In the extended universe, Han Solo-focused adventures are usually the best. As one character here states, "It's Solo, what could go wrong?"
Scoundrels ’ plot has potential: when Han gets the chance to pay off Jabba via a huge heist, he recruits an Ocean’s 11 -style crew of specialised misfits to help with the job.
Scoundrels tries hard to evoke the feeling of watching a Star Wars movie. Clearly written for the fanboy crowd, many references are on the nose. Eighteen pages in, Solo bellows to a crowded Cantina, "You all saw it. He shot first." It’s easily the most tired spin-off reference – here Timothy Zahn hasn’t even bothered to add a twist.
That’s not the only issue. Zahn legitimises the presence of Lando Calrissian as best he can, but it's still problematic. Like Lucas's tinkering with the original trilogy, you can't help but feel that Han and Lando's interaction here diminishes the impact of his appearance in Empire .
When it sets up its own mythology, Scoundrels is more successful. Ghost burglars use medical tools called vibroscalps to break into buildings. Then there’s alien magician Zerba; introduced as a loser in a clown costume, you initially assume he's nothing but Bantha fodder, but he grows into one of the strongest supporting characters.
Which answers that early question – what could go wrong? Forced nods to the original trilogy, diminishing new content. JJ Abrams, take note.
Sam Ashurst twitter.com/SamAshurst
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