Remember when The Last Jedi got released? I do because you couldn’t get away from Star Wars. Everything was linked with it in some way and as someone who isn’t that bothered with the franchise, it was really annoying. I still enjoyed the film though even if it did have some big flaws. You may have noticed that at the moment, there is barely any Star Wars stuff. No massive push on merchandise, no Kia adverts that are Star Wars themed because for some reason they decided to do a tie in, nothing. There is a complete lack of hype for Solo despite how big Star Wars has been since it has come back. Is there a reason for that?
A young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich, Hail Caesar) manages to escape his home planet of Corelia but his love Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones) is caught as they look set to get away. Desperate to save her from the clutches from the slums, he tries everything to make some money so he can go back and reunite with his love.
The major problem with the movie is on the poster and is front, right and centre. Aldem Ehrenreich himself. It was always going to be tough to play Han Solo, Harrison Ford made that role and it was iconic mostly because he was just perfect as this arrogant smuggler. No matter how talented the actor, it was going to be near impossible to replicate the charisma and presence that Ford had. And as it was expected, Ehrenreich doesn’t manage it. I can’t bash the guy too much, he has obviously tried his best. He has the mannerisms down and it’s probably the best performance he’s done. If it wasn’t for that name, it’d be a decent leading man performance. Not amazing, but solid enough. But when he’s trying to be Han, it feels more like a cosplay replication than seeing that famous character again. You forget he is Han Solo and you can’t take the movie seriously because of it. And it hurts the movie throughout.
He’s not helped by the arc though. If you’ve watched A New Hope, you’ll know that his arc is that through the actions of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, he is inspired to actually care about something for the first time in his life. It’s a great arc which helped make Star Wars what it is today. In this movie, they do the same arc. We’re getting into spoiler territory now so please skip this paargraph if you want to avoid anything of that sort. But that arc is just repeated wholesale without any twists. Han wants to be an anti-hero but instead of fulfilling what his character was at the start of A New Hope, where he would be selfish and make sure he got out best of anyone, he’s more like the one at the end. Which now means it makes no sense that the Han we see in Mos Eisley Cantina is such an arsehole.
The movie however is still enjoyable despite these problems and I best say some of the reasons why. There is an enjoyable supporting cast that really make this movie. While Alden Ehrenreich struggles to fill the shoes of Han Solo, Donald Glover (Atlanta) fits into the role of Lando Calrissian like a cosy pair of slippers. He just has an effortless cool about him, just like Lando had back in Empire Strikes Back. He enhances the character with his performance here and has actually made the idea of a Lando spin-off palatable which was unthinkable a few weeks ago. And his droid companion L3 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag) is delight. She is a droids activist and every line is hilarious. She doesn’t get long to shine but boy does this droid make her time worthwhile. It’s amazing how in these spin-offs the droids are often the best thing.
And when there’s some heisting to be done, the movie is very fun. The middle third is dedicated to a heist of an energy source as well as the famous Kessel run. And this the best part of the movie. This when we get to see all the characters already discussed, plus Woody Harrelson (True Detective) playing himself which is a delight and a young Chewbacca because of course there’s a young Chewbacca in this, get to do something and it’s enjoyable. It’s nothing partiuarly revolutionary in the heist genre, especially as Rogue One did the sci-fi heist so much better, but it hits all the right beats in the right order. It even has a fun wildcard element as L3 accidentally starts a revolution which messes everything up. It’s a great middle segment which is the best reason to watch the movie.
But the movie doesn’t really escape the fact it’s pretty pointless. A bit of fun pointless nonsense, but pointless nonsense nontheless. We never needed a backstory to Han Solo. We knew enough from his appearances in the main Star Wars films, he was a smuggler that got on the wrongside on several shady characters. That’s enough. He’s not someone who demands a massive restrospective into why he is who he is. Now the movie could have made a case for existing by adding something that truly changes how we see the character. But all it adds is a few betrayals and a love story. Nothing that makes the Han Solo more interesting.
You won’t regret seeing Solo: A Star Wars Story. It’s a movie that has a lot of fun moments and enough to make the two hour plus run time worth it. But it’s the first Star Wars film that feels inessential. The prequel movies were bad don’t get me wrong but they felt like they mattered. This is the first live action Star Wars movie that will be forgotten within weeks of it being released. And while Alden Ehrenreich never feeling like Han Solo is a major problem, it’s the fact the movie can never tell you why it exists other than for the need to release a Star Wars film in 2018 that will bother you the most.