'Solo' is the origin story 'Star Wars' universe didn't need
Growing up, every young “Star Wars” fan had their favorite character. That one they wanted to be. The one they also pretended to be when playing. For me (minus a few months when I wanted to be an Ewok), that character was Han Solo.
So, when it was announced that Han would be getting his very own origin story, I was beyond ecstatic. Then details started to emerge and that feeling faded.
Alden Ehrenreich is Han Solo and Joonas Suotamo is Chewbacca in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” (Photo by Jonathan Olley. Copyright: 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™, All Rights Reserved.)
Alden Ehrenreich (“Rule Don't Apply”) was cast to play Han – from an unimpressive list that included Dave Franco and Miles Teller. Odd fits Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (“21 Jump Street”) were selected to direct the film, and were eventually replaced by Ron Howard due to creative differences, after which a large portion (reports vary) of the film was re-shot.
The result is “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”
The film follows the exploits of young Han as he makes his way from teenage conman/misfit to smuggler extraordinaire. It includes tales of teenage love, involving Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke). Early schemes with a band of thieves led by Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and Val (Thandie Newton). And eventual dealings with renowned bad guy, Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).
Donald Glover is Lando Calrissian in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” ((c) 2018 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Along the way we also get to see some familiar faces – Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) – and find out just how they came to be in Han's life. And, of course, no Solo tale would be complete without the Millennium Falcon.
My first, and largest, gripe about “Solo” is Solo himself.
As played by Harrison Ford, Han was smarmy, rugged, funny, grating, and smooth, yet somehow rough around the edges. He was a space pirate, a scofflaw, a regular “stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder.”
Emilia Clarke is Qi'ra and Alden Ehrenreich is Han Solo in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” (2018 (c) Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM, All Rights Reserved.)
As played by Ehrenreich, Han is none of those things. In fact, he's nowhere close to those things. He's too clean cut, too boring, too much of an alter boy to be taken seriously. And, given where “Solo” appears to fall in the timeline in comparison to “A New Hope,” he doesn't seem to have long to get there.
Also not up to speed was the feel of the movie. At times it felt like a buddy action pic, and other times a coming-of-age drama. Then it would flip the script and become an “Ocean's 11” in space heist flick, before trying to lighten the mood by going the comedy route. There was never a feeling of cohesion, never a feeling that you're watching a “Star Wars” movie. I'm glad an attempt was made to make it different than the others, but they strayed too far away. This literally could've been about anyone and it wouldn't have changed a thing.
Donald Glover is Lando Calrissian and Phoebe Waller-Bridge is L3-37 in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” (2018 (c) Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM, All Rights Reserved.)
The bright spots for me were the performance of Clarke, the first half of an entirely-too-long chase scene in the first act, and the scenes that show us just how Han and Chewbacca become friends. The latter was actually quite good, and was tonally something the rest of the movie desperately needed.
The rest of the performances were alright, but none stood out, including Glover (who I've never been a fan of), who has Lando's voice down pat, even if he doesn't really look the part and doesn't have quite the swagger that Billy Dee Williams brought to the role
Frankly, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” just isn't a very good movie. And I don't mean it's not a good “Star Wars” movie, it's just not very good in general.
Woody Harrelson is Beckett and Alden Ehrenreich is Han Solo in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” (Photo by Lucasfilm Ltd. (c) 2018 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.)
The acting was off, it lacked any heart, it didn't feel like a “Star Wars” movie at all, and while it seemed like it wanted to be more “mature,” it had pointless characters there to deliver ill-fitting jokes.
In its defense, it's not “Phantom Menace” or “Attack of the Clones” bad, but it's circling the neighborhood. It's terrifying to think how bad it could've been had Howard not taken over.
★★1/2 of ★★★★★