From So High to Solo: A Review of "Solo: A Star Wars Story"
After the high of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi (and while awaiting 2019’s Star Wars IX), Lucasfilm and Disney gifts us with a bone —a Han Solo stand alone prequel called Solo. Off the bat, I’ll state it isn’t a disaster; and that with its safe, broad, even predictable storyline, it’s certain to be their new ATM film, adding to the cash registers of the studios. Directed by Ron Howard, who took over the Kasdans’ screenplay when creative differences forced the studio to relieve Phil Lord and Christopher Miller of the duties, it’s enjoyable enough; but upon leaving the cinema, I had the gnawing feeling of ‘Is that it?’ You had the chance to go in a new direction, create a game changer with a fresh vibe, and you settled for lukewarm?
The film opens with Han (Aldren Ehrenreich) and Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) on a dystopian planet, dreaming of leaving the planet to find better fortune elsewhere. A petty thief and risk taker, Han is separated from Qi’ra and embarks on a succession of adventures that brings him into contact with such familiars as a Young Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), Chewie (Joonas Suotamo), and new characters such as Beckett (Woody Harrelson), Dryden (Paul Bettany), and Lando’s droid companion, L3 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). And the film definitely perks up after the infamous card game, and the Millennium Falcon is brought onscreen.
It’s the appearance of the Falcon and the L3 droid that are my highlights in the film. Ehrenreich and Glover make for great Young Han and Lando, but you expect more texture and conflict to spark the proceedings. We loved Harrison Ford’s Han for being such a cynical rogue with a heart of gold, and not enough of how that came to be is developed in this outing. In fact, so many characters are killed off in Solo, but unfortunately, we don’t really care, as they didn’t make enough of an impression. Ironically, the character I’ll even miss the most is L3, and she’s not human!
So why am I so underwhelmed? Was it the change in director? From the team that gave us The Lego Movie, and might have given us something irreverent and even self-deprecating (Marvel did it with the last Thor and Deadpool); we shifted to Howard who is competent, but Vanilla mainstream. Yes, he directed Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind; but more recently, helmed Da Vinci Code (or Cold), and In the Heart of the Sea —a limp Moby Dick.
The screenplay also lacks fire. It’s more like a checklist of what did Han say or refer to in a new hope, and let’s tack on a back story to that reference. Great for die hard fans and those overly absorbed in the details, but it doesn’t give this Han Solo much of an arc in his first Solo outing. It’s like everything is pre-processed and set to satisfy some George Lucas Scoreboard in the sky.
You’ll still watch this, so it will make a ton of money. I just feel it could have been so much better. If it develops into its own franchise, Ehrenreich does give us promise; and how Qi’ra continues to play a role in his life, can be the promising aspects of a Solo Part II
Photos from starwars.com