Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, Erin Kellyman
During an adventure into the criminal underworld, Han Solo (Ehrenreich) meets his future copilot Chewbacca (Suotamo) and encounters Lando Calrissian (Glover) years before joining the Rebellion. (Source: IMDb)
There’s no escaping the troubled production of Solo: A Star Wars Story, as more than half-way into its production, original directors Chris Lord and Phil Miller were unceremoniously sacked, leaving Ron Howard to step in to try and salvage the film. Extensive reshoots, and that nagging feeling that this film didn’t really need to exist at all were all working against this film.
I will be the first to hold my hands up and say that I was not looking forward to this film; that doesn’t make me any less of a Star Wars fan, heck I am one of those people who totally champions The Last Jedi and really enjoyed Rogue One! But where Rogue One – the first “anthology” movie – filled in a gap with a story that we never knew we needed, Solo is a film we never knew we needed and quite frankly I could’ve done without. My scepticism going into this film was lifted somewhat after it had garnered a handful of generally favourable reviews. I went in desperately hoping I would be proved wrong, I wanted and indeed tried so hard to like it, and the film really did try to make me like it, but ultimately, it did not succeed.
I want to try and overlook my feelings that this film doesn’t need to exist, because of course you could argue, does any film really need to exist?! We don’t ask for films but they come along anyway and then we either love, loathe, or sit somewhere in the middle with them. But this being such a well-established and beloved character in Star Wars lore, it is equally difficult to ignore whether this film lacks purpose when we know about as much as we need to know when we first meet Han in A New Hope.
Regardless, we have this story anyway, and unfortunately, the entire plot feels like a box ticking exercise. Find out how Han meets Chewie? Tick. Find out how Han meets Lando? Tick again. Find out how Han does the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs? Another tick. The film moves from set-piece to set-piece with no real sense of urgency or purpose. Knowing what we know about the future of this character and his cohorts means the film is left with zero suspense. I joked about it in the lead-up to the film, but did that shot in the trailer really need to try and create some false suspense about the fate of Chewbacca? I mean come on!
Many will argue that this film doesn’t need purpose, that it is a brief and fun dalliance away from the episodic Skywalker story to spend more time with a character we know and love, but I had zero fun with this movie. Some of the action sequences in the latter half of the film are enjoyable, and there are some fun moments between Han and Chewie as well; particularly their first meeting. However, this film mostly suffers from being crushingly dull, and whilst the cast are well-meaning, the script is what really lets the film down.
Just when you have overcome the biggest eye roll of the film – finding out how Han gets his surname – we meet arguably the worst thing about the film, L3-37 (voiced by Waller-Bridge). A feminist droid should, on paper, be totally up my street, but when her “agenda” (if we can call it that) is being used for comedic effect, it loses all purpose, and the suggestion that her relationship with Lando could possibly go to a very un-PG place was totally unnecessary. This brazen and obnoxious character felt like it had no place in this film whatsoever, let alone in the Star Wars universe, and quite frankly I was delighted when she was no longer a part of this film.
The cast, for the most part, actually do a fine job, and there’s no way Alden Ehrenreich deserved the unfair criticism that was heaped on him before we’d even seen him on screen. He embodies enough of the mannerisms and physical traits of Han to at least make it passable, especially as he is constantly fighting the uphill struggle of battling a script that does not work in his favour. As Lando Calrisian, Donald Glover is the star of this show and he treads the line very carefully between impressionism, and making the character his own. He does take a little while to settle into the character and it is jarring initially, but by the end he takes to it with ease. Harrelson and Bettany were both fine in their roles, although not really utilised enough, but unfortunately Emilia Clarke has almost definitively proved that her acting leaves a lot to be desired. I think she gets a pass in Game of Thrones because her character is, for the most part, cold and distant and not requiring too much range. In Solo however, her struggles are apparent and I could not buy into this character at all.
I saw this movie so you don’t have to. Overall, Solo feels like a wasted exercise, and I don’t doubt that many will be able to find enjoyment in it, but at the same time it cannot escape from the fact it feels like a box-ticking exercise rather than an important, necessary, and worthwhile. In terms of rankings, I would put it just a whisker above the prequel trilogy, and that is not the place a new Star Wars film should be finding itself. This is not the film you’re looking for.