Solo: A Star Wars Story is the newest chapter in the dynastic Star Wars saga, and though it has not cleaned up at box offices nearly as much as anticipated, it is an incredible movie and one I would definitely watch again.
The main antagonist of the movie is, as the title suggests, Han Solo, portrayed by Alden Ehrenreich. He is joined in his adventure by a diverse cast of characters including Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke), Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and, of course, Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). The film portrays his origins on the planet Corellia, and follows him through perils and heroism. For a full synopsis of the film, please refer to its Wikipedia site. The plot is not what I'm here to talk about.
I'm here to talk about the women.
Solo: A Star Wars Story introduces us to two important females very early on - the short-lived, cruel, and disgusting Lady Proxima (Linda Hunt), and the beautiful, charming, clever Qi'Ra. Shortly after, we meet Val (Thandie Newton), Beckett's love interest and a full character in her own right. Later in the film we encounter female droid L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), and finally we are introduced to a tribe of female warriors led by the badass Enfys Nest (Erin Kellyman).
These are only the independent, strong, heavily-featured women. We also get many of the stereotypical arm-candy, background women, but this is a substantial list of main roles given to women. Honestly the feminism in this movie is so strong I'm surprised that Buzzfeed hasn't latched onto it yet.
The first girl we meet is Qi'ra. Portrayed beautifully by Emilia Clarke, Qi'ra at first appears to be your typical movie female - gorgeous, absolutely in love with the protagonist, and reliant on him for getting out of her current unpleasant circumstances. She showed early on that she had some
On this mission, she proves her worth again and again, by being a BAMF who takes out enemies and strategies with the best of them. She does fall into a minor and relatively unimportant love triangle wherein Han tries to win her over but she reveals her commitment to her husband, but she springs back quickly into her BAMF self.
The most important moment for Qi'ra comes at the climax of the movie. See the synopsis for details, but basically Han and Beckett return with the fuel for Dryden, but it turns out that Beckett has been double-crossing Han this entire time, so Beckett leaves with Chewie, and Qi'ra, Dryden, and Han are left alone in Dryden's "yacht." Han has a good fight with Dryden, but ends up losing, and Qi'ra who has been sneaking around to get to a sword this entire time threatens him with it. After a big show, Dryden tells Han that she's going to kill him, she never loved him, etc. At first, Qi'ra acts as if she agrees, but she ends by killing Dryden himself. She sends Han away, telling him she's following close behind. At this moment, I thought, okay, she's awesome, and she chose her man wisely, if she had to choose one. I really hope she's not about to die right now. However, the thing is, she didn't choose a man. She closes the "blinds," presumably securing the yacht, and calls up Darth Maul on a holograph. SHE HAS BEEN WORKING FOR THE SITH. THIS WHOLE TIME.
I love Qi'ra because she was a free agent, she was independent, she had her own motives for doing what she did and she used men to get herself to the top. So often even the most "badass" or "independent" female characters are only badass and independent because they fight really well along side men or they rebel against one set of patriarchs with the help of some men. Qi'ra is a glass-ceiling-shattering masterpiece of independence. Yes, she turned out to be evil, but isn't that kind of amazing? When was the last time a male character was involved in that many plot twists?
While not the most important female in the movie by far, and almost certainly the least likeable, Lady Proxima presents a side of the independent female we don't usually see. The Star Wars saga alone has an abundance of male characters who are similar to Proxima - Jabba the Hutt is a particularly identical example - but a female who runs a crime syndicate and is feared by her subordinates is rare. I'm not saying that Proxima is in any way a good person; she's one of the most disgusting creatures in the SW cinematic universe, but she is a strong, independent woman. I don't like her, but I like that she exists.
Val is introduced as a criminal working with Beckett. It is shown that she has a badass set of skills and that she is strong and independent BEFORE it is revealed that she and Beckett are romantically involved. Shortly after this revelation, however, she sacrifices herself to save the mission, so unfortunately we don't get much more out of her. It is important to note, though, that she is a female martyr whose primary function was not as a romantic interest for a male. Even after she died, Beckett's mourning period was short. She wasn't presented as his motivation for continuing. Though this seems very sad, it is how Beckett would've reacted to the death of a close friend; of a male crew member. There were a couple "sorry for your loss"es from Dryden's people, and his angry grief was explosive, but even in death she was remembered as a soldier rather than a lover, which I find remarkable and very important.
Don't get me S T A R T E D on L3-37. Oh, it's too late? That's literally what I'm writing this post for? Okay. Let's get started on L3-37. From the beginning, it is obvious that this droid is a rebel. She is first shown trying to convince two "fighting droids" (two gonk droids in a ring hacking chunks off each other - really, very sad) that they are worth more than this, that they should fight it, that they could have better lives. From this point on, she proves to be a revolutionary. There is one scene in which Qi'ra is confiding that Han is still in love with her and she's not sure how she feels about that, when L3-37 says that she is in the same situation herself. Naturally, I thought that she was going to say that she was in love with Lando, and Lando didn't feel the same way. However, L3 turns the tables and says that she is convinced that Lando is in love with her, and she doesn't feel the same way. Shortly following this, she answers Qi'ra's question about relationships between humans and droids by saying "oh, it works..." Is this... a casual sex joke? From a female? ASTONISHING! Though intended for comic relief, I'm sure, this scene is very similar to one you'd typically see two men having in the cockpit of a ship, but instead it was two women, which is New and Important.
The most revolutionary moment for L3 is when she creates an actual revolution. In the spice mines of Kessel, she removes the restraining device from one droid and encourages
Finally, and possibly my favorite, we get to Enfys. We actually meet Enfys quite early on in the film - she is trying to stop Beckett, Han, and co. from carrying out their robbery of fuel from a train - but we don't see her face until the final act. This is crucial because, since Enfys used a mask to distort her voice, we assumed that Enfys and her constituents were men. It was revealed, though, that she is a beautiful, redheaded, freckled, independent as fuck, leader of women. Her warriors are all women, and she is shown with a little girl in one of the final shots. She casually mentions that she does her work "as [her] mother did," implying that this is a matriarchal society, or at least that the job is handed down the matriarchal line. One common thread that is very unique to this story which ties all of these roles together and is very apparent in the case of Enfys is the casualness with which all of these people are female. There's no man going "wait... you're a girl" or telling someone they can't do something because they're a girl. Even the most important, most independent female roles have some guy or group of guys who don't believe that she is capable because she is a woman, and it's almost always a Really Big Deal that these characters are women; the films almost try too hard, sometimes, in this respect. Solo does not do this. I don't recall a female's authority or abilities being questioned once. Though, granted, we get a look of shock on the men's faces when they realize that Enfys is a woman, the shock quickly fades and it becomes casual. This movie acts as though it is normal for women to be these autonomous, powerful people, and that's amazing. That is the best kind of empowerment, honestly: casually putting women in positions of power as though there's nothing different about it. This is how men are treated all the time, and I think that reversing some of these expected roles shows people who may be prone to saying that women aren't oppressed or mis- or underrepresented that in fact they are, because it IS strange to see a woman in such a powerful role in a movie, and it's time we start asking ourselves WHY.