Next year will be the fifth anniversary of Solo: A Star Wars Story, which was released in theaters in 2018. And it is a film that can be considered nothing but a disappointment to Lucasfilm financially. The first Star Wars film to lose money and, while not the first to switch directors, it is the most publicized fallout of directors being replaced (Lord and Miller would go on to produce the successful Into the Spiderverse for Sony). But it has its fans, most of which have come after the film bombed at the box office (better late than never, I supposed).
Creatively, Solo: A Star Wars Story has contributed a lot of canon material that has permeated through publishing and might make its way back into live-action. We do not need to wait until next year to start appreciating elements of the second (and possibly the last) anthology Star Wars film.
The Empire is in the background for most of the film, but Star Wars will always bring new versions of Stormtroopers to a new film or series. In Solo: A Star Wars Story, we get two main ones with the Range trooper and the Swamp trooper (aka the Mudtrooper). Han is placed in a Mudtrooper unit on Mimbian at some point after he is expelled from the flight academy. Imperial navy cadets were sent to serve Mudtrooper duty which makes sense as the job requires less than desirable circumstances of wading through swamps and trenches.
And one of the least desirable jobs in the Empire has a pretty cool design, a few shades darker than army green to blend in with a swamp environment with unique goggles and oxygen masks. While the Mudtrooper does not quite crack the Top Five, it is still worthy of a mention, both for the design and the implication of the job in canon.
The Top Five
5. The Gritty, Grimy Side of Star Wars
It is a simple setup, but it sets the tone that Solo: A Star Wars Story will explore the less-than-ideal part of the universe. It also foreshadows Han’s beginnings with local criminal organizations in his homeworld to a galactic crime syndicate.
And we start right away on Corelia with the White Worm gang led by the giant worm, Lady Proxima. They are Grindilads, a species that literally lives underground. The females and males are also distinct in design, with the females slightly larger in size. The Grindilads play an essential part in The High Republic novel, Midnight Horizon, where you better understand their family dynamic.
Once Han escapes the Corellian criminal world and joins the Empire, his troubles are far from over. He is expelled from the flight academy and is a corporal on Mimban in a trench war with the Mimbanese Liberation Army.
The Imperial troopers in the scene are getting dirty (again, literally) in one of the most brutal war scenes in Star Wars. It is hard to believe if you watched The Clone Wars how few ground wars there are in Star Wars films outside of a few inconvenient run-ins with incompetent Stormtroopers and some version of AT-ATs.
Solo: A Star Wars Story takes place in the prime of the years of the Empire before the Rebellion comes into its own, so the vulnerable are fighting the Empire and crime syndicates, and the film does give a sense of a boiling pot about to spill over.
4. Enfys Nest and the Cloud-Riders
The Rebellion is starting to come together as smaller cells help out bigger operations that can disrupt the Empire. We learn that Enfys Nest and her Cloud-Riders are one of these smaller cells. At the film’s beginning, they are presented as marauders, stealing coaxium from Beckett and his crew, who stole it from the Empire.
At the end of the film, Enfys takes off her helmet to reveal the face of a young woman to appeal to Becket, Han, and Qi’ra on morality, explaining that they are allies for something bigger.
Looking at Enfys costume design and the Cloud-Riders name, it is hard not to notice the similarities to the Nihil from The High Republic. That is probably not a coincidence, and there is a story somewhere.
3. L3-37’s Arc
I have warmed to this character in the past few years. Droids in Star Wars before L-3 were treated as a side, comedic characters that also moved merchandise. L-3 was the first with an unapologetic political bent, and I did not appreciate that during my first viewing of Solo: A Star Wars Story.
And, because L-3 is Phoebe Waller-Bridge, you might expect more comedy than drama but what happens to L-3 during this film is incredibly tragic. But it is something that happens to leaders in Liberation/ Civil Rights movements throughout history: They get silenced.
L-3’s naivete of setting droids free without a “what next” plan puts her and her crew in an even more dangerous situation.
A guard targets L3 as the leader of this revolution and shoots her. To save her memory and help them get through the gravity well through the Kessel Run, Lando uploads her into the navigation system of the Millennium Falcon. So she is not only silenced but is still self-aware enough and has to watch life move on without her, confined to the Millennium Falcon. This makes Han winning it off of Lando even more egregious and makes Han a jerk taking a ship with the essence of someone Lando cared about.
Her independent spirit still lived on within the Millennium Falcon collective, and L3 taught the other two droid brains, ED-4 and V5-T, to have an individual voice so they all could maintain some sense of self.
If Qi’ra had made it to the other side of the security gate, there might never have been a Han and Leia. This is the challenge of a prequel: Han and Qi’ra were never going to work out, so how you show how things don’t work out matters more. Her character could have been another female character that dies to further Han’s story, but, luckily, the writers did not do to Qi’ra what they did to Val. Qi’ra has her own arc and realizes that Han is on a different path that cannot involve her while she is stuck in the underworld.
In the end, Qi’ra lets Han go and is off to meet with Maul on Dathomir and off to her own canon stories. The character has become a big part of various comic series. Writer Charles Soule has written a Qi’ra arc after the events of Solo: A Star Wars Story in Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters and Star Wars: Crimson Reign. Soule is set to close out that arc in the upcoming Star Wars Hidden Empire. Eventually, we will see Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra in live action again (Clarke is set to make her MCU debut in the Secret Invasion series on Disney Plus next year). There is too much material that has been presented since Solo not to explore more in live-action.
Qi’ra is the most recent leader of the #1 canon contribution from Solo: A Star Wars Story, closely tied with her character development.
1. Crimson Dawn
So goes the beginnings of the Crimson Dawn told by Enfys Nest. But when Crimson Dawn is first introduced in Solo: A Star Wars Story, it is one of the largest crime syndicates with a figurehead, Dryden Vos, and the secret leader Darth Maul.
So as not to repeat my words in The Best Thing About Every Major Star Wars Canon Film and Series, Crimson Dawn has been given the most canon material post-Solo. Canon would further connect the organization to the Shadow Collective, which first appeared in The Clone Wars with Maul, his brother Savage, and Death Watch. And as Death Watch has reinvented itself, as evident in The Mandalorian, so too has Crimson Dawn.
We have already seen the evolution of a Rebellion (to the Resistance) and the Empire (to the First Order), so it makes sense that we would see the development of a Crime Syndicate that has accumulated such a rich history in a short time.