Hey everyone and welcome to the Sarlacc Pit! A couple weeks ago I gave a review on “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” This week, I’m going to keep riding the “Solo” train and give a bit more of a detailed look at two of the main characters of “Solo.” As we’ve previously seen from the Prequel Trilogy, movies like “Solo” can be a minefield for movie makers. Going back and exploring a character’s backstory can be dangerous, especially when it may cause viewers to have to see their favorite characters in a different light. It’s also dangerous because in many cases it involves casting new actors to play familiar characters, which as fans of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” can tell you, can lead to some controversy. However, in the case of Star Wars, the movies are very rarely the only place that you will see these Star Wars characters. So this week I am going to take a look at a Han Solo and Lando Calrissian and compare them not only to the their characters in the Original Trilogy, but also to their appearances throughout canon. This post is going to have spoilers for the “Solo” movie as well as minor spoilers from the novels and comics, so read at your own risk!
“I’ve got a good feeling about this.” – Han Solo, “Solo: A Star Wars Story”
Movies: “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back,” “Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi,” “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens”
Novels: Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt, Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire’s End, Star Wars: Last Shot
Comics: Star Wars, Star Wars: Darth Vader (briefly, first run), Star Wars: Han Solo
So let’s start with the star of the movie. Han Solo is a fan-favorite. Everyone wanted to be the scruffy-looking pilot of the fastest ship in the galaxy. We all loved his quick-shooting, drug-running, smart-talking behavior in the Original Trilogy (OT). How consistent is his character throughout canon? Well let’s first start with his character arc from the Original Trilogy into “The Force Awakens.” In the movies he starts out as a cynical atheist smuggler who is just trying to get paid so he can pay off his debts and continue living his life with no attachments. By the end of the Original Trilogy, Han had found something worth fighting for and was willing to stick his neck out for the galaxy and his friends. He went from being a common smuggler to a war hero within the span of a couple years, and had even won over the woman who would become his wife and the mother of his child, and was even willing to admit that maybe the Force was a real thing. However, decades later during the events of “The Force Awakens,” the loss of his son to the dark side of the Force had caused Han to lapse back into his cynical ways as he fell back into his old smuggling career. However, at this point in his life his view of the Force had been changed permanently, and he would remain a believer until his death while he attempted to bring his son back to the light.
In the comics we get pretty much the same Han Solo as is seen in the OT. So far he has only appeared in comics that take place between “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” so this makes sense. However, we do see one break from his early cynicism in the comics, and that is in Star Wars: Han Solo, where a mission for the Rebel Alliance drops Solo in the middle of the Dragon Void Race: a huge interstellar race that every pilot dreams of. Since Han loves to boast about his skills as a pilot and the speed of the Millennium Falcon it makes sense that this is one of the first times we see Han eager to carry out a mission for the Rebellion. This series breaks through Han’s pessimism just a little bit, and shows us his true love for flying.
Finally, let’s talk about the novels. Han appears in the last two novels of the Aftermath trilogy. In these novels I think we can see the biggest break in the consistency of his character. Han appears much less gruff and cynical, and a lot more eager to help and be helped by others. He also references the Force a few times in Life Debt, which struck me as odd, even for a post-“Return of the Jedi” Solo. Now, it’s the author’s prerogative to write Han Solo as he pleased, so perhaps he was just trying to punch up the events of the Aftermath trilogy as a happier time in Solo’s life, it just felt a bit off to me. Star Wars: Last Shot, however, feels a lot more true to character. As the tie-in novel to the “Solo” movie, this novel bounces between directly after the events of “Solo” and a few years after “Return of the Jedi.” In this novel we see more of the cynical person Solo is. In his younger years we were seeing the evolution of him becoming less of the naive youth that he was, and in the later years we see the development of his dislike of the New Republic bureaucracy, as well as his anxiety of being a new father. These two perspectives do a really good job of filling in the gaps of his character development between different movies.
So, how does Han Solo from “Solo: A Star Wars Story” fit in? In this movie Han seems to be a lot more eager, and a lot more optimistic. We still see that fiery pilot’s spirit, but it has yet to be tempered by a decade of failed smuggling runs and living with a price on his head. I believe the writers for “Solo” did a great job of showing us that at one time Han had dreams and aspirations, and he used to be willing to fight for things. What we see at the end of the movie, after being betrayed by two of the people he trusted most in the galaxy, is the first steps for him turning from an eager orphan off the streets of Corellia, to the cynical grumpy smuggler laying low and hiding from Jabba’s bounty hunters on Tatooine. I think the writers did a pretty good job of showing us Han’s origins.
“Everything you’ve heard about me is true.” – Lando Calrissian, “Solo: A Star Wars Story”
Movies: “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back,” “Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi”
TV Shows: “Star Wars: Rebels”
Novels: Star Wars: Last Shot
Comics: Star Wars: Lando, Star Wars: Lando: Double or Nothing (Just started!)
Lando Calrissian is the reason I wanted to write this post in the first place. Yes, Han’s the star of “Solo,” but Donald Glover’s Lando stole the show! My wife and I previously had a conversation where I mentioned something Lando said or did in Last Shot. She claimed that Lando Calrissian is the least consistent character in the Star Wars franchise. However,I have to disagree. However, it is still true that in almost every iteration of Lando we see something completely different, so let’s look into this:
In “The Empire Strikes Back,” Lando is the slimy politician who stabs his friend in the back to save his own skin. In “Return of the Jedi,” Lando is suddenly a General in the Rebellion, with piloting skills comparable to those of Han Solo. In his appearance in “Rebels,” we see a smuggler willing to screw over anyone he can to make a profit. In the comics, Lando is portrayed as a smooth-talking romantic/master thief. In Last Shot we see a couple different Lando Calrissians, with the younger Calrissian being this stylish party-goer who sometimes follows the freedom-fighting whims of his droid co-pilot, and the older Lando finally finding true love, at least when he’s not fighting in brutal battles for his life (in the novel he is said to go into a “familiar blood-lust,” which is not a phrase I would have ever attributed to Lando Calrissian).
With all of these different portrayals of Lando Calrissian, who is he really? I think the two places to look for answers to Lando’s true characters are in his first few scenes in “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and in a line he has in the Marvel Lando mini-series: “It isn’t an ace up the sleeve if everyone knows you have it.” At his core, Lando Calrissian is a gambler with an ace up his sleeve. He keeps his cards close to his chest, so you never know what he’s capable of. Everyone is so distracted by his flashy clothes that they underestimate his skills with a blaster. It’s this core personality trait that lets him betray his friend with the hope he’ll be able to save him in the future, or put aside personal feelings when it’s time to make a credit, or even outdraw someone when his back’s against the wall. When people know too much about you, they know how to beat you, and Lando never goes into a situation without a way to win.
So, how does his portrayal in “Solo” stand against all this? Pretty well actually. We get a good sense of Lando’s flirtatious behavior, as well as his gambling/cheating abilities. We see the solid beginnings of the future politician/businessman that Lando would become further down the line. Furthermore, we get a good look at some of Lando’s hidden abilities, such as his piloting and sharpshooting skills. However, despite Donald Glover’s brilliant portrayal of the young Lando Calrissian, Lando’s sexuality in this movie has become a point of controversy in the Star Wars fandom. “Solo” writer Jonathan Kasdan (who co-wrote the movie with his father, Lawrence, who created the Lando Calrissian character in “The Empire Strikes Back”) stated in an interview that Lando Calrissian was written (in “Solo,” at least) to be pansexual (meaning not limited in sexual choice). A lot of “fans” are angry with this decision, unhappy that the attractive, well-dressed, flirtatious, cape-wearing gambler might not limit himself to one gender in a universe comprised of a multitude of different genders. This anger is dumb and small-minded. Lando Calrissian has always been a man who only plays by his own rules, so why shouldn’t his sexuality also fit that description? I think that it’s pretty great that the Star Wars canon is continuing to represent not only people of color in their more recent movies, but also those from the LGTBQ community, not only in this movie, but throughout canon. Good on you, Star Wars. In the end, the Lando Calrissian portrayed in “Solo: A Star Wars Story” fits perfectly with the rest of the canonized Lando, in a consistently inconsistent manner.
“Solo” did a great job keeping their characters consistent with canon. Han is a little more naive and optimistic than we normally see him, but that’s only because he has a whole decade of misfortune and betrayal ahead of him. Lando may be completely different from the politician-turned-war hero that we see in the OT, but that’s only because he’s a man who wears different hats based on his needs. “Solo” stayed true to its characters, and with characters as storied as Han Solo and Lando Calrissian that is no easy task.
While I’ve talked a great deal about Han and Lando, there is another character who popped up (albeit briefly) who has an equally storied past. This character was also a source of confusion for those who have only watched the movies. Next time, I’m going to fill you in on Darth Maul, and how he is still alive despite being cut in half. Until then, thanks for reading, and may the Force be with you.