Cinema: ‘Solo’ Is Embarrassing And Unnecessary, But Mostly Harmless
Solo: A Star Wars Story is not a good movie. It explains things from the original movie that didn’t need to be answered, doesn’t go into enough detail regarding newly introduced elements and is one of the cheesiest films to grace theaters this year. The visuals aren’t anything special and there’s nothing all that memorable in the movie either. Despite all these flaws though, it’s an enjoyable enough movie. It’s not quite on the level of it’s so bad it’s great, but there’s just enough baffling choices and silliness spread throughout a competent enough movie that it’s worth watching. If you’re expecting a genuinely good film, this isn’t the movie for you, but if you can appreciate a lot of cheese and bad decision making, then you’ll likely be able to enjoy Solo quite a bit.
One of the better or worse parts of Solo, depending on how you look at it, are the many baffling decisions that plague the film’s script. The silliest and worst by far had to be how Han Solo got his name. Much like the flaw in the Death Star, nobody was complaining about why Han Solo had such a spot-on name. Yes, it’s a cheesy name, but Han Solo is such a beloved icon of cinema that nobody cares. Plus, the way he gets it is so groan-worthy I can’t imagine anyone hearing that dialogue without their eyes rolling into the back of their head. Besides that, there’s the Chewbacca death fake-out scene that was in the trailer of Solo and another fake out death scene that involves almost the whole cast while on the infamous Kessel Run. Everybody and their mother knows Chewbacca, Han, and Lando are going to live, so to pretend otherwise is completely ludicrous. The purpose of making a prequel to me, at least one that focuses on a particular character’s past, is to explore why that character is who they are now. Much like how Better Call Saul shows how lawyer Saul Goodman becomes the sleazy and morally flexible criminal he is in Breaking Bad, Solo had the opportunity to do the same. Han Solo starts this movie very idealistic and generally as a very good guy, which led me to expect to see him slowly warped into the cynical and rough scoundrel he is in A New Hope. Except, this change never really comes, as Han Solo still gives up his chance at a huge payday to do the right thing. This shows despite all he goes through during this movie, he hasn’t grown at all as a character, making this already unnecessary feeling movie feel all the more pointless.
Besides the non-intentional comedy, most of the lighting in Solo was poorly done. This is especially strange as the film was lit by Bradford Young who also did the cinematography for Arrival and did an amazing job. Perhaps it had something to do with the change of directors, but whatever it was, much of the movie was overly dark, making it hard to see the characters. During the beginning of the movie, characters were so blurry I began to wonder if the theater I was in accidentally put on the 3-D version by mistake. The dark and moody look of the film also did not mesh with the tone of the film at all. For the most part, Solo’s tone is consistently light-hearted and goofy. It was almost shocking how consistent it was considering Ron Howard was supposed to take the film away from Lord and Miller’s more comical interpretation. Perhaps the footage was edited in post to try and give the movie more of an edge, but it’s hard to say.
One of the biggest obstacles for Solo to overcome was having to cast replacements for Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams. Both gave such iconic performances that it seemed almost impossible to find actors that could do the characters justice. Surprisingly enough, both Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover did fine. They weren’t amazing, but considering it was said that Alden Ehrenreich needed an acting coach many months into production, the performances we received were respectable enough. I would have preferred someone who could have better mimicked Harrison Ford’s mannerisms, but I don’t know that there’s an actor alive that could flawlessly capture Harrison Ford’s raw charisma. The rest of the cast did a fine enough job as well. Paul Bettany hammed it up as Solo’s main villain and Woody Harrelson was exactly what you would expect Han Solo’s mentor to be. The weakest performance by far was from Emilia Clarke who I never understood what she was going for with her character. You could blame that on bad script writing, but as Ewan McGregor proved in the Prequels, even a bad script can sound good if you’re a talented enough actor. Little things like how she delivered certain lines could have given them whole new meanings, but as is the character seemed to change motivations as the plot demanded. She also had very little chemistry with Alden Ehrenreich, but that’s just as much his fault as it is her.
While not as obnoxious as Rogue One’s many unnecessary cameos, Solo: A Star Wars Story has one cameo, in particular, that has many Star Wars fans in a tizzy. If you don’t want it spoiled, I suggest skipping to the next paragraph. In one of the most surprising choices yet, Darth Maul makes an appearance as the leader of the Crimson Dawn syndicate. Many audience members will likely be left confused as to how this character is still alive after being seemingly killed in The Phantom Menace. Only people who have seen either of the latest Star Wars animated series would have known prior that Maul had survived. Despite this revival, Maul would eventually meet his demise for good in Rebels as he was once again defeated by Obi-Wan Kenobi after he learned of Luke Skywalker’s existence. Maul’s inclusion is a nice Easter Egg for fans of the expanded universe, but other than that, it doesn’t make sense for Disney to include him in Solo unless there are plans to further use the character. It seems too dramatic to bring Maul in just as an advertisement for their already ended animated series, but with the character already dead there’s not much else to use him for. The most likely use would have been for an Obi-Wan Kenobi solo film, but would Disney really overwrite his death in the cartoon? Whatever the point was, Maul looked very fake in his holographic appearance and provided another hilarious scene as he activated his lightsaber for no real reason. Maybe Disney just put him in so Solo wouldn’t be the only Star Wars movie without a lightsaber.
All in all, Solo: A Star Wars Story is one step forward, but two steps back. The decision to tell a more contained, smaller stakes story in the world of Star Wars is something that should be praised, but Disney’s refusal to tell that story with new characters is what holds it back. That combined with an inconsistent vision of whether these movies should be straight up comedies, dire dramas, or something in-between leave many of these more recent Star Wars movies feeling muddled. Star Wars is arguably the greatest franchise ever made, and it should be treated like it. Disney needs to experiment with these movies and try new things. Give these films to directors with visions and style and don’t get mad at them when they make something other than a cookie cutter factory made product. Otherwise, Disney will soon have a rude awakening when they find audiences are burned out by being told the same safe stories over and over again.