By Jack Dignan
There probably won’t be a time in the near future where I’m not looking forward to a mew Star Wars movie. Even if the selling point of the movie fails to impress, there’s always going to be that little part of me optimistically watching the trailer, imagining how everything’s going to go down and dreaming of absolutely loving it. Solo: A Star Wars Story was a film not a lot of people were looking forward to. Which is fair. But even though its existence felt like a cash grab, I remained hopeful.
Sitting down to watch the film last night was an anxious experience. We’ve had prequels before, and we all know how those turned out, and we’ve had ‘Star Wars Stories’ before, which absolutely knocked it out of the park, but we haven’t had a Star Wars origin story before. Or at least, not until now, for Solo: A Star Wars Story blasts into theatres next week, and despite months upon months of negative speculation and set reports that were far from flattering, the film we ended up with is anything but a train wreck.
He’s still the scoundrel we all know and love. Han Solo defined the career of Harrison Ford, much to his unspoken dismay, and went on to inspire millions of young rebels everywhere, but with the character now dead and gone (spoiler alert for main saga, I guess), Lucasfilm takes us back to his early days, before he met beloved pal Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and took control of the Millennium Falcon. This is Han before Han, now played by Hail, Caesar! breakthrough actor Alden Ehrenreich, and if his early adventures are anything to go by… well, let’s just say his life took a turn for the best when he ran into Luke.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is the very definition of a serviceable movie. It’s fine. Everything about it is fine. There’s some fun to be had, and it’s always great seeing such beloved characters return to the big screen, but nothing about it feels overly remarkable in any way, shape or form. Ehrenreich is the perfect embodiment of a young Han Solo, whose reckless antics harken back to what Harrison Ford first portrayed in the 1977 original. He effortlessly encapsulates the essence and vibe of a young Han Solo in a similar way to Chris Pine’s portrayal of a young Captain Kirk in 2009’s Star Trek.
The core relationship of Solo is that of Han and Chewie, who’s just as loveable as ever. Right from the get go, you really get a strong sense of their ever-growing relationship, and it’s fun to watch these two iconic characters develop into the full-realised people we know they’re going to become. But the problem with this film is that it’s not trying to add anything to their characters or their arc, instead reminding you of why you love them so much. It’s a film that struggles to warrant its own existence, and outside of a few familiar faces, nobody receives any sort of characterization. There’s not even a real villain.
Donald Glover is pitch perfect as Lando, giving a performance that’s every bit as smooth and charming as you’ve come to expect from the endlessly talented actor/musician. However, his character doesn’t have a lot to do once he’s offered up his ship to help out Han and Chewie. I enjoyed watching him on screen, but he never felt like he was essential to this story, nor did this younger version of the character feel interesting enough to warrant a rumoured spin off movie he might be receiving.
But the problems don’t just lie within Lando. Everyone in this film feels severely underdeveloped. Emilia Clarke gives a stale performance as Qi’ra, whose character motivations make little sense and whose arc was far from interesting. Woody Harrelson is fine as Beckett, but he’s also just Woody Harrelson being Woody Harrelson. The real standout of the film is Jon Favreau’s four-armed monkey Rio, who, while only in the film for a short period of time, was endlessly delightful to watch. And that first train heist sequence, an integral moment to the plot, was a hell of a good time.
Ron Howard’s direction is impeccable, matched with some visually drab but satisfyingly stylistic cinematography by Oscar nominee Bradford Young and an incredible score from John Powell. Given the fact that Howard had to step in mid-production and reshoot nearly all the film is impressive in its own right, but the fact that he’s also got to deal with a lackluster script just goes to show how talented a director he really is. A bad script isn’t something you’d typically associate with Lawrence Kasdan, the man behind three Star Wars films including Empire as well as the original Raiders of the Lost Ark. And yet the screenplay for Solo, co-written with his son Jonathan, is terrible.
It’s all so poorly paced, underdeveloped, endlessly predictable and bogged down by several boring sequences spread periodically throughout that make this 135 minute film feel exponentially longer. The long awaited Kessell Run fails to impress, even with the occasional moment of well-intended banter throughout. Literally the first fifteen minutes of this movie is full of nothing but exposition, and all of it felt incredibly forced and unnatural, making it easy to tune out. Some of the action sequences, particularly an uprising involving nearly the entire cast, are a lot of fun, but it’s most of the stuff in between that’s not nearly as good.
This is, by no stretch of the imagination, an abomination of a film. When it ended, I didn’t feel cheated or angry about what had happened, but instead, a feeling of neutral numbness. Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t great, but it’s not bad, and it’s one I’ll probably come back to at some point in time, but not one I need to rush out and watch again. It’s also one of those films that ends setting up a sequel that sounds like it would’ve made a much better first movie than the actual first movie. So… yeah, I guess it’s left me wanting to see where this story heads next. That’s not something I thought I’d ever say about a Han Solo origin film.
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