Solo: A Star Wars Story: A Review

God, there’s too many colons.

When it was announced that Disney acquired the rights to Star Wars, with the intention of making new films for a new generation, I reveled in the endless possibilities as to the stories that can be told. What happened after Return of the Jedi? What was Obi-Wan doing for all that time in Tattoine? What new characters are we going to meet? On top of that, I dreamed over the idea that new filmmakers were able to put their spin on a franchise of this magnitude. Names like Joss Whedon, Brad Bird, JJ Abrams, even David Fincher were at one point linked with a new Star Wars film. I never loved the idea of a Han Solo film, but to have Phil Lord and Christopher Lord (21 and 22 Jump Street, The Lego Movie) at the helm? Count me in.

Alas, amidst production drama, Lord and Miller got the boot and were replaced with the always reliable Ron Howard, and here we are. Solo: A Star Wars Story is out, and the final product is an adequate, if uninteresting film. I say adequate, because on a technical level, the film is perfectly fine. The special effects are stellar, as expected. The action scenes are very fun, and Howard does his absolute damnedest to prevent this from being a complete disaster. Not to mention, I am very relieved to say that the performances are good. Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson do what they can with the material given, turning stale characterizations into, at the very least, entertaining Star Wars characters. Childish Gambino himself, Donald Glover is effortlessly charming and joyous to watch as Lando Calrissian, perfectly complimenting the role Billy Dee Williams made iconic nearly four decades ago. He’s breezy, cool and relaxed as Lando. However, even if this film serviced Oscar winning performances, the failure of the title character would be the failure of the film entire. With the being said, Alden Ehrenreich is perfectly serviceable as the famed scruffy looking nerf herder. Ehrenreich doesn’t try a Harrison Ford impression, almost as if he played the part as if there was no precedence before, which is great. The worst thing that he could have done is change the register of his voice, or smirk at the end of every sentence like many impressionists do. In that respect, Ehrenreich gets the job done.

The predominant issue of this film, however, is its very existence. Han Solo is one of the most beloved and celebrated characters in cinema history, but mostly as a side character. To put him front and center should take heavy consideration and thought, since you’re running the risk of having too much of a good thing. Solo does not suffer from this, but it hardly does anything new, fresh or inventive with the title character. Han Solo is being Han Solo, which is better than bastardizing the character, but the film comes off as uneventful and at times, boring.

We will never see Lord and Miller’s intended vision for this film, but knowing their high energy, spontaneous and unpredictable tones that their films adopt, a Han Solo film would have benefited exponentially from their technique. Their films are chaotic, fast paced, and heartfelt: traits that encapsulate the character of Han Solo. I have favored the Disney Star Wars experiment thus far. Yes I liked The Last Jedi. Say what you will about TLJ, and there is a lot, but at it least it took chances with Star Wars lore and felt like an original piece of work, compared to the nostalgic pandering that the other films are, in some way, guilty of. If Lucasfilm wants their films to succeed, they must be comfortable with taking risks. Lord and Miller could have been that risk that paid off, but that discussion will always conclude within the realm of the hypothetical. There are young, hungry filmmakers that have the potential to make the next great Star Wars movie. The MCU have had a wealth of success because they instill trust within their filmmakers, like Joss Whedon, Ryan Coogler, Taika Waititi, and James Gunn (Edgar Wright notwithstanding). Those films are changing the state of blockbuster cinema, and though Ron Howard does a perfectly adequate job at the helm, knowing that Solo could have been different, and potentially better film is a hard pill to swallow. There’s a line in the film, “Stick to the plan, and do NOT improvise”, which perfectly encapsulates this film, as it’s a standard, inconsequential affair that frights at the idea of becoming something better.

 

Grade: C+

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