There’s nothing like a Star Wars film to get you in the mood for the movies. You’re almost guaranteed a thrilling story, a twist or two, and a dedicated fan base in the audience to pull you through. Of course, Solo is no exception, but where the most modern of the 3 tales have been almost universally accepted as golden, this adventure is second place material, if not third.
As always with the big films, I’m not going to spoil anything, but what you will know is the film centres around a young Han Solo growing up and the retelling of some of the old, mentioned tales from the original trilogy. Think a heist film for the Star Wars universe, and a heist film you almost get. There’s car chases, train chases and even some awesome sky battles, all boiling down to a big take and the lengths those go to to be the one left with the goods. On paper, Solo steers clear of the classic stories in the Skywalker universe, with no mention of the Death Star or the Jedi in sight. It’s refreshing and never dampens the story; but there’s still a crucial problem in the fact that it feels like it should have been a riskier film. One of the greatest surprises with Rogue One was the fact that the entire main cast were culled. Solo can’t exactly do that, with Han and Chewie needing to be alive for the future flicks, but it’s even in the storytelling that the film feels too straightforward, less bolshy than The Last Jedi for example.
By no means is Solo a bad film, it just so happens to be the worst of the post-2015 bunch. Everything from the cinematography, to the settings, the cast to the soundtrack work in sync to create a new feeling to the universe, one that you’ve not explored before. Looming over the film, however, is the biggest question. Which scenes were Lord & Miller’s (the original directors, who were fired midway through production), and which were Ron Howard’s (the replacement, a very safe pair of hands). There’s throwaway one liners that are almost definitely from the director duo’s (‘The cannon’s gone, and my thumbs are hurting’), and these moments completely work. It’s when the vanilla storytelling of Howard brings the script back on track that you wish there were more moments of laughter and hilarity from the cast. Instead, the story is steered back in the right direction below the speed limit that the film suffers. For years to come, many will wonder and pick apart the film to find out the exact scenes that remained after Howard’s apparent 70% teardown and reshooting of the film.
The best part of any recent Star Wars film has been the performances, mainly from supporting characters, and the same is true here. L3-37, played by Phoebe-Waller Bridge (Fleabag) is by far one of the best droids ever introduced, even after K2-SO and BB-8. She’s a fiery, freedom fighting robot who wants equal rights for all and makes everyone aware. Her lines are incredibly on point and every single time she speaks you will laugh, guaranteed. Donald Glover is a surefire doppelgänger for Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calrissian; the swagger, tone and immense true-tocharacter performance both honours the original actor and builds the suaveness throughout the runtime. One slight disappointment? Alden Ehrenreich. Rumours were swirling that an acting coach was brought in halfway through production, and that feeling comes across. There’s moments in the first act that honestly feel dead, without feeling or attempt at a broadening of Han. It’s a shame, considering how The Force Awakens builds on Solo’s character tenfold. It makes the film fizzle slightly, but Glover and Emilia Clark (Qi’Ra) bring it right back up to the boil.
Star Wars films are never perfect, and I don’t think anyone wants them to be. Half the fun is dissecting the movie and going at it from all different sides. It’s the first (ever so slight) bum note from Disney’s newest acquisition, and in some ways it was to be expected. There’s definitely setup for more adventures featuring Ehrenreich and the gang (that absolute stormer of a twist near the end made my heart jump), but here’s hoping for a new adventure that takes place way further out from these known characters. The Outer Rim, perhaps?