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REVIEW: A spoiler-free parents’ guide to ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’

May 25th, 2018 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: A spoiler-free parents’ guide to ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’

Han Solo is a crafty young man living in a lawless society, although he thinks he’s discovered his path to a better life.

“I’m gonna be a pilot,” he says. 

There’s only one problem: He doesn’t own a ship.

So he visits the nearest Empire recruiting office to sign up for flight school, which will teach him how to be an aviator while he learns other skills and helps restore peace and prosperity to the galaxy. Or so he’s told.

As we’ve learned over the years, nothing goes as planned in Han Solo’s life, and soon he’s caught up in a risky burglary plot that could either kill him or make him rich. Perhaps if he’s fortunate, he’ll even find a ship along the way.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (PG-13) opens in theaters this weekend, less than six months removed from the last Star Wars film and three years after Disney rebooted the franchise. Solo is the 10th Star Wars movie and the second stand-alone film – meaning it doesn’t follow the chronological sequence of the main saga. It tells the story of a young Han Solo and falls about 20 years prior to events in Star Wars: A New Hope (1977).

It stars Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!) as Han Solo, Woody Harrelson (Hunger Games) as his companion Beckett, Emilia Clarke (Me Before You) as his romantic interest Qi'ra, and Donald Glover (The Martian) as a young Lando Calrissian.

Most movie reviews dive into the details of a plot. This review, though, will be different. That’s because Star Wars fans – like me – often want to enter the theater with as little knowledge as possible. To them, a Star Wars movie is like a Christmas present, and they want to be surprised. Yet they also want to know the answer to the ever-so-important question: Is it OK to take the kids?

If that’s you, then here’s what you need to know: Solo is as violent as Rogue One. It has no sexuality but does include five kissing scenes. It also has around 11 coarse words – a record for a Star Wars film.

If you need more information, then keep reading.

(Scale key: Minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

Moderate. Like other Star Wars films, Solo contains plenty of laser blaster and battle scenes, even if it’s mostly bloodless. We see someone get hit in the chest with an instrument and then punched in the chest. A droid is run over by a vehicle. We watch a World War II-type battle scene, minus the blood. (We do see explosions and shooting.) A heist of a train involves shooting, punching and explosions. A character detonates a bomb, sacrificing herself to save everyone else. A character dies in close hand-to-hand combat, and we see his body.   

Sexuality/Sensuality

Minimal. Five kissing scenes, including one that lasts more than a second or two. One female character wears a somewhat revealing dress. No bedroom scenes or discussions of sex.

Coarse Language

Minimal. I counted 11 coarse words: h-ll (8), d—n (2), a—1). That’s not a lot of words for a PG-13 film, but nevertheless is the most ever in a Star Wars movie – and nearly double the previous high of six in The Last Jedi. Han curses some, but it’s mostly Beckett.   

Other Positive Elements

Han Solo, despite his desire to be a bad guy, makes his share of good choices. (See “Worldview,” below.)

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

We see characters drink alcohol. We also watch some of the primary characters gamble for money and possessions. The Force is not mentioned or practiced in the film. Some of the main characters lie to get ahead.  

Life Lessons

Solo gives us lessons on bravery, teamwork and doing the right thing, although many of the film’s lessons serve as warnings on the pitfalls of sin and crime. Speaking of that …     

Worldview

Han Solo is an antihero – that is, a protagonist who lacks the conventional qualities of a hero. He often does the right thing, even if he is attracted to the criminal life.

“I’m an outlaw,” he says.

“You are the good guy,” a friend retorts.

He hangs out with a few bad apples in Solo, and in spite of their tough demeanor, they desire for a normal life free from running from debtors. They simply want to start anew. One of them says he wants to out of his crazy lifestyle of robbery and learn how to play a musical instrument!

But they’re stuck in a spinning cycle of crime, whereby each bad deed is covered by another one.

The Bible says the law is written on our hearts (Romans 2:15). In other words, God designed us so that we will never be satisfied with a life of crime – even that of a smuggler in Star Wars. The life of Han Solo may sound fun, but in the real world, it’s a miserable existence.

Still, Han makes lots of good choices, too – choices that even his future friend Luke Skywalker would endorse.

The movie also raises the ethical question: Is it OK to steal from the Empire? Sometimes the answer is obvious. Other times it’s not. 

Sponsors

Denny’s, Esurance, General Mills, Nissan and Symantec Corp are among the sponsors for Solo.

What Works

Surprisingly, the music. Unless I missed it, the rock music heard in the trailer isn’t in Solo. In its place, we get the orchestral music that makes a Star Wars movie so great.

Additionally, two of the action scenes stand out. One is as good as any action sequence in The Empire Strikes Back.     

What Doesn’t

The end of the film drags. Compared to the last three Star Wars movies, it was a dud.

Where Does It Rank?

My updated Star Wars film rankings: 1a. The Empire Strikes Back, 1b. A New Hope, 3. The Force Awakens, 4. The Last Jedi, 5. Return of the Jedi, 6a. Rogue One, 6b. Solo, 8. Revenge of the Sith, 9. The Phantom Menace, 10. Attack of the Clones.

Discussion Questions

  1. Was it morally permissible for Han and his friends to rob the train, and then to steal from the planet?
  2. Would you want to be Han Solo? Why or why not?
  3. Name three good deeds of Han Solo in the film. Name three bad ones.
  4. Is it OK to cheer for an antihero? How so?

Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.