Solo: A Star Wars Story
It’s tricky to post a negative review of Star Wars based on its merits. Full disclosure: I liked The Last Jedi. But I found Solo to be a weak entry in the franchise. Even back when they first announced a young Han Solo movie, I wondered … uh, why?
The scripted story was rather derivative and linear, moving from one set piece to the next without much suspense. The visuals are quite impressive, however. Donald Glover had Lando Calrissian down, but that being said he wasn’t that likable a character. Alden Ehrenrieich never quite pulls off the Harrison Ford impersonation, but that’s more on the script than his acting. There’s not much of an arc here. Han Solo is pretty much presented fully formed from the first scene. So his bravado comes off as unearned arrogance. And some of his schemes result more from dumb cockiness than loveable rogue, especially with him being the one boasting about his achievements. Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra is the most interesting character here, having gone through some sort of development that we are not privy too, which adds to her mystery. And her final scene involves a spoiler where if you haven’t seen the animated series, you’re wondering, “isn’t that character dead?” (I had read spoilers and so found myself explaining to my buddy how that came about.)
Its villains aren’t particularly menacing or threatening, Dryden Voss lacking the cold calculating malevolance of Rogue One’s bureacratic Director Krennic. There is a nice callout to Scariff, linking these two “Star Wars Storys” together. But where as Rogue One cleverly explained the Death Star’s weakness as a plot device, I’m not sure I need every Star Wars foible explained. Being able to goof on it is part of what made the Original Trilogy so much fun to repeatedly watch and talk about. Now that I’ve seen a Wookie rip someone’s arms off, or how he learned hologram chess, or especially how the infamous Kessel run was done, it takes away from the myth and mystique. And the card game was awfully reminiscent of Casino Royale’s.
There are a few sub plots that don’t go anywhere. Disney seems to be trolling the trolls by having a droid calling for droid rights to be actually named L3-37. Chewbacca has a similar arc with Wookies, but it all felt like Canto Bight’s fathiers quest redux. This is set only 10-15 years after Episode III, but already there are Imperial Star Destroyers and Storm Troopers everywhere. The Republic’s fleet seems to have been discarded rather quickly, as were the clone army and their uniforms. How that came about might be a more interesting story. Instead we get more on the dice.
It’s this world building that seems like a missed opportunity. The resigned cynicism of the low ranking Imperial officers, such as the recruiting official Han faces, would be an interesting thing to explore–how ordinary people caught up in this environment work and react to an Empire. They can’t all be courageous rebels or all be driven evil-doers–like Clerks’ epic discussion of the construction workers from Return of the Jedi.
One other nitpicking note: if you’re introducing a movie with three title cards after "A long time ago … ", why not just have the opening crawl? And the actual title comes too soon, it should have been after the opening scenes set three years before the rest of the movie, after we learn how Han gets his surname.
You can see where Disney was hoping to set up a sequel–Han’s job for Jabba would have clearly been the next entry. But if there is another Star Wars story, it won’t be a Solo movie. Since we know where all these characters end up, there’s no point to it either. That could have been said about this entry in the universe as well.