Solo is mindless fun. This is what you heard as the “first reactions” following the world premiere of Solo: A Star Wars Story. And while mindless fun can be had from any number of summer movies, the unfortunate burden of the Star Wars franchise is that fans expect a lot more. So while Solo contains sequences that make it fun as a movie, as a Star Wars movie, Solo is so so.
So, in order to break this all down, I’ll need to discuss a few spoilers, so please do not read any further as secrets will be revealed. Please do not read this until you’ve actually seen Solo. If you’d like, read my review for The Last Jedi, a film that has literally fractured fandom. I’m certain that we won’t think as much about Solo.
Okay, so you’ve seen the movie now? Okay, let’s discuss the good, the bad and the scoundrels, so to speak.
“…as a Star Wars movie, Solo is so so.”
Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo is not bad at all. In fact, he does an admirable job as the young smuggler-to-be, which is a success considering the shoes he needed to fill. Ehrenreich really begins to develop that likable Harrison Fordness by the end. Heck, they even added that chin scar, which is amazing attention to detail. And the relationship with Chewbacca and their first meeting is actually charming, even though it’s without any tension whatsoever because we all know where that’s leading. I almost would have preferred a whole “man-and-his-Wookie” story to all the world building. (We’ll get to that later.)
Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra is suitable and brings for the first time in a long time, romance. This kind of playful, schoolyard romanticism is something that has been sadly lacking in a Star Wars film since the original trilogy. I mean, the “romance” in the prequels and sequels has been downright ghastly. Anakin and Kylo both turned out to be murderous creepers and Luke, well, he was just unlucky in love.
“Donald Glover is Lando complete with that Billy Dee Williams charisma… ask Donald Glover to direct the Lando movie.”
Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian is just a blast to watch and commands every scene. Donald Glover is Lando complete with that Billy Dee Williams charisma. Lando enters the story about a third of the way into Solo and that’s when the fun begins. Which is interesting, because if you think about it, the thing that made Han Solo such an enduring character was that he was the sidekick and the skeptic and didn’t come with all the burdens of the main lead. As this is something of an origin story, Solo is now in the Luke Skywalker role. That really means that Lando is the Han Solo of the Solo movie. Lando isn’t burdened with making the audience identify with his plight or having to go on a hero’s journey, he’s just a smooth charmer. And Donald Glover is perfect in this role. So much so, if a Lando movie is to be the next “A Star Wars Story,” Lucasfilm would be missing a huge opportunity if they didn’t ask Donald Glover to direct the Lando movie.
As for the good, that’s about it, unfortunately, I honestly wish there was more.
“…there are just too many missed opportunities to name, mostly involving the Millennium Falcon itself.”
Ron Howard is a solid, journeyman director. He’ll get the job done, but don’t expect much in the way of a personal stamp, which is what this movie really needed.
Solo is also the ugliest-looking Star Wars film we’ve seen. Sure, the original trilogy played up on that junkyard, used up nature of the ships and tech, but the vistas we see in Solo are just muddy, dank and dark.
And there are just too many missed opportunities to name, mostly involving the Millennium Falcon itself. The introduction of the Falcon is played very nonchalant. And we still don’t get much of a sense of why the ship is so cool. Is it the restored Corvette of the galaxy? What’s the ship used for actually? Where was it manufactured? And not like any of these answers are really necessary, but at least give us a good look at the ship in action. It moves so fast in the films, let’s get a loving look at this ship. Why is Han so in love with it? I’m reminded of a scene from Star Trek: The Motion Picture in which Admiral Kirk takes a shuttle to the Enterprise in a docking bay. Whatever you think of that movie, that particular scene is pure starship porn, and we needed to take a loving look at the Falcon in a similar way.
Paul Bettany as gangster Dryden Vos is lame. So weak as a villain, he’s almost not worth mentioning and completely forgettable in the role.
One of the scenes that stands out as the almost offensively bad is the way that Han gets the last name Solo. As he’s traveling alone, the Imperial officer just adds the name “Solo” to his credentials. And that’s it. It’s a cringe-inducing scene that I’m sure will be deleted from any fan cut of the film. In fact, many aspects of Solo are unsatisfying because they are so expected.
“It’s a cringe-inducing scene that I’m sure will be deleted from any fan cut of the film…”
How Han got his name? Check.
How Han won the Falcon from Lando in a card game “fair and square.” Check.
How Han befriended Chewbacca and how the Wookie became his co-pilot. Check.
Making the Kessel Run? Check.
How Han got his vest. Well, it’s not here, but I guarantee that vest will show up in a follow up.
It’s no wonder that before the film even came out, the internet had produced a “Solo Bingo Card.” (Just Google it, but it’s very accurate in predicting everything we would see.) Additionally, there is the inclusion of a mysterious organization whose resources are being plundered which hits the nail right on the head of a social agenda bound to make some cringe. It’s just so obvious that it stands out and it stops the film dead to deliver about America’s treatment of the Middle East.
“When will Star Wars writers understand that earthbound terms for certain things just take fans out of the experience?”
When will Star Wars writers understand that earthbound terms for certain things just take fans out of the experience? If you go to the bar or a cantina on some planet, you are not looking to drink “brandy” because you can get “brandy” on earth. I mean, they could have asked for Tranya, which would have been fun because, no surprise, Clint Howard is in Solo. That’s not a spoiler because Clint is in all of Ron Howard’s movies.
In addition, there is a lot of distracting set-up to expand this universe of smuggler’s into some offshoot TV show (I’m guessing that Jon Favreau project that was announced.) There is one character cameo that might confuse some people. I mean, I’ll admit that I was confused as this character died in the movies. I thought perhaps this was a character that was of the same alien race as the one that died, but no, it’s the character that was killed. And, yes, I have been told over and over that if I only read the comics or watched all the cartoons or read the novels, I’d know about this. But I only care about the movies because those are the only things that matter to most members of the audience.
We want our Star Wars movies to resonate and stay with us… and the more I thought about Solo, the more I disliked it. That’s not to say that it’s without a few highlights, but I find it a little bothersome that it was difficult to even find enough highlights to make an engaging trailer. Because those early Solo trailers had all of us worried, for good reason. In the end, Solo feels more like fan-fic or a two hour TV premiere for a Star Wars “Underworld” series or something. Considering the troubled production, Solo is not a disaster, but it’s not all that great either.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Directed by Ron Howard. Written by Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan (based on characters created by George Lucas). Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, Linda Hunt, Ian Kenny, John Tui, Anna Francolini, Andrew Woodall, Warwick Davis.
6.5 out of 10