Solo: A Star Wars Story, the fourth film in Star Wars’ “Disney Era”, just hit theaters for longtime fans and newcomers alike. Solo has already received plenty of backlash since its announcement and it’s been fighting an uphill battle ever since.
From the concerns over the casting of the unknown Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, and the infamous behind the scenes fiasco with Phil Lord and Chris Miller, it seemed as if Solo was a doomed project from the start. Thankfully, Disney ended up recovering as best they could by hiring a Lucasfilm alum in Ron Howard to build some optimism among fans. Howard, who is best known for A Beautiful Mind (2001) and Apollo 13 (1995), took over the project and seems excited to guide the audience back into a galaxy far, far away.
In the film’s earliest moments, Howard leads us through the streets of Corellia in true Star Wars fashion; chalked full of energetic action and his keen eye for capturing the beauty of the Star Wars universe in full display.
John Powell’s score manages to exude the true feeling of a Star Wars film early and often, and his composition captures the operatic nature of the prequel trilogy and the elegance of the original trilogy.
Coupled with the pulsating score is Bradford Young’s robust cinematography that sizzles and snaps like a warm fire. There’s a constant sense of grandeur and personable strokes that Young balances perfectly, providing for a consistently breathtaking experience. It may not contain striking images that speak to its audience à la The Last Jedi, but Solo isn’t aiming for lofty ambitions, but rather a more swift and accessible entry into the franchise. This is something they achieve, for better or worse.
On one hand, Ron Howard, Kathleen Kennedy, and writers Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan know exactly what story they want to tell here, but it suffers from being the type of film that it strives to be. It’s a fairly light detour from the loaded Last Jedi, but its conclusion makes you question if the entire event was even worth the trip. Although Alden Ehrenreich gives a surprisingly good performance (at the very least) as the titular character, his journey doesn’t reveal anything we didn’t already know. In Solo we get shades of the Han we’ve fallen in love with, and there’s a revelation early on that may tarnish the viewing experience, but Alden steps into the shoes comfortably. The mannerisms and persona of Han is conveyed well through Alden’s familiarity with the character. He plays the part with respect and sincerity even if some lines feel as if they’ve buckled under pressure.
The supporting cast is mostly non-existent in terms of memorability and impact on the experience. Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian stands out, but is given very little to work with. His back and forth with Han is a big highlight that will soften even the most stubborn of Star Wars fans. Where the characters suffer though is at the hands of the script.
Solo is Lawrence Kasdan’s final Star Wars script and Han Solo is his favorite character in Star Wars’ epic catalogue of characters. Even though Kasdan’s heart was in the right place, his work isn’t up to snuff in what is a shallow and exhausting script. Kasdan’s dialogue is noticeably awful and entirely predictable as it lacks any sort of attitude or personality.
The film’s action sequences and main character arcs contain information we were already privy to. Many moments, scenes, and characters end up not mattering to the larger picture and reinforce the pointless endeavor into the early years of Han Solo.
Although there are many moments scattered throughout that will put a smile on your face, it’s mostly due to your nostalgia being preyed upon. Musical, visual, and dialogue cues reignite Star Wars’ greatest hits and remind you of what you love, but don’t filmmakers and writers already know that we’re here because we love the franchise? We don’t need to be reminded of what makes Star Wars so great. We also don’t need films that are a visualization of the opening crawl (Rogue One) from A New Hope, and Han’s introduction in the cantina up until the conclusion of his conversation with Jabba (Solo) at Mos Eisley Space Port. It devalues the universe’s rich magic and mythology that it was built off of in exchange for drawn out journeys that have already been told through prior films. This is only Disney’s second “Star Wars Story”, and with the announcement of Boba Fett in the foreseeable future, it has already become tiresome to be told stories about characters we’ve already met.
Overall, Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t the total trainwreck that boycotters anticipated, nor is it a worthy entry into the Star Wars franchise. It’s an affair that understands what type of film it wants to be, but it also suffers from that in its entirety.
Outside of Han and Lando, the cast doesn’t contain anyone worth mentioning alongside Star Wars’ all-time great secondary characters. Ron Howard ushers us back into a corner of the galaxy not so far away from what we’ve already seen, and it duplicates “more of the same” and preys on our sense of nostalgia. It’s a drawn out, exhausted film that has no purpose or meaning behind anything it’s trying to accomplish.
On a technical level, Solo should dazzle many, but so much beauty is trapped behind what may be one of the ugliest color palettes ever seen in a blockbuster. Solo is a vehicle that lives in the moment, but will peter out quickly because it’s running on spare tires.
Solo: A Star Wars Story gets a Silver rating
Written by Roman Arbisi