Robots: humanoids, squarish service bots, those floating creepy military droids
What it gets right about robotics: not much beyond establishing that a robot can have a female voice and not be a sexbot.
Recommended watching: Wait until the crowds thin down and you can get a good seat, then grab some popcorn and enjoy L3-37.
Let me try to answer your questions about Solo: A Star Wars Story...
Is it good? Yes.
Is it worth standing in line, sitting in a bad seat great? No.
It’s like the last season of Sherlock: certainly, watchable but the fun is from clever fan service, not from the clever plots and re-imagining that made the first two seasons spectacular. Alden Ehrenreich is charming as a young Han Solo struggling to overcome a slow, pedestrian plot and surprising lacklustre direction from Ronnie Howard. Be assured, this is not Rogue One territory where we don’t know until the final moments how the movie will end. We know exactly, exactly, how every scene will end and who will die. The Star Wars theme annoyingly plays each time the movie touches upon an element of the backstory to the original trilogy; in other words, John Williams’ estate is making a bundle from Solo. As would be expected, Woody Harrelson gets to satisfyingly double tap those that double cross him and Emilia Clarke continues the tradition of Star Wars actresses transcending unfortunate hairstyling choices. On the other hand, Donald Glover simply is a younger Billy Dee Williams, cape and all.
But how was the robot L3-37? Another quirky robot sidekick for the Star Wars pantheon! What makes L3 special in the Star Wars universe is that she is female, or at least has a female voice, though why the importance of “the robot is female!” thread makes me think of Paladin in Autonomous (check out my review of that here), the robot who was mystified as to what the big deal was about which gender was given to an only vaguely humanoid robot. However, as a woman, I am delighted whenever a robot is not objectified, (check out the RTSF 9 stereotypical female robot roles here) though there was a slight undercurrent of objectification that I can’t discuss without spoilers.
What made L3 special in the marketing materials and interviews and press releases before the movie is that L3 has self-modified herself. The idea of reconfigurable robots or self-modifying robots is both cool conceptually and attractively hard from research.
And nowhere to be found in the movie. There was no reference to her origins or self-modifications at all in the movie except perhaps the robot’s physical shape being a bit kludgey. Sigh, so much for a teachable moment.
Were there any surprises about L3-37? Well, the movie’s marketing skipped over L3-37’s overt activism on equal rights for robots. It’s probably the first time in a movie where the Robot Uprising has been played for laughs. L3-37’s turn as a robot Susan B. Anthony or Carrie Nation recalls David Bowie’s Suffragette City:
'Hey man, oh leave me alone you know
Hey man, oh Henry, get off the phone, I gotta
Hey man, I gotta straighten my face
This mellow thighed chick just put my spine out of place'
The suffragette angle is meant to be funny, but there is a perhaps unintentional nod to a troubling economic disparity: the robots are supervisors while people (and Wookies) are slaving away in the mines. A sobering thought about how artificial intelligence is removing many “middle manager” jobs.
My recommendation? Wait until the crowds thin down and you can get a good seat, then grab some popcorn and enjoy L3-37. Like Ziggy Stardust said:
'Oh, don’t lean on me man, ‘because you can’t afford the ticket
I’m back on Suffragette City
Oh, don’t lean on me man
'Cause you ain’t got time to check it
You know my Suffragette City
Is outta sight she’s all right'
For a video review of 'Solo', head over to the official RTSF YouTube channel or simply click below...