Anyone who has read any of the posts on this blog will know that I am a huge fan of Star Wars, all of the Star Wars movies, except the prequels. So this is a great time to be alive for me, with Star Wars films now on a release schedule that almost makes them like the kind of movie serial that George Lucas was inspired by when he created the franchise.

I was immediately on board with the reboot movies, starting with The Force Awakens, and also on board with Rogue One, but I have been a little less enthused about Solo: A Star Wars Story. I was pleased with the casting of Donald Glover as Lando. That hinted at a movie headed in the right direction but nothing else I had seen had really grabbed me, until…

In the Morning Spoilers section of the io9 website today, I just read something that has made Solo: A Star Wars Story into a “must see movie” for me. They report that Thandie Newton plays a mysterious figure named Val.

There are some actors who have raw charisma, and it just shines from the screen. Thandie Newton is one such actor, she can turn any project, no matter how compromised, into pure gold.

Obviously, Thandie is in West World and adds complexity and menace to that show. Newton’s character is the insightful android, who is forever testing the park’s fences. She quickly became an audience favorite, shifting in and out of three different roles that were all part and parcel of the same creature. She was a tormented homesteader protecting her daughter, a cynical madam, and the robot substrate below those two characters, slowly waking up to the world around her. Newton thinks of her as a “freedom fighter” in a silk dress.

But it is in the projects that are less than perfect that she really shines. In The Chronicles of Riddick, she plays a character called Dame Vaako. As Empire Online said at the time:

The film is not entirely devoid of value. An inspired riff involving an oven-baked planet, with Riddick and crew sprinting to keep ahead of a molten sunrise, plus a sexy bad-girl spin on Lady Macbeth from Thandie Newton, temporarily lift the turgid Ping-Pong between mouthfuls of prophetic mumbo-jumbo and bloodless head-cracking. The combat is oddly techno-spare, opting for mano-a-mano physicality rather than zappy space opera.

Thandie does some heavy lifting to make her role into something. In the end, she is so fascinating that you watch the rest of the shenanigans just to see how they relate to her. As both these projects show, Thandie is excellent when she is involved in sci-fi, no matter if it is good or bad, so now I’m officially “in” for this Solo movie.

The reason I ever hesitated, or pretended to, is that I was always more interested in Luke than I ever was in Han Solo. You can be a Luke guy or a Han guy, one or the other, you can’t be both. Han Solo is a rogue, a smuggler who lives on the criminal edge. He gets by on his charm and he is in it for the money. Luke Skywalker is not a rogue, he is a kid who believes he is destined for something great. Luke is socially awkward and a little short for a stormtrooper, but he learns how to use the force. Anyway, the star of this film is not Luke, it’s Han, and so it took me a little time to warm to it.

But now I am on board, and so I guess I’ll have to watch the trailer. It opens with young Han in a speeder chase. “I’ve been running scams on the street since I was 10,” he tells us. That made my stomach heave. I hope this movie isn’t going to be too in love with Han. Having him be an ultimate badass at the age of ten just feels like fan service. I would prefer an origin story with at least some kind of complexity.

The driving gloves he wears while gunning the engine of his speeder are also barf inducing, but Han wore those in the original film, so we can’t hold them against this new movie. It seems stupid that Han would need to wear them to fly a spaceship, but I can live with them. In the speeder with him is a character called Qi’ra, who has a smile on her face, enjoying the chase, and is presumably a partner in crime. So far-so ordinary.

On the plus side, the Millennium Falcon we see here is brand new, with gleaming white corridors and shiny new buttons. That’s a detail that took me by surprise and I’m pleasantly taken aback by it. It’s a clever little touch, and perhaps a visual reminder of how much time is yet to pass before Han arrives on Tatooine.

Then we get a glimpse of Thandie Newton’s character. According to io9 there is a previous set picture that was posted by Ron Howard himself, which shows her wearing a costume with Imperial Insignia on it. I would be disappointed if she was, once again, cast in a villainous role, so it’s good news that io9 also mentions a recent toy leak that suggest at some point in the movie we will see Han and crew disguise themselves as Imperials. So she may be a good character in disguise. I would be much more interested in seeing this, but I’ll take what I can get, obviously, this is Star Wars after all.

There is a bunch more action, and we see a few more characters getting introduced, including Lando, and then comes one of the most promising sequences in the trailer. We see the Millennium Falcon being chased by a Star Destroyer and some TIE fighters through some kind of nebulous space corridor. Han and Chewie are at the controls, with Lando and Qi’ra behind them. We also see the exterior hull of the new Millennium Falcon, with its blue and white paint job. And then the trailer is over.

I would have been more interested in seeing a prequel about Leia, Lando, or almost anyone else except Han. My favorite option wouldn’t be a prequel at all, it would be to see Luke as a grizzled old Jedi just before starting that school of his. He would be getting into scrapes around the Star Wars galaxy, as we see green shoots of the First Order starting to germinate. That would rock, but what we have is Solo: A Star Wars Story, and that will have to do, for now.

The movie is coming in May, so for your fix of space opera in the mean time, check out Galaxy Dog.

Galaxy Dog (Dark Galaxy) Start Reading the Dark Galaxy Trilogy

The first book in the Dark Galaxy Trilogy, always the best place to start, is Galaxy Dog. It’s a little more old-school and fun than a lot of the sci-fi that is around at the moment. It has spaceships, robots, battles, and brave warriors rebelling against an evil empire. Click the book cover and go to the storefront you prefer to buy it now, or follow this link.

This is a universal book link (UBL) and you will be greeted with a page displaying all the places the book is available online. Just select the storefront you prefer and, if you want, also make this your default bookseller. From then on, every time you click a UBL you will be taken directly to the book you are interested in, on the storefront you prefer. The UBL even allows you to go to the Amazon store that matches your region.