Solo: A Star Wars Story
directed by Ron Howard
starring Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Phoebe Waller-Bridge
I didn’t go in with a great deal of hope (shudder) for Solo: A Star Wars Story after the fiasco of The Last Jedi and the disastrous production and promotion for the film. As it turns out the mix of uneven acting, terrible cliche riddled script, tonal and humor issues, visuals too gray and murky for Zack Snyder, flat, boring action scenes, character reveals that make zero sense, and the shockingly ham-fisted ret-conning of the existing universe which manages to distort established timelines and character arcs and motivations, yeah, you could say I didn’t care for Solo.
A lot of speculation on Solo centered on the acting. Alden Ehrenreich was not good. Felt more like Baby Driver than Han Solo. Characters keep talking about how arrogant Solo is, but as performed he just comes off as awkward and petulant, hardly the cocksure scoundrel we all know. Han is shown to be sympathetic to the cause of the rebels at the end of Solo in stark contrast to the character in A New Hope and totally undermining his return to the battle at the Death Star. Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra’s heel turn is utterly predictable and boring, much like Emilia Clarke. Donald Glover basically steals the movie. He was really good and used far too little, and it feels like most of his work in the movie is left over from the Lord & Miller shoot as he vanishes for large chunks of the film. Woody Harrelson, Paul Bettany, and Thandie Newton are given little of interest to do. They even made my beloved Phoebe Waller-Bridge cringeworthy with bizarrely out of place droid/human sex jokes, and her motion capture performance simply didn’t work for a mechanical being. She is just too fluid for it to look right. Then the runner about droid rights leading to a droid rebellion was eye rolling and the possibility of a full-on Wookie battle was dangled before our eyes only to be yanked away.
Insert Spoiler Warning Here.
The first half-hour of Solo is so terrible the entire film would have been elevated if it had just started after the train heist or at the least at the train heist. Seeing a few minutes with even younger Han and Qi’ra added nothing to their already zero stakes relationship. The entire Corellia stuff at the beginning is painful to sit through. The hokey Oliver Twist mash up with every teenage “we gotta get outta this town” cliche is head slapping bad.
Solo is filled with so many fan service and wtf moments that stop what little momentum the film generates dead in its tracks. Darth Maul? WTF? He died in Phantom Menace. I know he’s been brought back on TV and comics, but doesn’t he break the Sith rules laid out in the prequels since Vader/Palpatine are very much on the scene? So confusing and obviously there to set up him and Qi’ra as the baddies in Solo 2. There is a four-armed monkey creature named Rio that reminded me too much of one of Michael Bay’s Ninja Turtles. It would have made more sense for the character to have been Maz Kanata and established the relationship with Han and Chewie, but they needed a sacrificial lamb, so he dies along with most of Tobias Beckett’s (Woody Harrelson) crew. The movie wants it to be poignant, but so little time is spent with them that their deaths just opened the door for Han and Chewie to step up.
Han’s last name isn’t Solo, and how he gets the moniker Solo may be the dumbest thing in the movie if we didn’t also have the Millennium Falcon becoming sentient or Han being a hard scrabble orphan who remembers his dad taking him to work with him or L3-37 making human/droid sex jokes or Lando having a full on breakdown when his droid dies.
The reveal of Enfys Nest and a young girl was meaningless because we hadn’t actually seen her but they made it out like we should recognize her face, or maybe it was just that oooh she was a girl all along. Regardless, the fact Han decides to double cross the gangster and give the rocket fuel (fuel has become the big MacGuffin in Star Wars thanks to The Last Jedi) to the girl who wants to start the rebellion not only wrecks Han Solo in A New Hope but flies in the face of the birth of the rebellion at the end of Revenge of the Sith. Only time travel could do more to mangle the Episode IV timeline. Speaking of time, When does this movie take place? It’s showing the seeds of the rebellion at the end of the movie. Han is at least 15 years younger than A NEW HOPE so this movie is what? 3 years after Revenge of the Sith? But still has Han working for Jabba for like 15 years. Probably best not to think about it too much and just dwell on how much this movie made me hate those damned dice.