Why Solo's Dryden Vos Is a Unique Star Wars Villain - VRGyani News and Media

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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Why Solo's Dryden Vos Is a Unique Star Wars Villain

Solo: A Star Wars Story is the weirdest Star Wars movie. No one was asking for a Han Solo origin story that explained things like his last name, his initial encounter with Chewbacca, his blaster, and how he obtained the dice that hang from the Millenium Falcon dashboard. However, it did provide a Star Wars adventure that wasn’t centered on the fate of the galaxy, focusing on the “hive of scum and villainy.” Even if it does focus on some of the most iconic characters in Star Wars history, it was the first of the cinematic films to tell a small-scale story. A galactic heist caper required an antagonist who posed a contained threat. The villains in previous Star Wars films were galactic-level players, even those that made up the criminal underworld. Jabba the Hutt had an established reputation as the leader of a powerful criminal organization, and any of the bounty hunter characters were tied directly to one of the main affiliations. Solo’s central antagonist Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) suitably fits these more personal stakes, and reveals the vastness of Star Wars’ underbelly just by being more than another weird monster.

The naive young Han (Alden Ehrenreich), Chewbacca, and their smuggling mentor Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) botch a train heist by detonating a shipment of the “coaxium” hyperdrive fuel. The usually collected Beckett is under strain for the first time, as he had promised to deliver the shipment to Vos. Vos isn’t renowned enough for Han to have heard of him, but he’s aware of the ruthless practices of his employer organization, Crimson Dawn.

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Vos is introduced as he savagely executes a “client,” but he doesn’t reside in a mafia-esque mansion of strange exotic creatures too reminiscent of Jabba’s palace. Stationed on a private yacht that hosts a party of socialites, performers, and high-ranking officials, Vos is the first character to make the underworld actually look glamorous. It shows what all of these heists actually pay for, other than funneling further expansion.

Vos was originally going to be a motion-capture alien played by the late great Michael K. Williams, but in the middle of reshoots Paul Bettany was recast as a human villain due to time constraints. Bettany brings a Bond villain-esque elegance to the role. He takes joy in the luxuries of his base of operations, navigating the party with a nobility that’s humorously ironic considering his profession. When introducing Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) as his associate, Bettany does so with the same sophisticated grace he wound in a costume drama like Young Victoria.

What’s effective about Vos isn’t as much what he does, but what he represents. Han is rejoined with his childhood flame Qi’ra again after promising to return to her, and Bettany’s elaborate praises of Qi’ra as his “top lieutenant” signify to Han that he failed to rescue his lifelong love in time. Qi’ra’s seemingly hardened nature is a moment of maturation for Han, as Vos seems oblivious to the fact that she’s ever been anything but a ruthless operator.

Vos isn’t physically imposing or particularly threatening in his demeanor, but he provides enough of a threat to drive the story forward. His initial rebukes of Beckett’s underestimation of the Enfyn’s Nest raiders are as much casual threats as they are snide comments over cocktails; when he justifies his brutal tactics, Vos frames them all as logical business transactions. However, failure to comply with his terms would result in Han, Chewie, and Beckett’s deaths at the hands of his henchmen, even if his personal rogue’s gallery is less eclectic than Jabba’s and less formalized than the Empire, Separatists, or First Order.

Vos doesn’t need a lot of screen time in order to drive the story forward, and he steps away entirely until the third act. This was a brilliant choice, because the antagonist of Solo is really the realities of the criminal world itself, and it doesn’t need to be tied to just one character. Vos is really there to set things in motion, and now the motley gang of heroes has to go on a planet-hopping adventure that provides its own set of dangers. The best setpieces in Solo are the ones that the gang experiences as a result of this trek, and Vos doesn’t need to be checking in via hologram every few scenes to remind viewers where their journey kicked off.

When he does reappear, Bettany really leans into the Bond villain eccentricities with exaggerated monologues about Han’s failures and his inevitable betrayals at the hands of both Beckett and Qi’ra. Again, this is ironic, as ultimately Vos is revealed to be just a pawn of the larger Crimson Dawn movement under Darth Maul (in a strange cameo). He’s not the emotional gut-punch of the climax. Han’s heartbreak comes from his mentor betraying him, and his love interest choosing a darker path as Han strays a little too close to heroism.

Yet, Vos isn’t a complete joke and he does get a memorable action scene as he, Han, and Qi’ra all scramble after Beckett’s double-cross. Even caught off guard and not prepared to fight himself, as he hilariously sends his entire gang to subdue the Enfyn’s Nest threat, Vos has still seen his fair share of violence. He’s more than a threat for someone as untrained as Han, and an uncoordinated fight between two insecure scoundrels is a nice change of pace for the third act of a Star Wars movie. Bettany is having a blast hamming it up, and chews the scenery during his exaggerated death at Qi’ra’s hands.

If it continues to produce countless new projects, it's necessary for the Star Wars universe to expand and tell different kinds of stories. Not all of them require an antagonist trying to outdo the intimidating villains that came before. Dryden Vos is an effective diversification of the Star Wars rogue's gallery, and Bettany’s fun performance makes an unsuspecting subordinate into a memorable character.

KEEP READING: 'Solo' Concept Art Reveals a Fight On Top of the Millennium Falcon



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