Solo: A Star Wars Story


I suppose we should be grateful that Solo isn’t a complete disaster, considering the reported chaos behind the scenes. Rumour has it Ron Howard reshot 70% of this film when he replaced Phil Lord and Christopher Miller as director at the last minute, so the fact that Solo makes for more of a coherent viewing experience than Rogue One is a bit of a fluke… But coherency isn’t enough when your film is otherwise, well, bland.

Solo: A Star Wars StoryThe moment you heard they were making a Han Solo prequel, what were the five or six things you assumed would feature in that film? Chances are, you thought of the same half dozen things everyone else did…and they’re all present and correct. Problem is, there’s little else of any consequence. It’s a case of ticking those boxes, going through the motions…and at the end of the day, we have fairly serviceable fan fiction.

The good news is the Alden Ehrenreich is strong in the title role. He doesn’t try to impersonate Harrison Ford, instead doing his own spin on the character. There are enough mannerisms here and there, and the script provides enough narrative nods to that which will come after, that the young actor gets the job done. The script doesn’t do justice to the rogue we first met in that Mos Eisley cantina, however. Instead, it’s at pains to tell us that he only thinks he’s a rogue, but deep down is simply too darn nice…

Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton and Emilia Clarke are perfectly fine. There’s nothing memorable about their characters, however. Much like Rogue One, this film can’t compete with the sequel trilogy for new and unique characters to capture the imagination. Donald Glover is fine as a young Lando Calrissian (a spin-off movie starring him could potentially be much more interesting than this) and Paul Bettany does an incredibly good job as the villain with barely any screen time.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s voice work is interesting. She is excellent as the droid L3-37, however the screenplay makes the astonishing mistake of using humour to punch down. The writing here made me feel uncomfortable, and without giving anything away, it felt like a dog whistle for a certain species of Star Wars fan…

John Powell’s score is a misfire for me. There are some interesting themes, but they’re strangely divorced from the action. John Williams’ cues were out of place also.

So what does the film do right? Well, it looks nice, and it does still feel like Star Wars (something all of the new films have succeeded where the prequel trilogy failed.) And I appreciate that we have a plot that isn’t simply rebels-versus-the-Empire. As a side note, it’s weird to think that Star Wars influenced ‘Firefly’, and now we have a Star Wars film that feels a lot like an episode of ‘Firefly’…

The Force Awakens‘ rehashing of that which had come before got a pass because it was an exercise in course-correction. Rogue One and The Last Jedi showed us something new in the Star Wars universe. But Solo has nothing interesting to bring to the table. This is easily the ‘safest’ of the new films, and there’s not much I can say aside from ‘it could have been worse’…

Rating: 3 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 31st May 2018
Hoopla Factor: 2.5 stars

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