Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

“I’m gonna be a pilot. Best in the galaxy.”

 

While I can’t say I’ve been one of the more loyal Star Wars fans over the years, (the prequels lost me for a bit) some of my fondest memories of my childhood include it. Then again, I can’t imagine too many “older millennials” not having some sort of deep cultural connection to it – whether loved or hated the ever-present looming of the franchise was always there. Cartoons (Muppet Babies), other films (Spaceballs), and even songs (Weird Al) constantly had references to a series of films that almost became bigger than film itself. In what was likely a very annoying event for my family, I once taped the trilogy off of a USA network cable marathon and watched it constantly – so much that I used to know the words to the Ewok song at the end of Jedi.

Seeing my fandom really blossoming, I remember at some point that my mother gave me a series of books called The Han Solo Adventures when I was young, I think she got them from a book club or something and passed them on to me, and I was hooked on the characters of Han and Chewie. I mean, I teared up at the end of Episode 7 due to a particular incident – er, the movie came out a million years ago, if you haven’t seen the spoiler I’m sorry. I nearly cried when Han Died. When a prequel film was announced I got really excited.

“It is a lawless time. Crime Syndicates compete for resources – food, medicine, and hyperfuel. On the shipbuilding planet of Corellia, the foul Lady Proxima forces runaways into a life of crime in exchange for shelter and protection. On these mean streets, a young man fights for survival, but yearns to fly among the stars…”

That is the opening crawl for Solo: A Star Wars Story, a film that fills in some of the gaps of the titular characters backstory. Ultimately, one can think of any of Han Solo’s questionable boasts in the previous films and wonder “I wonder what the Kessel Run is?”, “Has Chewie ever really ripped someone’s arms off?” or “Did he really win The Millennium Falcon from Lando ‘fair and square’?”

The film answers all of this without seeming too gratuitous about it, thankfully. Yeah a lot of things that seem really important to the character’s later motivations and personality seem to have all taken place in the span of only a few weeks or less, but the writers resisted things like shoe-horning Boba Fett or Darth Vader into the film, a fact that I was really happy about. Yeah there was another BIG cameo in there, but it was refreshing rather than cringey.

Harrison Ford has some mighty big space boots to fill, and I was perhaps the most skeptical of the casting of Alden Ehrenreich as Han. Rather than attempting to do a prolonged impersonation of Ford, Ehrenreich nails the personality and wise-cracks of the character in such a way that you could imagine him being a 20-year-old version of the same man. To compare this to the series’ often fan-imagined competitor – Star Trek, I feel that casting of young versions of characters was done FAR better here.

Donald Glover was amazing as he always is in his role as Lando Calrissian – a portrayal that actually added a lot to the character that casual fans that don’t want to read a library of books may be unaware of. I know some folks, as tradition with any film nowadays, were mad at the insinuation that Lando was Pan-sexual now in various interviews – once seeing the movie, I love how this was handled, and while not going into specifics he was not going around and having sex with anything he saw. In fact, it was one of the more touching relationships in the franchise.

Rounding out the main cast was Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra, Paul Bettany as Dryden, and Woody Harrelson as Beckett. I was actually surprised at how much I like Harrelson’s character as I wasn’t a big fan of him being cast as he’s far too recognizable and Star Wars has always stayed away from huge stars for the most part. Granted, he basically played the same character he often plays in many films such as Zombieland and The Hunger Games  – older guy that has seem some crap and mentors the younger main character. I’ll just chalk that up to his version of how Ice Cube always plays police officers or how Liam Neeson is perpetually given roles in thrillers that involve him saving his family. Honorable mentions go to other characters like Enfys Nest who meet the “cool character that folks will become obsessed with” mold like Boba Fett.

Perhaps my only real quibble with the film was the addition of a sub-plot concerning a droid character in Lando’s employ named L3-37 that is basically a parody/homage of various modern-day social justice movements. The character is often seen advocating for droid rights, as she has “malfunctioned” to such a degree that she sees injustices involving droids all around her when few others seem to care. We even see that many of the shadier characters in the galaxy enjoy droid cage-fighting as a spectator sport, a fact that enrages her.

While I’m not mad about this inclusion, I feel that this and the war profiteering plot in Episode 8 are a bit too “on the nose” and lack the subtlety that Star Wars usually has. I mean, Star Wars isn’t Handmaid’s Tale, it’s usually not a scathing rebuke of modern-day politics unless you consider that the bad guys are space Nazis essentially.

All-in all, I really liked this film – it captured the fun and spectacle of the non-‘anthology” films well, and made me remember how awesome Han and Chewie are. I’m hoping this does well enough that they make more, but who knows as it seems the film was released at a bad time and is slightly under-performing. Considering this was a film in which the original directors got fired and Ron Howard ha to “swoop in” and save the day on, I’d say they did a solid job.

The Twelfth Doctor & Why I’m Sick of Nerd In-Fighting

Before I slip into full-on rant mode, let’s get have a brief history lesson that pertains to the issue at hand. In the mid-nineteenth century one particular group of abolitionists came up with an ingenious idea: since slave liberation seemed unlikely in America on an economic and political basis, was it feasible to re-locate freed slaves in Western Africa? You know the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” right? That’s basically the idea here. This was a two pronged attack: on one hand the slaves were being freed, which made the abolitionists feel good about themselves and their devotion to God. And if the Blacks were free, the largely evangelical movement didn’t have to actually socialize with these newly freed persons of color. They could keep white society and help set up a separate but equal colony far, far away. This group, The American Colonization Society (ACS) helped over 13,000 former slaves travel across the ocean to create new lives for themselves in a new country dubbed “Liberia”. The main problem that faced many of these “Americo-Liberians”, as they were now called, is that many were not African, and if they were, they were so far removed from their former culture that they simply could not relate to tribesmen on the interior of the country. This lead to a massive division where a lot of these former slaves saw themselves as more educated, more civilized, and simply “better” than the locals, leading to the creation of a leadership class that existed until the 1980’s.

So what does this African history lesson have to do with Doctor Who? I think the idea behind this event has a lot of ramifications in nerd culture at the moment, and I believe we ALL can learn a very important lesson here. Formerly marginalized “nerds” are being forced to mingle with people that they see as inferior, and are treating them like garbage as a result. In a way, the formerly oppressed have become the oppressors and I’m really sick and tired of it. Just because someone got picked on in school, doesn’t give them the right to strive for the very power used against them. This has been brewing for a while, but there is starting to be a real elitist attitude blemishing nerd culture. Some people are weary of, if not downright antagonistic to, any “newcomers” to their hobby of choice. Whether it be comics, TV shows, cartoons, or in this case Doctor Who, these people have invested so much time that they feel the need to protect their baby from the marauding barbarians.

 The opening shots in this asinine “war” seemed to be a fairly misogynistic blog post from last year. The post in question, which I have placed below, is by veteran comic creator Tony Harris. Harris had problems with what he perceived to be “fake geek girls” at conventions, a type of woman that Harris suggests is there to either seduce or “cock-tease” unsuspecting geek guys. I could elaborate more, but you can read it yourself:

tony-harris-rant

I have been asked my opinion on this for a while, and I kept mostly quiet because internet crusaders made a huge deal out of the situation, and I have a tendency to stay out of giant internet fights. Also I DO NOT share the popular opinion of many nerds, and welcome anyone to do anything they want, and participate in anything they want to. My opinion is that Harris clouded what could have been a decent post about people dressing scantily at conventions with a ton of misogynistic garbage. As somewhat of an egalitarian on gender roles, I find his mindset terrible. It all boils down to this:

“Attractive women at cons are not really nerds, they are just trying to hurt you.”

“These girls are not fans of whatever they are pretending to be.”

“I should get more attention at cons because I make comics.”

“P.S. These girls are only hot at cons, in real life I bet they are ugly.”

 Without reading too much into this rant, one can see the bitter ball of hate that sits in the belly of many a nerd fan. After this was posted, many women were incredibly mad at Harris. He seemed unready to accept the gigantic backlash he got afterward, and tried to back-peddle a bit. He did have his supporters though, as it’s not like Harris came up with this all on his own. There is a real problem with folks attacking “fake fans” whatever the hell that means.

This finally brings me to Doctor Who, and the recent announcement of Peter Capaldi taking over the role from a departing Matt Smith.

doctor-who-live-peter-capaldi

For the better part of a decade now, the lead actors in Doctor Who have been on the relatively young side. Long time fans will know that this is a new trend for the show as a whole, but for some new fans this is the ONLY reference they have. This shift to a younger demographic helped bring one type of fan into the Doctor Who family that seemed elusive for years – young women. Many young women have become fans of the show because they were initially attracted to the main actors, then got into the fun of the program itself. This is exactly what the production team wanted to happen, and it worked very well. In no time at all, the show’s fans went from a small inclusive crowd to a worldwide audience including casual fans of all ages.

For this next example, let’s try to think like a teenage girl, and if you are a teenage girl- BONUS! So imagine if you will, having a crush on this actor that you really like then he announces that he’s leaving the show. Even though you fell in love with the guy before him, you were really starting to like this new guy, and he’s already leaving. You’ve sat down to watch them announce the successor and someone as old as your grandfather comes walking out!

This puts The Doctor way outside the romantic comfort zone for many of these fans. Thus the reason for videos like this:

In the video above, a girl that is obviously a huge fan of the show ends up less than happy about the choice of Peter Capaldi. I’ll agree that the video seems superficial, and the girl seems rather annoying, but let’s go deeper. The video is almost besides the point, as my real problem lies with all of the “real fans” that feel the need to be nasty to a young girl for “being fake”.

“Bye Fangirls! WHO don’t need you! Go listen to bieberand STFU”

“Back to Loose Women and X-Factor for you, slattern. You have “squee’d” your last.”

“Im surprised she wasnt fatter. Good job being superficial kid!”

…And it just goes on and on.

This video was circulated quite a bit over the weekend, and the “fake geek girl” crusade finally made it’s way into Doctor Who fandom. My question is: since when did we need to prove how much of a nerd we are to gain “street cred” with stuff like TV shows? Are we supposed to collect merit badges now, or are we simply measuring the size of our nerd genitalia here? I honestly see no difference here to what happened when Matt Smith was announced for the role in 2009. Many old-timer fans were furious that someone so young was offered the role, facetiously suggesting that the Twelfth Doctor was going to be ten years old. Some stormed off and claimed to never watch the show again because of such a decision. Fans like me may have said: “good riddance  to them, as they are just as annoying as the video above. 

So what if someone hasn’t seen 50 years of a TV show, does that mean they can’t enjoy it? Maybe they enjoy it for a different reason than you. Just because somebody chooses to express their love for a show doing something like writing erotic fan fiction about it, that doesn’t make them part of some subservient class under the almighty uber-nerd class you you obviously are part of. If they are a “fake fan” then they will simply disappear when the next big thing comes along, why would they hang around something they hate?

We, as nerds, need to GROW UP. We need to realize that things like science fiction, and comic books, and movies based on comic books have all gone mainstream. That thing that you are a fan of? Millions of new people like it as well, and that doesn’t mean that they are any less fans because of it. Some may not memorize random trivia related to the show, some may even concentrate on something you could care less about like wearing costumes from the show, but they are still fans. There are not “fake nerd girls” trying to destroy the lives of nerdy guys, because that sounds utterly ridiculous when said out loud. Yeah that cheerleader may have made your life hell in high school, but what if you both like Batman movies? Doctor Who? Comics? Maybe we should strive for common ground, and not perpetuate stupid John Hughes movie high school class structures into adulthood, it just makes us all look bad.