Remember the 1990’s? I remember going to the multi-plex with bated breath to see George Lucas’ long-awaited special edition of the original Star Wars series. Star Wars on the big screen! However, with the Disney purchase of Lucasfilm, we now have all the Star Wars we nerds could ask for: prequels, sequels and even new installments. This week, the latest of the Star Wars films opens in theaters. What do you need to know before venturing out to see Solo: A Star Wars Story?
Solo: A Star Wars Story tackles the origin of the legendary hero himself (Alden Ehrenreich) as Solo struggles to make a name for himself, get the girl (Emilia Clarke), and finally turn himself into the character we’re all familiar with in the legendary franchise. Ron Howard directs the film from a script by Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan.
At this point, we’re all familiar with the drama going on behind the scenes of this shoot. Ultimately, no one would be surprised if this film was a mess. However, as a cinematic pinch-hitter, you don’t get much better than Ron Howard. Even with a shortened shoot and what must have been crazily high-pressure, the seasoned director manages to create a fun and entertaining movie. Is it perfect? No. While it is a struggle to put this on the same level as Rogue One, it succeeds at being a fun little movie.
First and foremost, young actor Alden Ehrenreich deserves a round of applause. He tackles what can only be described as a teeth-chatteringly terrifying role and absolutely hits it out of the park. From the early scenes in the film, Ehrenreich does a great job walking the super fine line between impersonating Harrison Ford while still managing to carve out his own performance. He manages to capture the winking essence of Han Solo, and at times the resemblance between him and the legendary Ford is almost uncanny. Best known to audiences for his work in recent films like Hail, Caesar! and Rules Dont Apply, Ehrenreich has seen his stock rising in Hollywood for the last five years. Hopefully, this will succeed at being the star making role the young actor richly deserves.
Ultimately, this movie sees most of its struggles resulting from the script. Dramatically, where do you go? It’s not a spoiler to reveal that Han Solo, Chewbacca and Lando (Donald Glover in a star making role) are not going to die in this movie. They have another four episodes (at least!) to act in. As such, it’s difficult to get emotionally invested in the action. The stakes to this film are minimal, and it definitely shows.
Where this movie has its most fun is in the nostalgia. Its status as a Han Solo prequel affords the story more room to include the fun call-backs which couldn’t be included in Rogue One. Han and Chewbacca meeting, Lando and Han’s introductions, the winning of the Falcon, and finally the completion of the Kessel run (in twelve parsecs!) are all used to comedic effect. This is all cute to see, but ultimately ends up feeling like fluff.
In a series which struggles with its relationship with women (primarily as of late), Solo: A Star Wars Story falters mightily with what can only be described as weak female characters. While she plays the always awesome Khaleesi on Game of Thrones, actress Emilia Clarke can’t seem to make her character Qi’ra work on screen. This likely stems from the fact that even the script doesn’t seem to know who she is. As a result, she floats between being a love interest, a damsel in distress, a space prostitute, and even a femme fatale. Clarke does her best to inject her trademark brand of spunk, but it ultimately falls flat over the course of the narrative. To add insult to already substantial injury, the story absolutely wastes the awesomeness of Thandie Newton (to say much more would be spoiling). Shame on you, Star Wars. Shame on you.
This film brings another delightful droid in L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) to compete with Alan Tudyk’s K2-SO in Rogue One. The female droid is given some of the movie’s best (and funniest) material. However, we quickly remember that she falls in with this weak crop of female characters as she is given an annoyingly shallow send-off.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is somewhat challenging both from a filmmaking and also a viewing perspective. Could we be finally hitting a point of Star Wars saturation? The answer is difficult to be seen. However, it remains true that there are more interesting and new unexplored corners of the Star Wars universe, unfortunately Solo’s backstory isn’t one of them. Long-time Star Wars fans should enjoy the nostalgia of this movie; however, it’s not the place to jump in if you’re not well-versed in the series. There’s better places to go from here.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is playing in theaters now.