At some point around halfway through Solo: A Star Wars Story, I really hoped there was something that I could really like about it. One or two scenes revealed much potential, especially the scene where Han and Chewbacca meet. I was wondering why I hadn’t laughed much, or felt particularly thrilled, despite reading about how fun and funny the film was. The half-full cinema sat there as observers, with the occasional chuckle, but nothing resembling the fun of collective laughter and enjoyment (which should be a worry considering the cultural impact of Star Wars). The whole experience was just…flat. I looked at my watch, About 20 minutes to go, I thought. This is not a good sign. At some point I realised, This is not a good movie. Then it ended and I walked home.
Solo takes places about 10 years before Episode IV: A New Hope and chronicles the young Han Solo’s journey to become the scoundrel we all grew up with. It is a mix of a Western and Heist film, but even that classification doesn’t really grasp what it is – as it is a general mix of many different things. This could be a result of the direct shakeup from the Lloyd/Miller duo to veteran director, Ron Howard, who came in quite late in the stages of the film’s production. Much like the other stand-alone A Star Wars Story, Rogue One, it didn’t feel too obvious that it was the result of production issues. But I think it is more a problem with a script that was so average. A disappointing thing considering the strong writing team of Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan.
The major concerns with the film would be the recasting of the younger Han Solo in Alden Ehrenreich. Could anyone live up to Harrison Ford’s performance as Han? No. But he’s really good despite the challenge of appeasing decades of fanfare. Actually, I thought the whole cast was really strong, but despite the general consensus that Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian is a crowd-favourite, I wasn’t particularly taken by his character. His character felt most like it was trying to channel Billy D. Williams than Ehrenreich channeling Ford. By far the worst of the new characters was Lando’s droid L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who is an SJW incarnate droid rallying for ‘Droid Rights’. One of the scenes I did enjoy was when she liberated multiple droids, who run amok. While I think the idea of independently thinking droids is interesting, here it felt so forced and really just…political. Despite one strong scene (and one scene that does carry into other films, although not necessarily a crucial inclusion), the movie could have easily been the same without her.
Even the action scenes just felt flat. The heist on the Conveyex, earlier in the film wasn’t too bad, as I imagined that one of the antagonists, Enfys Nest, may provide an interesting dilemma for our heroes. Paul Bettany’s Dryden Voss was a serviceable villain, providing mild stakes, but even he was barely in the film enough to provide any palpable threat.
I really enjoyed last year’s controversial, The Last Jedi. I thought it was a challenging Star Wars film, with excellent performances and filmmaking. There were moments that felt Solo may be going back to the ‘fun’ roots of Star Wars, but it wasn’t fun. Despite the challenging nature of The Last Jedi, there were genuine ‘Star Wars moments’. Solo felt like a scientific approach to Star Wars – checking off a series of ‘Star Wars moments’ that never amounted to anything genuinely thrilling or emotionally arresting. It wasn’t funny, and it was occasionally borderline boring.
I would see a sequel if they chose to move ahead, as I think there’s a lot of potential here.
But for this go-around, it felt wasted, or just serviceable.