“Solo: A Star Wars Story” – The Star Wars universe obviously centers around the Skywalker family, and during Episodes IV through VI, Luke was anointed the main protagonist. His personal Shakespearean journey is the largest thread in the original films’ tapestry, and millions and millions – and perhaps, billions – of kids welded PVC pipes, wooden sticks and purchased plastic lightsabers to emulate Luke Skywalker.
On the other hand, if one took an informal poll of Star Wars fans, more boys, young men and grown men would probably want to be Han Solo.
And why not?
A pilot, smuggler and reluctant hero, Han Solo unapologetically carries a swashbuckling, bad boy persona. Women wish to meet him, and men want to be him. Certainly, George Lucas wrote a terrifically attractive character, but credit Harrison Ford for turning Han Solo into one of the most iconic on-screen personalities in movie history.
In 2018, it’s time to go back in time.
Before Episode IV.
In “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, Lucasfilm tells a standalone story about Mr. Solo that also brings a new hope of learning his history.
Unfortunately, hopes of learning Han’s deep emotional tides are dashed, as “Solo: A Star Wars Story” tells a curious smuggling tale from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far way, but does not offer nearly enough thrills, and the narrative keeps the audience wondering about the film’s actual purpose, outside of learning about some traces moments of the lead’s history.
Well, director Ron Howard shows us the how and when Han (Alden Ehrenreich) meets Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover).
We also see Han’s first spin in a shiny and pristine Millennium Falcon. That’s cool too, because it’s not the piece of junk that we all grew to love in Episodes IV through VII.
Speaking of past films, this one takes place between III and IV, and Howard and writers Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan Kasdan try to build a brand new universe for future movies, in ways that will not be revealed in this review. Although, “Solo” is a standalone film, it does not have to be lonely, and Ehrenreich is not, as he is surrounded with an A-list cast including Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, and Linda Hunt makes a scant voice appearance too.
Han’s first appearance is living on Corellia, a planet filled with worker bees and have-nots, and he and his girlfriend Qi’ra (Clarke) hope for a better life by getting themselves off this place, not unlike Luke on Tatooine. Without getting into spoilers, the film jumps a few years, and Han does not improve is standing in the world a whole lot, and out of desperation, he teams up with Chewbacca and three thieves named Beckett (Harrelson), Val (Thandie Newton) and Rio Durant (Favreau) to nab an extremely valuable and volatile fuel called coaxium, which will make them all a fortune…hopefully.
Well, the smuggling business never exactly plays nice, and Han and Chewie need to watch out for double-crosses and danger. Although Han and Chewie feel stressed, their angst does not really translate to the audience. The action – complete with land speeder races, a physics-defying heist in the mountains and some space rides – feels distant, and any of the potential pitfalls, crashes or impending disasters do not quite translate into stress for the audience. Perhaps, it’s because we are too busy attempting to catch up with the new universe, locations and characters, or we know that nothing will permanently damage Han, Chewie and Lando. It’s a prequel.
Visually, it feels dulled-down and muddy under a muted palette of greys and blues, and the story seems to match. Regrettably, Ehrenreich’s performance feels the same. He certainly looks the part, but plays Han with a mellow air. Ehrenreich’s Han is sympathetic, but not fierce, daring or funny.
We don’t hardly see Han’s qualities that make him the movie icon that we know today. Maybe Han’s emotional growth plays a big part in future films, but in isolation, as a standalone picture, it doesn’t. This critic would still like to see another Solo film with Ehrenreich in the lead role, out of sentimentality or the willingness to see this story’s progression, as well as Han’s.
In the meantime, Glover, Clarke and Harrelson help keep the picture standing, and thankfully Howard gives us much more Chewie than the terribly uneven “The Last Jedi” (2017), but there is nothing uneven about “Solo: A Star Wars Story”. It’s just feels flat and the tone feels indifferent all the way through, and that is an achievement for a film about the terribly charismatic Han Solo.
⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Image credits: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Trailer credits: Star Wars