels are so strong and effective, because they are a family first.

The writers have recognized this fact and how much we love it about their show, as a nod to it they even put in beautiful lines and scenes that accent the “family” side of Rebels.

Kanan and Hera love each other deeply. They have this subtle current of love that is built on shared strength and experiences. They function as husband and wife or mom and dad. This gives the rest of the crew something to depend on and take comfort in.

kanan-and-hera

“Kanan’s family, and we do anything for family.” Hera (Season 1, Ep 15)

“Alright kids, make mom and dad proud.” Hera (Season 2, Ep 1)

“He takes after Hera sometimes.” Kanan (referencing Ezra, Season 2, Ep 9)

“Sabine, you’re sounding more like a Jedi than a Mandalorian.” (Hera)

“Well, I guess I’ve just been raised right.” (Sabine, Season 2, Ep 13)

Hera has a tenderness for those on her crew that is very motherly. She makes Sabine feel acknowledged and understood. Ezra finds deep comfort and sympathy in his and Hera’s shared hope. Zeb and Chopper would be lost without Hera’s gentle compassion and strong leadership.

hera-and-sabine

Kanan’s attitude towards the crew of The Ghost is one of protection and leadership. He prioritizes their well-being first and values each of their skills. He has taken Ezra under his wing with a very fatherly hand and Ezra soaks it up like a sponge.

protective-kanan

Sabine, Ezra, Zeb, and Chopper fall into place under Kanan and Hera’s strong leadership. They all love each other and fight fiercely together. They are able to be brave because they know their family has their back. Each of them knows what they have lost, and they deeply value what they have gained….a new family. This love drives each of them to be better.

“I already lost my parents, I’m not about to lose my new family.” Ezra (Season 1, Ep 13)

4. Rebels is in a Harsher, more Primitive Setting

The glamor of The Clone Wars seems to be just a distant memory, just like the Republic is.

clone-wars-glamor-2

All that once was has fallen into ruins and is now under the dark shadow of The Empire. We were introduced to some very poor and desperate corners of the galaxy in The Clone Wars, but since the Empire came into being more systems have fallen into poverty and despair.

tarkintown

This sets the stage beautifully for the ragged Rebellion that will welcome Luke Skywalker in just a few years.

5. Tying Together the Republic, and the New Hope

The Clone Wars filled in the missing years between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the SithRebels fills in the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New HopeIt sets the stage for not only A New Hope, but also the upcoming story of Rogue 1 where we will get more of the behind-the-scenes story.

Rebels has done its job beautifully in taking the last remnants of the Republic and Clone Wars, and tying that in with the new generation. We have gotten to see beloved characters from the Prequels and Clone Wars series such as Obi-Wan (via hologram, but perhaps more one day), Ahsoka Tano, Captain Rex, Hondo, Sentaor Bail Organa, and Tarkin.

old-and-new-clw-rebels

As we have revisited these old characters and few of their stories, we have also been seamlessly introduced to the new generation of characters. Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian, and more to come in Season 3.

princess-leia

Rebels has been a place where the past is meeting the future.

6. Rebels Introduces a New Generation of Jedi, One That is Much Stronger

The old Jedi Order has been wiped out. Kanan Jarrus is one of the few remaining Jedi, and he has now taken on Ezra Bridger as a padawan. As far as they know, they are the only ones in the entire galaxy. Kanan, whose training was cut short by Order 66, never officially reached “Jedi Knight” status. He was forced into hiding as a teenager, and since then has developed his own methods of survival and fighting.

Kanan has a much more loose and raw way of fighting than the Jedi of old. He can wield his fists and a blaster as well as he does a lightsaber or the Force. He doesn’t just rely on Jedi knowledge, but also his own wits and tricks of the trade to accomplish his goals. He’s scrappy and agile. And let’s be honest, he’s really, really good at it.

Kanan’s version of being a “Jedi” is also far more familiar and less formal than the Jedi of old. He doesn’t hold Ezra and those around him at arms length and keep all emotion at bay. Kanan engages his feelings for those he cares about, and he isn’t hindered by those emotions, he is empowered by them. This is so much more natural than the emotional sterility that the Jedi of old attempted to practice.

Kanan is the perfect mentor and father figure to Ezra, who is also scrappy and skilled. Ezra is very down to earth, he feels things very deeply, and he has skills outside of just being a Jedi. These two are a master/padawan match made for each other. Ezra loves his master like a father. He trusts Kanan, he takes comfort in Kanan.

My favorite scenes involving these two is when Ezra experiences something so horrible or sad that he starts to weep. Kanan doesn’t tell him to be quiet or get control, he holds Ezra in his arms and comforts him. This is natural, the Jedi of old were not.

ezra-and-kanan

Kanan and Ezra open the doors to introduce the new breed of Jedi, a breed that isn’t steeped in stale tradition and zero emotion. This new kind of Jedi is more compatible with the galaxy as it is and far more effective than the aloof old Jedi. Kanan, Ezra, Luke Skywalker, Rey, Finn, and hopefully more in the future are all members of this “new” order.

Rebels has been a delight for Star Wars fans old and new. A major shout-out and thank-you to the makers (we love you Dave Filoni) and actors behind this amazing series. You have given us a new Star Wars family to fall in love with and cheer on.

*****

Star Wars Rebels Season 3 premieres Saturday, September 24th on Disney XD! And I for one, cannot wait to return to a galaxy, far, far away. Keep fighting Rebels!