The galaxy’s most famous scoundrel finds himself often upstaged in latest Star Wars stand alone. Read on as our critic shares if it’s worth a trip to the theater.
KEY CAST MEMBERS: Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany, Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Thandie Newton
WRITER(S): Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan (screenplay); George Lucas (based on characters created by)
DIRECTOR(S): Ron Howard
WEB SITE: https://www.starwars.com/films/solo
HERE’S THE STORY: The second installment in the Star Wars “here’s the story behind this character/moment in the main films,” Solo focuses on the most famous scoundrel in a galaxy far, far away: Han Solo, now portrayed as his younger self by Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!, Rules Don’t Apply). And this is a much different solo than fans are used to, for the young solo is a man with a dream: To escape his current life on the planet of Corellia where he is living under the rule of Lady Proxima (voiced by Linda Hunt), become a pilot in the Empire fleet (!) and possibly marry his lady love, Qi’Ra (Emilia Clarke).
But once he and Qi’Ra run afoul of Lady Proxima, Solo finds himself eventually in a whole lot of trouble – which is why once he escapes from prison via a very hairy newfound friend (Joonas Suotamo), he is quick to take on a risky job with Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). Of course, that job has much more to it than he originally suspects, which sets in motion a trail of events that make being in debt to Crimson Dawn leader Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) a very, very bad thing. Throw in a contentious relationship with the most notorious and charismatic smuggler in the galaxy (Donald Glover) and you have an epic tale in the making.
Or at least that’s what everyone behind the world’s most popular sci-fi fantasy franchise hopes, anyway …
WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? Donald Glover fans; Star Wars diehards; Chewbacca fans
WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? People who hate anything outside of the “original” Star Wars films (now known as episodes four, five and six, respectively); adults that are not already Star Wars fans; those who will.
SO IS IT GOOD, BAD OR JUST AWFUL? Far less hard-hitting (both in terms of storytelling, character development and action), Solo is in fact a Star Wars story … It’s just not the best Wars story despite having it focused on what many consider to be the best character in its galaxy.
Accompanied by a friend at the screening I went to, I was asked for my opinion of the film, which took me a second to formulate. And then it came to me: Watching Solo is like watching your team’s franchise quarterback that often underperforms lead to victory as he passes for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns … Only to remember that what was supposed to be said team’s championship season is instead going to end up 8-8 and missing the playoffs.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that’s there’s necessarily anything wrong with Solo. Ehrenreich proves himself capable of hitting all the beats as younger version of one (if not the) most famous of Harrison Ford’s roles. He conveys the expected mix of ambition, recklessness and confidence one might expect while mixing in a nice bit of sensitivity that will set up for why he becomes cold as ice later in his life. Likewise, the rest of the cast turns in commendable performances, Glover in particular in continuing his hot streak by making his turns as Lando Calrissian count for all they’re worth. Harrelson does exactly what he needs to do to make his character’s arc work from start to finish and Chewbacca is Chewbacca – “lol” intended.
However, Solo doesn’t feel like the epic its intended to be for a very simple reason: It doesn’t feel special in any way. It just feels like a standard action film set within the Star Wars universe.
The first hour of the film feels like conveniently placed together events made to fit the existing character fans know INSTEAD of bringing about any real revelations other than how he got his name. To put it another way, the backstory isn’t so much of a coming of age tale where we see how Solo evolves from a boy to a man or any major change in his life that feels organic or revelatory. Instead, it’s a standard action story that doesn’t make Solo feel so much special as just a capable hero. There’s not gritty, soul searching moment, there’s no epic, battle sequence – the most intense sequence in the film is arguably more of a ship battle where several people play a critical part in the outcome – and the most interesting character is barely given a name and has a more interesting backstory than Solo’s in his own movie. In fact, for a man named “Solo” it’s only at his best, it seems, when he has a bunch of people – or Wookies or droids – helping his cause. (Seriously, you see the movie and tell me who was more interesting head-to-head: Solo or Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3-37?)
It would just help Solo‘s cause a lot more if he was always the main attraction in his own movie.