Solo: A Star Wars Story review – disappointing

by | 24 May 2018

‘Han Solo finds himself in the middle of a heist and meets Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian.’

Solo: A Star Wars Story is the next instalment in the franchise’s anthology series, following on from 2016’s Rogue One. Where that film was a prequel to A New Hope (1977) Solo goes back even further. This time to see everyone’s favourite scoundrel long before that first meeting with Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Taking over the iconic role from Harrison Ford is Alden Ehrenreich, who undoubtedly has big shoes to fill. The question is, will he succeed and do justice to this beloved character, or will he sully the legacy undoing the positive impact he’s had over the decades?

Directed by Ron Howard, the story begins with Han Solo (Ehrenreich) as a petty thief trying to make it as a pilot for the Galactic Empire. Kicked out of the academy, he joins a crew who are planning to steal the valuable mineral coaxium. Led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), and joined by future co-pilot Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), they set out on this highly dangerous job under the watchful eye of nefarious gangster Drydon Vos (Paul Bettany). Also aided by Han’s childhood friend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) and the charismatic Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), owner of the Millennium Falcon.

As fun as it is to see some of our favourite characters back on screen, albeit with different actors, Solo struggles to make any kind of impression. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we had our last Star Wars film less than six months ago. That instead of every three years, we’re getting an instalment in this franchise as regular as the MCU. Making it somehow less special. They’re no longer big events to look forward to, but part of a giant money making machine. Consequently, no matter how hard the writers try to remind us of this film’s legacy, it just comes off as formulaic and predictable. Really as a prequel, all we’re getting are gaps filled in for certain character’s back stories. Which ultimately feels unnecessary and pointless.

Whereas Rogue One was a war movie, Solo is packaged within the heist genre. But where that brought something different to the original anthology film, here it just feels stale and over-familiar. Hitting all the over-used beats and tropes that come with this kind of narrative, there’s nothing new you can’t find in any other caper-based movie. Basic tropes like; double crosses, the close calls and third act plot twists can all be found here, offering zero originality.

Expectedly, the special effects are all excellent, and you can’t deny it looks very polished. There’s also a lack of green screen, helping the environments have a more tangible and grounded look. Yet, it’s frustratingly dark, and you’ll find it difficult to see anything with all the colour drained from the palette and lighting turned right down.

This is especially annoying when it comes to the action sequences, where it’s hard to follow what’s going on and keep track of everyone’s movements. They’re well shot (from what I can see), and they bring a good level of excitement. Howard could have just done with turning the brightness up slightly.

When it comes to the performances, all the cast do well with what they have, but unfortunately, they are significantly underdeveloped. The only two who feel the most fleshed out are Ehrenreich’s Han and Glover’s Lando, and that’s only because we’ve seen them in other movies. As the iconic character, Ehrenreich does well portraying the essence of Han while not resorting to a Harrison Ford impression. One of his greatest strengths is also seeing his and Chewbacca’s friendship grow, in which they display a great chemistry with one another. Glover is equally good, bringing a lot of charisma to the charming smuggler and looking like he’s having a lot of fun in the process.

Regrettably, outside of those two some of the new characters don’t fare as well. Harrelson is fine but misused as Han’s mentor. There’s no history built between them, where in a short space of time we’re supposed to believe a connection has unrealistically formed. Essentially, he plays what Han will become, making him a plot device more than anything else. Clarke’s Qi’ra is likewise a traditional love interest, and is someone for our hero to fight for and add sympathy to. Indeed, although given some agency, she’s no Rey or Jyn Erso. Even Bettany’s antagonist barely does anything, and is a typical one-dimensional villain.

All in all, Solo is a rather disappointing affair. Fun and entertaining as it is, for a Star Wars movie, it has none of the magic or quality these films are capable of producing. On top of that, the story and characters are definitely found wanting and lack any substance. However, despite these flaws, without the weight of the episodic saga, this is still a light and breezy space adventure. You just need to take it on its own and forget the baggage that comes with it.

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