This post contains spoilers about Solo: A Star Wars Story, so if you haven’t seen the film and prefer to remain unspoiled, turn back now.
At this point, the fraught history of Solo: A Star Wars Story is the stuff of modern film legend. Changing directors, rumors of Alden Ehrenreich needing an acting coach to nail his role as the swaggering Han, and the fact that audiences took a trip to a galaxy far, far away just six months ago with The Last Jedi, people didn’t exactly flock to the theater in the usual Jedi-powered droves. For most other franchises, a $101 million opening weekend wouldn’t be cause for alarm, but Solo‘s take was way below expectations. The following weekend saw it continue to falter, with a 65% drop in attendance and a $23 million take. It’s safe to say that fans greeted the Kessel Run with a resounding shrug.
The real shame is that Solo is a pretty good movie and Ehrenreich was a perfectly acceptable Han. Some things worked (L3-37 and Lando, anything involving Chewie), other’s didn’t (Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra, that infamous cameo), but the real problem was the lack of stakes. We know that Han and Chewie live to fight another day and we know that Qi’ra isn’t the love of this scruffy looking nerf herder’s life, so it’s hard to be fully invested. As we look ahead to potential standalone films revolving around Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett, it’s hard not to be concerned about the same issues.
However, one thing that Solo did give us was the character of Enfys Nest (Erin Kellyman). The leader of a band of pirates who was the bane of rival smugglers and the Crimson Tide crime syndicate, Nest was revealed to be a teenage girl who took on the mantle from her mother as the leader of the Cloud-Riders and the resistance against the growing Empire. Nest fulfilled the promise of coolness that Captain Phasma (Gwendolyn Christie) never delivered: yes, she has a very cool costume, but she’s got the incredible backstory and mission along with it.
Enfys Nest gave Star Wars fans something that they had long been denied: a character not connected to the original trio that was given real emotional heft. The fact that she’s a revolutionary teen girl is all the better. In one discussion of her history, she justified her existence and left audiences wanting more. As charming as Ehrenreich’s Han is, he didn’t manage this feat with an entire movie. As we look ahead to the future of the franchise that will probably keep churning out films until the sun burns out, we’re going to have to move beyond the Skywalkers and Solos.
The bands of smugglers were a major part of the EU that have since been eradicated from the canon by Disney, but that could be an interesting element to bring back into the galaxy. While it may have been a misstep to release Solo so soon after the fandom tore itself apart over The Last Jedi, the idea that Star Wars stories can be smaller scale is not a bad idea. Not everything needs to hinge on the fate of the rebellion every time. Fun romps exploring new corners of space? Sign me up. The Cloud-Riders fit that bill perfectly.
Disney has some decisions to make about their current slate following Solo, and the answer might not be fewer stories but different ones. Stop retconning backstories (Han’s gold dice don’t mean anything and they never will) and recycling fan favorites that may not warrant their own films. Give us the Space Teen Pirate Queen movie that we deserve.