In “But How Gay Is It?” we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters now including, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.
What is Solo: A Star Wars Story? There are two answers to this question. One is the basic, optimistic answer: Solo is the prequel story of young Han Solo, long before he became involved with the Jedi and became the iconic character we know and love. He’s twinky, idealistic, and dreams of being a pilot and seeing the galaxy. But life on the streets of Corellia, ruled by a villainous crime boss, Lady Proxima, keeps him grounded. Even when he finds a way out, he has to leave his love, Qi’ra, behind. He then vows to become a pilot and find her again.
The second, more cynical answer is that Solo is the most troubled Star Wars project in a storied history of troubled Star Wars projects. Solo was in such dire straits that an acting coach was reportedly called in for star Alden Ehrenreich (something he denies), extensive reshoots were ordered, and, most notoriously, original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were fired during production. Director Ron Howard came in to stitch it all back together and deliver the most competent film he could.
Did he succeed? You know, he kinda did! It’s not the best movie in the world, but it’s far from the mess I expected it to be. Honestly, the nicest thing I could say about it is that it’s extremely competently made mostly because so many of the reports from set made it sound like it’d be anything but.
Who’s in it? Ehrenreich plays Han Solo, doing his best Harrison Ford impression. He starts the movie in odd form, like he’s watched a lot of Ford footage and is trying to capture every head movement precisely. Once he gets a bit less robotic and more fluid in movement, the performance starts to feel less like an imitation and more his own. Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke plays Qi’ra, doing the same thing Daisy Ridley and Felicity Jones did in their respective Star Wars films. (It’s a problem.)
The rest of the ensemble is filled with the sort of quirky stars you’d expect in a Coen Brothers movie, not a Star Wars spinoff. Woody Harrelson is Tobias Beckett, a mentor to young Han in the art of crime. Thandie Newton plays Val, Tobias’ partner-in-crime and partner-in-love. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is the MVP of the movie as leftist droid L3-37, who demands equal rights and encourages droid rebellion at every turn. Each one of her line deliveries is more perfect than the last.
The big name, though, is Donald Glover as a young Lando Calrissian, taking over the role from originator Billy Dee Williams. He’s slippery and charismatic in the role, just charming enough to win you over while making you doubt his every motive.
Why should I see it? I’m assuming Star Wars fans are going to see it no matter what, because y’all are completists, and I respect that. For those who aren’t, it’s a light, well-made action movie that is practically the embodiment of a “popcorn flick.” You’ll have a fine time at the cinema. But like, see Book Club first. That’s an even better time at the cinema.
But how gay is it? Well, it’s not, which isn’t surprising, considering how straight The Last Jedi was last year. But there’s a complication, which is this idea of Lando as pansexual. Writer Jonathan Kasdan stated he’s such after the fact, in an interview with HuffPost. Glover is on board with the characterization, but the development has frustrated critics who feel it’s an attempt to add queerness after the fact without making a character explicitly queer. It’s all reminiscent of the infamous “exclusively gay moment” from the live-action Beauty and the Beast remake.
Here’s my take: Of course only naming characters’ sexualities in retrospect, without any canonical support, is trash. It’s been trash since J.K. Rowling said Dumbledore is gay after publishing all seven books. But at a certain point, getting outraged and publishing 200 thinkpieces about it every time it happens is pointless and, frankly, ultimately more performative than helpful. There has to be change on this, but for now, we’re stuck in a repetitive cycle.
You said Solo is “light” is that in tone or in content? Both, really. It’s a fun movie, not to be taken too seriously. But it’s also somewhat short on story and heft. You don’t get the feeling that we needed this movie, and we definitely don’t need two more.
Is Ehrenreich as cute here as he was in Hail Caesar? No one in human history has ever been as cute as Ehrenreich was in Hail Caesar.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is in theaters now.