Solo: A Star Wars Story is the latest in what looks to be a never-ending run of Star Wars films. With the success of the reboots (The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi) and Rogue One, it makes perfect sense to keep releasing more films. That success also created sky-high expectations for this film. Han Solo is one of the most popular characters in cinematic history. There seemed to be no way that this film could fail. Even in the face of directorial changes and rumors of acting troubles from young Han (Alden Ehernreich), the film still had a strong head of steam heading into this weekend. At least that’s how it seemed. Solo underperformed at the box office (having the lowest gross out of the Star Wars films since The Force Awakens) and received mixed (but still mostly positive) reviews. There are a lot of different things that could have factored into this underwhelming release but the largest factor has to be the film’s quality. Solo just isn’t a very good film. It failed to accomplish some basic storytelling elements that have proven successful for the franchise in the past. It also lacked the fun and charm that you would expect from a movie about Han Solo. This all led to an underwhelming film, which makes its response fitting.
Solo may have been underwhelming but it wasn’t all bad. There were some good things and even some ugly things throughout this film.
The supporting cast for this film were chosen very well. It has a mixture of known commodities and rising superstars. The supporting cast featured Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton and Paul Bettany. Each of which were delivering compelling performances, even though the material they were given wasn’t great. Thandie Newton (Val) and Paul Bettany (Dryden Vos) were the most affected by the poor script. Val seemed to only be in the movie to provide stakes but that didn’t really come across and before you knew it, she was gone. Dryden Vos was a character that could have been interesting but lacked any kind of development, which in turn made the character come off flat. It was nice to see both actors but unfortunately the script betrayed those characters and made them forgettable. The same cannot be said for Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian. Glover gives a great Billy Dee Williams impression, while at the same time bringing his own flare and charisma to the character. Woody Harrelson was also able to bring his own brand of charisma to his character (Beckett). Beckett basically felt like Woody Harrelson in a Star Wars movie, which is great. The best part of the film and the brightest star of all the supporting characters was Emilia Clarke. She brought Qi’ra to life and brought a depth and authenticity to the character that didn’t feel entirely present in the script.
Another good aspect of the film is one that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, and that is the action sequences. Solo is essentially a heist movie and for this type of movie to work there needs to be thrilling action scenes. Solo does this and does it pretty well. Whether it was hand-to-hand combat, or Chewbacca tossing Han around, or the incredible train heist scene, Ron Howard created some incredible moments.
Alden Ehrenreich. I was a bit surprised when his casting was announced but after seeing him in the Cohen brother’s film, Hail Ceasar, I thought there was hope. He was charming and very charismatic in that film and you need those to traits to be Han Solo. That is the exact problem with his performance as Han; he is neither charming nor charismatic. Han is fun to be around, you want to go on adventures with Han. You want to be Han but not this Han. Ehrenreich’s performance didn’t feel genuine or authentic; it felt like a forced impression. It was made all the worse because he shared the screen with some very charismatic actors and that making his performance feel even more flat. There are worse aspects of this film than Ehrenreich’s performance, but this had to be by far the most disappointing aspect of the film.
The other part that I felt was really disappointing was the humor in this film. Star Wars humor is much different from the humor found in other franchise films. It’s a bit more elementary, which is ok and has worked in the past. It just didn’t work here. Han wasn’t funny and his interactions with other characters weren’t very funny either. There was also a lack of funny bits or even basic set ups and pay offs. The lack of humor, and poor attempts at humor really crippled the film as a whole. Solo wasn’t fun to watch and it should have been.
There were a lot of problems with this film and almost all of them can be traced back to one thing, the screenplay. Solo is a poorly written film, in about everyway that a film can be poorly written. I already mentioned the bad character development and the poorly executed humor; there was also bad storytelling and dialogue. To see the flaws in the storytelling look no further than the main character. Solo is supposed to be an origin story that fills in the backstory gaps on a beloved character, however the film doesn’t really do that at all. You don’t really learn a whole lot about Han other than how he got his name (which was awful) and how he met Chewbacca. These same problems can be stretched to pretty much every character, which created a story full of flat characters. There is also the problem of telling a story that has no stakes. We already know what happens to the characters and how their stories continue after the events of this film. With that being true, nothing that happens in this film really matters. You need stakes for tension and without tension you have a hollow story.
Overall Solo isn’t a very good movie. It has some fun parts but it never comes together to create a compelling story. Han Solo’s origin is something that should make a compelling movie and that’s what makes this so disappointing. No one could have predicted a boring Han Solo movie, but unfortunately that’s what we got. The only real hope is that maybe they’ll do better the next time around because the story leaves room for a sequel. If that is where they take the story, then at least we will get more Qi’ra and Lando, even though they weren’t enough to save this film.
2 out of 5 stars
Director: Ron Howard Writers: Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton & Paul Bettany Release Date: May 25th Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 2 hours and 15 minutes Image Credit: starwars.com