Solo is not the most well-respected of Star Wars movies, but there’s one moment that felt especially egregious: the weird, confusing sacrifice of Val, played by Thandiwe Newton.
In the film, she’s a pragmatic criminal and sharpshooter in Tobias Beckett’s crew who helps stage a heist to steal the coaxium off a Railcrawler. Her role was to detonate a bridge that would cause the train to crash, minus a cargo car that Tobias and the rest of the crew would hijack and fly away with. However, after interference from Enfys Nest and her Cloud Riders messes up their plan, Val inexplicably sacrifices her life in the hopes, basically, that her lover Tobias will rich.
Val doesn’t get a lot of screen time in Solo, but what’s there contradicts her actions in her death scene. In an interview with Inverse, Newton explains that the reason the character died wasn’t because it made sense to anybody, but purely because of logistics:
“I felt disappointed by Star Wars that my character was killed. And, actually, in the script, she wasn’t killed. It happened during filming. And it was much more just to do with the time we had to do the scenes … When we came to filming, as far as I was concerned and was aware, when it came to filming that scene, [Val’s escape] was too huge a set-piece to create, so they just had me blow up and I’m done.”
It was an ignominious end for the character, particularly given Newton’s importance in Star Wars cinema:
“I remembered at the time thinking, ‘This is a big, big mistake’ — not because of me, not because I wanted to come back. You don’t kill off the first Black woman to ever have a real role in a Star Wars movie. Like, are you fucking joking?”
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She’s absolutely right. It was a bad call for Lucasfilm and Disney, and a bad look for the Star Wars franchise, too. It’s really that simple.
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