After all sorts of trials and tribulations, from a change of director to reports of an unworkable script and a lead struggling to get to grips with the character, the Han Solo solo movie is finally here. But is it any good, and was it even needed?
****MINOR SOLO SPOILERS BELOW****
It’s easy to walk out of Solo: A Star Wars Story with a sense of relief; after all the horror stories behind the scenes, Ron Howard et al managed to salvage a decent enough movie from the mess. However, after giving Han Solo’s origin a second’s more thought things start to fall apart.
There are a lot of things to like in Solo, for starters the movie’s story and set-pieces never really drag – it starts at a running pace and keeps things going through to the Oceans Eleven-Switcheroo style climax. The Kessel Run sequence (yes, they managed to wring a whole second act around that one sentence in A New Hope) was easily the standout moment of the movie, and up there with the best moments of the Star Wars saga to date.
The movie’s performances are enjoyably solid too: Alden Ehrenreich manages to get the swagger and spirit of Han Solo down despite bearing next to no resemblance to Harrison Ford, and Emilia Clarke finally pins down a believable performance as Qi’ra, the not-quite-love-interest-not-quite-femme-fatale of the piece. The relationships between the characters, most notably Han and Chewbacca, are played really well here too, but the biggest kudos goes to Donald Glover. His interpretation of Lando Calrissian is a joy to behold and every time he was on screen the movie suddenly stepped up several gears. Don’t be too surprised if we end up getting a Lando movie in the near future.
On its own merit, Solo is a fun, if not all that substantial, movie. However, where it falls apart is when it needs to honour the second part of its title and become A Star Wars Story. The anthology series to date has relied a lot on the nostalgia of the Original Trilogy (fun fact, Return of the Jedi came out 35 years ago almost to the day that I wrote this), starting with Rogue One and now Solo. Where Rogue One had more than its fair share of fan service, it at least had original characters to become invested in and give a bit more depth to the stakes of A New Hope.
Solo, on the other hand, has none of that in its arsenal; instead the audience is bombarded with references and cameos from both the Original and Prequel Trilogies, to the point where these constant nods overwhelm the story altogether. Without spoiling anything, the revelation of the story’s evil mastermind left some of the people I saw this with very annoyed, and what could have been an interesting setup for a sequel or two ended up making the movie feel hollow.
Ultimately, the worst damage that this movie deals is reserved for Han Solo himself. While Ehrenreich’s performance was enjoyable and easily identifiable as the Solo from the old movies, the original movies already gave us everything we needed to know about Han and his motivation: he’s an outwardly carefree guy always looking for a quick buck, if only to get the debts of the past off his back. By giving such a character his own movie, a writer immediately needs to give Han Solo dreams and worries beyond those of a guy trying to lay low in a cantina before his next job comes walking in.
The worst thing that can be said about Solo is, when I and millions of people saw the original Star Wars as little kids, we all wanted to be Han Solo. Watching this, I can’t think of any reason why anyone would want that. Instead of making the character more three-dimensional, Solo: A Star Wars Movie ends up making Han less believable, less relatable and, most damningly of all, less fun.