I love Star Wars. The Disney stuff has been solid thus far (I love The Last Jedi) adding and expanding the mythology outwards. However, the galaxy is seemingly feeling smaller and smaller as we keep circling back to old characters. When Solo: A Star Wars Story was first announced I asked why. Walking out of the film, I still have the same question. Why?
Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is desperate to leave his home world with his girlfriend Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke). When fate intervenes, Han is desperate to get a ship and rescue Qi’ra. Joining up with Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his crew, Han meets up with Chewbacca and the team of sordid criminals embark on a big heist for crime lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).
Production troubles aside, let’s focus on the finished film at hand. As it stands, I really wish this was more about the criminal underworld that these characters live in. Sure, it’s a Western mixed with a crime film in the Star Wars universe, but it’s still an origin movie that revolves around a character that didn’t need one. Let’s get one thing straight here. Alden Ehrenreich is a great Han Solo. He’s just in a film with far more interesting characters.
I would love to see a whole film based on Tobias Beckett. Woody Harrelson has crafted an iconic character I would like to see more of. Imagine a film with Tobias, his girl Val played by a sorely underused Thandie Newton (she’s seriously great here) and Rio Durant set in the criminal underworld. Hell, even a Lando Calrissian movie starring Donald Glover would be a worthwhile venture. That is a character who starts here and where he ends up in Return of the Jedi, has the most interesting story on how exactly he ended up where he did. THAT should be explored. And yes, for those of you wondering Donald is excellent as is his scene-stealing co-pilot L3-37 portrayed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (she’s giving it her all).
This film is written by series stalwart Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan. So much praise was given to this script about how good it is. As it stands, it’s decent. Most of the double crosses you can see coming from a mile. It’s standard gangster stuff mixed with Star Wars imagery. Honestly, the war parts of this made me wanna go watch Rogue One again. But seeing how Han met Chewie, got his last name (seriously this is not a joke), and how he got his blaster is so unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. The biggest waste here, however, is the Kessel Run. A throwaway line in the original film that’s been referenced again and again is brought to life here. It’s a major set piece in the film and what’s given to us doesn’t live up to legend. What I imagined the Kessel Run to be is much cooler than the CG extravaganza that brought it to life. This is the problem of making films like these, demystifying things does not help anyone. Sorry, but the big reveal on who’s really running a big criminal organization fell flat to me. This is a character that has been explored in other various mediums that I shrugged so hard Atlas felt it. I hope this isn’t explored further and once the film is out, we’ll talk about it later.
Ron Howard does inject some life into this film. How much of it is his I can’t say for sure, but at least the action is well handled here. The train robbery that you’ve seen in all the promos is so much cooler seen playing out in full. The various shootouts have much-needed life injected into them. Honestly, this is Ron’s best-directed film in a long, long time.
The true star of the show is cinematographer Bradford Young’s photography. Every frame of this is beautiful and it might beat The Last Jedi in terms of best looking Star Wars film. The imagery matches the characters in that everything is dirty and nasty and Young manages to make it look like something I would want to live in. At times, I stopped watching the film and I started admiring the imagery.
Is this a bad film? Absolutely not. There’s stuff here I love as well as some very entertaining sequences, but as a whole, it doesn’t do it for me. Die hard Star Wars fans will probably feel as if this is the best that’s been put out by Disney thus far. Everyone else can wait to catch this on DVD as Deadpool 2 works much better and is shorter than this. Seriously it got to point where I wanted this to wrap it up.
I’m still asking the question why. Even now all I have to say is Fan Service: A Star Wars Story or Solo: A Moderately Adequate Star Wars Story. Since the Star Wars train is not slowing down any time soon let’s move forward with exploring different parts of the galaxy with different characters. Don’t get me wrong, we can go to the past to tell new stories. But not like this.