In the same way that it’s fun to imagine what Edgar Wright could have done with Ant-Man, wondering what could have been with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s version of Solo: A Star Wars Story is both exciting and discouraging.
For those who don’t know, Lord and Miller were the original directors of Solo and were nearly finished with principal photography when they decided to leave the project. They were aiming for a more comedic tone, encouraged improvisation, and wanted the film to be more like Guardians of the Galaxy.
Not long after their creative differences with LucasFilm, Ron Howard was brought in and apparently reshot about 70% of whatever material Lord and Miller left behind. What fans receive with Solo is this dreary slog of a film with little excitement and no chemistry amongst the cast whatsoever.
Alden Ehrenreich isn’t a convincing young Han Solo. His smug attitude and cocky demeanor feels forced and you mostly want to slap him or kick him out the back hatch of the Millennium Falcon as it warps into hyperdrive. Han is written with a spontaneity to make it seem as though he can think on his toes during any situation while being the type of stubborn outlaw who talks first and thinks later, but Ehrenreich’s performance makes it seem as though he’s just young and ignorant and doesn’t know when to shut up even when his life is on the line.
Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra character is an even bigger frustration. Qi’ra is Han’s girl at the beginning of the film, but they get separated with Han vowing to return to and rescue her. After several years, she’s moved on and has aligned herself with some shady individuals. The problem is you have no idea who she’s working for. She may be pursuing what’s best for herself, but her many alliances seem to paint a different picture.
Clarke hasn’t exactly had the best track record since branching out from Game of Thrones either since Terminator: Genisys is just as forgettable as that other attempt at rebooting the franchise. Clarke tries to be mysterious here with an effort to be the object of affection for the hero, but also hint at a dark past that she intends to keep hidden.
Maybe expectations were a little too high for Donald Glover’s portrayal of Lando Calrissian. Glover is riding this explosive freight train of hype recently with the success of his Emmy and Golden Globe winning television series Atlanta and the absolutely unreal reception of his recent hit, “This is America.” Glover is an exceptional talent and is usually extremely memorable with whatever project he chooses to be a part of. As Lando though, Glover isn’t able to make Lando his own and seems to mimic Billy Dee Williams without adding anything else to Lando’s already rich DNA. While Alden Ehrenreich failed with his portrayal of Han Solo, at least it felt like he was bringing something new or at least a little different to the character.
L3-37 tries to be the K-2SO of Solo and isn’t nearly as funny or as memorable enough to pull it off. She has this rebellious streak with the sole purpose of starting an uprising and she thinks she’s this desirable sex symbol but in reality she does more harm than good. Her defiant demeanor is tiresome and irritating and you’ll be convinced that she’s voiced by Captain Phasma herself Gwendoline Christie or Tilda Swinton when she’s actually voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Paul Bettany’s facially scarred baddie Dryden Vos would be completely forgotten if it wasn’t for the ridiculous double-sided electric butter knife weapon he wields. He’s the one guy in the film to willingly bring a knife to a blaster fight. Woody Harrelson’s Beckett serves the sole purpose of teaching Han how to perfect the art of being an underhanded scoundrel. Beckett is sneaky, sacrifices anything and everything for money, and is basically a prick to everyone around him; something Han picks up and modifies amongst his travels.
The film itself is incredibly dark early on. There’s a reason for it at the beginning of the film, but the visuals remain difficult to process due to its lack of proper lighting for at least a third of the picture. The text that opens the film makes it sound like writers Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan ripped off the Mad Max franchise.
If you swap out guzzoline for coaxium and or hyperfuel, Max for Han, the Interceptor for the Millenium Falcon, and the dry landscape for the unlimited boundaries of outer space, then the concept for Solo is awfully similar to Mad Max. Han’s answer to everything in the film is to run away. Being a conceited deserter who only looks out for himself makes it difficult to care about him even when he aligns himself with Chewbacca and you know what he becomes later on.
There’s some decency in the film; ideas that should have been executed more sufficiently but were only mediocre at best due to a weak presentation. The rotating train sequence should have been a lot more impressive. It’s an idea that probably sounded great on paper, but is mostly a regular train with a mirror image of itself reflected underneath it. Lando’s poker sequences are at least intriguing visually, the marauders are slightly intriguing despite not doing much of anything, and there’s a certain surprise buried in the film that is getting a bigger buzz than the film itself.
It’s unfortunate to report that Solo: A Star Wars Story suffers from being overwhelmingly dull. The film offers nothing new and the stakes never feel like they’ll legitimately make an impact since you already know how things will turn out. It’s funny that LucasFilm gave the comedy directors the boot since the humor that remains is so stale and forced. At 135 minutes, there isn’t a significant action sequence that is worth talking about after leaving the theater. Solo is nothing more than an astronomical lackluster detour that stalls immediately after its engine starts as it spends the rest of the film crawling towards a foreseeable dead end.