WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story, in theaters now.
The Star Wars franchise has always been about rollicking space adventures and epic battles, but at its core it’s also about the triumph of good over evil, and freedom from oppression, whether that’s by the Galactic Empire or the First Order. Like The Last Jedi before it, Solo: A Star Wars Story spotlights the plight of the enslaved in a galaxy far, far away, and issues a call to break loose the shackles, directed at a populace fans may not have expected: droids.
Slavery has, of course, been depicted negatively throughout the series, from torment by Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi to the unenviable lives of young Anakin and his mother in The Phantom Menace to the stable children left as payment in Canto Blight in The Last Jedi. However, in Star Wars, droids are regularly bought, sold, dismantled, and switched off when they get too annoying; they have owners, or “masters.” It’s a disturbing practice the more you think about it, because many of them are sentient, or something close to it.
That inspires the spunky and vocal L3-37, played by actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge, to undertake a campaign for equality. Her strong, fearless persona helps her spread this message, well, just about everywhere she goes. As Lando Calrissian’s companion, she’s seen the oppression of droids throughout the galaxy, and she’s had enough.
In an interview about her character, Waller-Bridge admitted, “L3 is a real inspiration to me. She’s a self-made droid. She created herself out of parts of other droids. She’s turned herself into a unique creature who’s more independent than she originally was. She’s got a great attitude. She’s fearless, she’s uncensored, she’s very funny, she’s a evolutionary and she has an agenda, which is bigger than the sum of her parts. It’s great to play a droid with a message.”
When Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) try to win the Millennium Falcon from Lando (Donald Glover), we’re introduced to L3-37’s first attempt at liberation. She’s infuriated by the sight of droids forced to fight each other in a small-scale gladiator arena, and to the death it seems. L3 interrupts the brawl, begging her fellow droids to stop and rise up.
The patrons of the gambling establishment are annoyed, and when the owner of one of the droids attempts to interject, L3 assaults him. She’s then ushered away by Lando to join their new friends’ quest, but her larger objective is clear.
Taking a stand against unjust treatment, even objectification from men, is part of L3’s nature — or maybe her programming. And she has another opportunity to be a social justice warrior in the mines of Kessel: As Han & Co. steal the much sought-after superfuel coaxium, L3 takes the control room, hacks the mainframe and begins freeing prisoners from their cells.
Humans, aliens and droids scramble to escape, a movement that even Chewbacca helps with. In the ensuing firefight, as the heroes try to make their way back to the Millennium Falcon, L3 is shot in the crossfire, leading to a heroic death.
Her neural system ends up salvaged to help Han navigate the famous Kessel Run and flee the pursuing Empire, but still, it felt like the movie lost a character who wasn’t just comical relief, but a much-needed political presence. Little did we know L3’s actions here would indirectly go on to help a budding Resistance against the Empire, but it makes sense given that she was indeed a rebel, from the very start.
In theaters now, director Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story stars Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra, and Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca. They’re joined by Thandie Newton as Val, Phoebe Waller-Bridge L3-37, Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos, and Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett.
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