Right off the bat, I can say that Solo was much better than I expected, I just didn’t expect very much. While entertaining, watching the space heist has an extra jolt of thrilling, it’s basically a pointless endeavor that is ultimately the answer to questions that weren’t worth asking. What exactly is the Kessel run? Where does Han’s last name actually come from? How did Han come to own the Millennium Falcon? I wasn’t excited to see Solo, and through no fault of my own I saw it twice, but I’m glad it was interesting. I’m just beginning to understand what people are saying in regards to superhero fatigue. As much as I’m enjoying the recent run of Star Wars movies, maybe a little more space between space epics is warranted.
Alden Ehrenreich is Han Solo and while he possesses the requisite charm and power to play a young Harrison Ford, the movie is a little too careful to not let him make the character too much of his own. While escaping from an Empire army, young Han joins up with a crew of thieves (Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton and an alien voiced by Jon Favreau) looking to make a big score. Han, and his eventually BFF Chewbacca, worm their way into the crew, but the operation is plagued by a plan of conscience so that when they are joined by a young Lando (Donald Glover, oozing his best Billy Dee), his woke droid sidekick L3, and Han’s old love Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke, playing, really, the only interesting character) the plan evolves.
Prequels can be interesting, even Rogue One was built on a question that didn’t answering (where did those death star plans come from), but that movie had richer characters and a stunning climax that added a level of stakes to the Star Wars mythos that hasn’t really been seen before (or since). Here, nothing much matters. Young Han is pretty much old Han, and nothing that happens to him affects him in any way that would alter our perception of a character beloved since I was a child. Ehrenreich and Glover do their best to maintain the integrity of their characters, while Harrelson and Newton do little to make themselves more integral to the canon. Both parts could’ve gone to less-famous actors and the movie would’ve been better for it. Clarke’s Qi’ra is the only character that warrants a further look.
The biggest strike against the film is the look. While, it feels like a Star Wars movie, and things like the train heist are visually intriguing, the first half of the film is way too dark and muddy. Director Ron Howard has always been a tepid director and having a canvas this rich has done nothing to change that.
I’m ambivalent about the lack of success of the film though. I do think Star Wars and Marvel need middling performers to keep expectations in check and allow smaller films set in their universes to take more chances, I don’t think rewarding a weak effort like this is going to make that easier though. So, while the movie may be fun and a decent time-waster, it’s rather forgettable and ultimately disappointing.
My Grade – C+