SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY Review: 7 out of 10 (I Have a "Meh" Feeling About This"
“SOLO is my favorite Star Wars movie!”…said no one ever...
SOLO is the latest in the Star Wars film series. Telling the story of the early years of the iconic Han Solo character, the film is directed by Ron Howard and stars Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, alongside Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, and Paul Bettany. The film has had its share of production woes as the movie started under the direction of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. The pair left the project in June 2017 after reportedly being fired over "creative differences" with Lucasfilm, and Howard took over directing duties. The movie works as a sort of “stand-alone prequel” though it does work to offer a few clear (and less than clear) links to the greater Star Wars Universe.
One has to wonder what that Lord and Miller film might have looked like. The irreverent humor in both LEGO BATMAN and the 21/22 JUMPSTREET films might have been a welcome to this film that, on some level, does work at times—albeit in the safest of ways. Since it *is* a prequel, some of these characters are going to come out unscathed for future films we have seen them in. The others—well—seem like fodder. Han Solo himself is probably the least interesting character in the film itself—a sort of roguish fellow whose origin story is less compelling than nearly everyone else around him: from Chewie to Harrelson’s Tobias Beckett to even the baddie crime lord Dryden Vos. That isn’t to say Alden Ehrenreich isn’t good as Han Solo—he is—but the character never seems to leap off the screen and grab hold of the audience. As a character, Solo feels more like a backdrop here: a pinball that sort of bounces around the Disney Star Wars Machine of bright shiny lights. Like pinball, there are times in the film where you hope the character might go this way or that…but the actual trajectory here ends up being fairly predictable and awfully innocuous. SOLO is not really a sci-fi film at all and really only has a sequence or two that is even in space. Instead, it is, at its heart, a heist film. And like any heist film, they rely on plot twists and gambits so that the protagonist can outwit, outplay, and outsmart the others. Unfortunately, in this case, nearly all the twists are more like plot “bends” really. So many of them are predictable because the script is practically screaming them out at you for the previous 90 minutes or so.
The joy here is in Donald Glover and his portrayal of Lando Calrissian—a man stealing every scene he is in much like the thief he portrays. Chewbacca is also compelling, despite the continued language barrier. Other characters are barely skirted over, and some are even introduced in a way that will likely have the audience saying “Who is that?”…and not in a way in which they care or are even curious—but perhaps more out of confusion. Even the newest droid/robot in this film (every film is now apparently required to have one because: Toys) isn’t really likeable, funny, or compelling. Having said that, there is plenty of action and adventure to be had. The film is well made and is plenty of fun. But the times in which it attempts to tie itself back to the greater Star Wars Universe feels forced and even leveraged in throughout. In many ways, SOLO being a Star Wars story might be the film’s biggest weakness, oddly enough. But then again, it likely wouldn’t have made all of its money from a fanbase ready to watch and experience the next chapter that Disney offers. SOLO isn’t going to be the most memorable chapter in this filmic library. But for fans, there is enough nostalgia, fun, and action to put a grin on their faces. And for Disney, that is probably enough. It feels safe—but isn’t that how they make their money anymore? By giving the fans what they want? SOLO may not be exactly that—but it is enough.