Now, I’d never thought I’d say this about a Star Wars film, but Solo: A Star Wars Story was okay, just okay. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t a brilliant, ground-breaking film either. This has more to do with the numerous problems the film encountered throughout its tumultuous production, from the change of director, the re-shooting of around 70% of the film and the rumour that the lead actor had to have acting lessons during the making of the film. Still, it doesn’t mean that this is a bad film. It is an enjoyable, if predictable, heist movie set in the Star Wars universe, with the main protagonist happening to be one of the most beloved Star Wars characters of all time.
Speaking of Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich does a good job of portraying the iconic character. He looks the part, as well as having the swagger and confidence that we would associate with a young Solo. However, whilst watching the film, you’re always aware that this isn’t Harrison Ford, which takes you out of the movie. The difficulty when making a film such as Solo where the main character is so iconic, that it becomes problematic when trying to recast him. Harrison Ford is quintessentially Han Solo, as well as Indiana Jones but that’s another matter altogether! In these situations, the actor might end up impersonating the person who originally played the character, which causes all sorts of problems and doesn’t come across very well, or they have to try and build on the source material and bring something new to their portrayal. Donald Glover’s performance as Lando Calrissian, the enigmatic owner of the Millennium Falcon, is noteworthy. I have long been a fan of Glover and his work and was excited when he was cast in this film. He does a brilliant job of bringing the young Lando to life whilst also paying homage to the performance by Billy Dee Williams in the original trilogy. It was also good to see where and how Han and Chewbacca met, as well as how their relationship developed.
There were some good additions to the cast too. Emilia Clarke as Qi’Ra is an interesting and mysterious character who is an old love interest of Han’s, who reappears, following the pair’s separation after their failed escaped attempt from the planet of Corellia, with the crime syndicate Crimson Dawn. Her relationship with Crimson Dawn isn’t explored in as much detail as I would’ve liked, and if it had been, then the film would have had an interesting story thread that could have been built upon. Woody Harrelson as Han’s mentor Beckett, although played well, is nothing special. His eventual betrayal was very predictable but it was a nice touch to see that Han got his signature blaster from him. Dryden Vos, the film’s villain and admirably played by Paul Bettany, a favourite of mine, is another who deserved more fleshing out. Bettany was brought in to portray Vos when re-shoots were organised as the original actor Michael K. Williams was not available, and he brings a threatening aura to the character. Although, I felt that with more time and preparation, Vos could have been explored further and been an even more threatening villain. Not every new cast member was a hit though. Lando’s second mate and droid L3-37, is so similar to Rogue One’s K-2SO that it just feels like they were trying to jump on the comedic relief droid bandwagon. Some of her jokes fall flat and come across as slightly forced, but it was interesting to note that it was because of L3-37 and her superior navigation system that Han was able to do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.
The plot of the film is fairly generic. Guy wants to get back to a girl, joins a crew on a heist to earn enough to buy transport back to her, heist goes wrong, villain gets angry, hero embarks on riskier heist, is successful, gets double crossed, sees this coming, villain dies, hero lives to fight another day. Throw in a cameo from a fan favourite character, and then you pretty much have the plot to Solo. Due to the problems this film faced, it is commendable that director Ron Howard came in, re-shot most of the movie as well as rewriting parts of the script, and managed to produce an entertaining film. It didn’t take any risks; it was very by the books, exactly what Disney were looking for following the debacle that was supposedly taking place with Phil Lord and Chris Miller at the helm. If it wasn’t for characters such as Han Solo and Chewbacca this could have been any sci-fi heist movie. The cameo from Darth Maul in the third act was a surprise, but it didn’t add much to the film. It seemed as if it was trying to distract you from how the film wasn’t blowing you away with its story. It’s not as if Maul will be used in the current trilogy as he was killed (finally) in the TV show Star Wars: Rebels, which is canon. Although cool to see it confirmed on the big screen that Maul survived his original duel with Obi Wan Kenobi, it just seemed a little pointless and cheap to throw him into this film. It is unlikely that he will be used again, and this is a shame as he is a brilliant character who was woefully underused in The Phantom Menace. There were some nice nods to the original trilogy; it explained why the Millennium Falcon looks different to its appearance in the prequel trilogy, as well as showing where Chewbacca’s love of the game Dejarik started. There is also a cameo from Warwick Davis, who among other characters is famous for playing Wicket in The Return of the Jedi, which is a nice touch.
It would be interesting to see the Lord and Miller cut of the film. Based on their previous work, it would probably have been a more comedic movie, with an emphasis on Han’s witty remarks that we saw in the original trilogy. Sadly, I doubt this version will ever see the light of day, but we did get a good, if not remarkable, Star Wars movie. It was by far not the worst Star Wars entry, and wasn’t as divisive as The Last Jedi released last year. Although, the lack of buzz and hype following its release potentially suggests that many are tiring of the constant presence of Star Wars in cinema. If there isn’t a Star Wars film out, it won’t be long until there is. There is a sense of Star Wars fatigue. Rian Johnson tried injecting new life into the franchise, but look how that bold move went; for many it back-fired and may deter other directors trying something similar. It also didn’t help that Solo was released with both Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 still in cinemas. These films are still drawing in the crowds despite being released a few weeks prior to Solo, and the movie has to compete with this.
The Thing Is, when Star Wars was originally released back in 1977, it pushed boundaries and trod new cinematic ground. A Star Wars film should be at the forefront of cinema and film-making, and at the moment, I don’t see this happening. I really like The Last Jedi, as it explores new aspects of the universe as well as developing characters in an interesting way. But the backlash this film received means that Disney may be more conservative with future productions. The Jon Favreau led trilogy that’s in development looks like it could inject the franchise with fresh impetus, and breathe new life into Star Wars. Look at Avengers: Infinity War and Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, it took risks and it paid off. The MCU has been incredibly successful and with films like Infinity War and Black Panther pushing the boundaries that Star Wars should be. Disney risk Star Wars not being the juggernaut at the forefront of cinema they hoped it would be when they purchased the rights from George Lucas in 2012. Hopefully, Star Wars as a franchise will re-find its feet, and as a huge fan of the franchise, I hope this starts with Episode 9!