This summer’s Solo: A Star Wars Story was a brisk, frivolous little heist picture, one that probably didn’t deserve all of the weight that’s been dropped on its head—from the high-profile departure of its original directors, to the flack it took for belaboring every single point of its roguish anti-hero’s backstory, to the blame it’s taken for apparently killing off many of Disney’s more elaborate Star Wars spin-off movie plans. One of the things it does deserve getting crapped on for, though, is the way it wastes a great Thandie Newton performance, given that her character, Val—lover and partner of Woody Harrelson’s proto-rogue Beckett—dies almost immediately after being introduced.
That point has never been clearer than today, when Jonathan Kasdan, who wrote the movie with his dad, Lucasfilm story mastermind Lawrence Kasdan, released a multi-tweet post essentially offering up a text commentary for the film, which arrives on home video on September 25. The younger Kasdan was involved in the film’s production pretty much from day one, so he has a lot of thoughts about every stage of its development, including some cool ideas for cut scenes—like a high-stakes canal chase through an earlier iteration of Paul Bettany’s criminal headquarters—and little touches like all the Lovecraft references that made their way into the big Kessel Run sequence. But the screenwriter has also taken a lot of online flack for the list, and the film’s treatment of Newton is a big part of that.
Specifically, people have taken umbrage at entry number 17 on the run-down, in which Kasdan writes, “In retrospect, Thandie Newton may actually have been too good and too interesting as Val…Thandie is so compelling to watch that the death of her character feels a little like a cheat.” But while “actor too good” is generally a pretty good problem for a movie to have, Kasdan frames it as an unfortunate side effect of Newton’s excellence, and not, say, his script’s decision to create a female character with the sole intent of throwing her away for cheap emotional effect. True, the movie’s structure relies to some extent on Beckett being forced to rely on the untested Han after his real team gets killed, but the choice still highlights how frequently films like this bring this kind of trope into play. (People are also annoyed at list entry number 4, where Kasdan states that Han’s thermal detonator bluff in the movie’s earlier scenes is now retroactively the explicit inspiration for Leia pulling the same stunt in Return Of The Jedi, as though she couldn’t come up with the bold, risky plan herself.)
To be clear, it’s still pretty cool to see someone so intimately familiar with a big-budget film break down their reactions to it (even if there is more Bossk-talk than one might reasonably expect). But Kasdan’s list also underscores some of the reasons Solo might have ultimately fallen a little flat, and relatively few of them have anything to do with the absence of treacherous lizard bounty hunters from beyond the stars.