ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - “Solo: A Star Wars Story” doesn’t do a lot to justify its existence, but it does provide enough entertainment value and handles its iconic characters with enough care to justify someone giving two hours of their existence to checking the film out and having a little fun.
Image from: MGN
A young Han Solo manages to escape his cruel homeworld but is unable to bring his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) with him. Vowing to get his hands on a starship to save her, Han finds himself embedded with a group of smugglers led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) which leads to him meeting familiar faces before having to pull off the infamous Kessel Run heist for notorious gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).
So, the big question right out of the gate is: did Alden Ehrenreich work as Han Solo following the great Harrison Ford? Answer: yes. He does a perfectly fine job with the role. He more or less makes the character his own and is probably better off for doing so. He captures the charm and mannerisms well with one notable aspect missing. Han was always a grumpy character that got easily annoyed by those around him. The filmmakers and Alden didn’t put any thought towards this characteristic about him so the origin of that behavior remains unknown.
Origin, of course, is the purpose of “Solo” and I would say they handle it all fine, but with no real surprises. Why is his last name Solo? Where did his gun come from? What was the Kessel Run? How did he meet Chewie? All of this is relieved, but it’s all very by-the-numbers. That’s probably the best way to describe the whole story. It goes down the path of a typical heist movie with lots of references to things spoken of in the original trilogy. Plus, it is all bound together by a love story between Han and a “Not Princess Leia” that we all know is going to end badly the moment you see it pop up as a plot point. It is still a fun ride along the way as I was fully entertained while I was watching it. The film moves along at a good pace with lots of extended action scenes that are well done. Then again, what Star Wars movie doesn’t have good action scenes? They all have that. They all have good technical merits. These are expected positives, not noteworthy highlights. Oddly enough, the film’s best set piece where the smugglers attempt to steal cargo off of a train occurs rather early on in the film.
As far as the noteworthy highlights go, Donald Glover as Lando was about the only thing people were expecting to pay off and he does just that. While Alden did a good job with what he was given, Glover did great with what he was given, fully embodying the Billy Dee Williams persona with a little flavor of his own. Woody Harrelson and Emilie Clarke also turn in fine performances for their characters, but that is once again expected from two actors that are always good in everything.
As fun as it may be, there really is zero tension in the film. No cliffhanger moment holds any threat because we know the three iconic characters we are concerned about will be just fine. The rest of the hero characters are okay, but you have no reason to be deeply invested in them. If one of them dies, it’s like “okay, that happened…” The film even seems to just brush off every character death like it’s not important anyway.
As far as character disappointment goes, the new droid character was more annoying than anything else. L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) is literally a civil rights droid. Her/it’s whole goal is merely to get her fellow robots out of slavery, even going as far as to say “Equal rights!” at one point. The character is composed of nothing but a progressive agenda and that, Disney, is not something anyone wants in an already unneeded Star Wars film.
The film also tries to be funny quite a bit...and fails every time. I don’t think a single joke worked. It was kind of embarrassing honestly. The original directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, were highly comedic and I guess when Ron Howard took over, he tried to deliver the humor all the same. Didn’t really work.
Also, the film lacks a villainous threat. Dryden Vos serves as the main antagonist but only has two scenes: his introduction and the climax. The film tries to hammer home that he is not a man to mess with and Paul Bettany does give a good performance. I honestly liked the villain when he was on screen, it’s just that he was barely there. Just imagine for a second if Darth Vader was only in “A New Hope” for the Death Star test scene and the ending battle. He probably wouldn’t have made much of an impression.
Then there is Enfys Nest and a gang of space marauders that just show up to annoy the heroes. This character started with a good impression aided by the best soundtrack que in the film. Then there is a twist that occurs and completely ruins all of this. The ultimate reveal of this masked marauder was such a facepalm moment I swear there may as well been a crewman around yelling “brought to you by Disney...for kids!” The only real impression made by a villain was an unexpected cameo at the end. A cameo that really makes no sense...like at all.
Despite all that, I was still entertained. Basically, this was an average-as-it-gets Star Wars movie. It does what it needs to do, cashes in, and leaves. I can’t say how much director Ron Howard helped. I really feel bad for the guy. He had to step in and direct this film after the other directing pair was fired after shooting 80% of the film. Therefore, Howard had to reshoot and finish a movie that he had no preproduction involvement in. The fact that it came out as well as it did is surprising enough. It went from probably being horrid to “fine”. For some, that might be good enough. “Rogue One” proved that something pointless can work. And hey, it’s better than “The Last Jedi” for sure.
Expect a fun time; just don’t expect to be blown away.