Solo: A Star Wars Story Plot Summary:
Growing up in the crime-ridden planet of Corellia, Han (Alden Ehrenreich) dreams of one day flying across the galaxy with the woman he loves, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). When fate brings him to a well renowned smuggler (Woody Harrelson), Han gets embroiled in a highly dangerous heist to help pay off a debt owed to a feared crime lord (Paul Bettany).
Here’s how we’re going to handle this review today. Let’s pretend for a moment this isn’t a Star Wars movie. As a summer popcorn flick, it’s passable. The action is hit or miss. It can get pretty boring. There’s a few nice character moments, but they are all underdeveloped. You walk out fairly entertained, but like many summer movies, it’s erased from your memory in a matter of minutes. It’s mediocre.
Now it’s time to put the Star Wars label back on. I’m sorry. You can moan and groan all you want, but I’m not going to apologize for this. When you hold the name Star Wars, I’m going to hold you to a higher standard. Mediocrity is not acceptable. While this is better than Rogue One, it still boils down to one simple fact: It’s JV Star Wars.
Ever since this movie was announced, my war cry has always been, “We don’t need Han Solo’s back story!” The lore of Han Solo as an Imperial deserter, meeting Chewbacca, winning the falcon and flying the Kessel Run were never going to live up to what we imagined as kids. Now here it is all laid out for us, and what a shocker, it’s really lame. It all goes back to this being JV Star Wars. Everything should be important and awe-inspiring, but it’s just whatever. This is Han Solo! For crying out loud!
Not only does the fan service blow bags, but just as they did with Rogue One, they ruin great elements from the original Star Wars once again. The first twenty minutes flat out stinks. There’s no chemistry whatsoever between Alden Ehrenreich and Emilia Clarke. The dialogue is putrid. We also get a joke straight out of the prequels. It’s incredible to me that one of the writers on this, Lawrence Kasdan, also wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back. The same guy who wrote those Yoda/Luke training scenes also wrote this? I guess even Tom Brady throws an interception.
It all goes back to crapping on the mystique of the original movies. As bad as the opening act is, it commits the biggest sin in regards to a certain character’s name. That’s as vague as I can get without spoiling it. What they do here is an absolute atrocity. Pathetic. I was almost in tears. I still can’t believe it happened. Alright, we have to move on. There are two more moments like this we’ll get to later. We need a phrase for these scenes that tarnish the reputation of the original movies. We’ll call them “Darth Ruiners.”
Let’s get to Han himself, Alden Ehrenreich. At the end of the day, he was fine. I’m almost convinced the rumors about his awful performance were intentionally leaked to drive our expectations down. Following in the footsteps of Harrison Ford is hard enough, but add in the fact that Han Solo is one of the most iconic characters in all of cinema and this poor kid never had a chance.
The performance is never bad, but it’s awkward and clunky. At times, he hits a decent one-liner, but it’s rare. He doesn’t ruin the movie, but doesn’t enhance it a whole lot either. It’s a little reminiscent of Brandon Routh in Superman Returns. Not only are you following a legend, but you have to emulate the performance because it’s the same character. A better example of how to do this was Chris Pine as Captain Kirk. He gave it his own spin, but there was enough there to know it was Kirk. I don’t buy this guy becoming Harrison Ford’s Han Solo.
Once Han gets in with Beckett’s (Woody Harrelson) crew, the movie improves significantly. Their first heist is paced well, and the gang has a lot of camaraderie. Thandie Newton commands the screen. Rio, the alien pilot, is voiced exceptionally well by Jon Favreau. Woody Harrelson is Woody Harrelson. What else is there to say? The mentor/mentee relationship between Han and Beckett is one of the stronger parts to the movie, but it’s completely under developed in the second act, and rushed back in haphazardly at the end.
Then we have Han and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). All I kept reading about was how awesome the Han/Chewie dynamic was in the film. They’ve been in five movies together now, and this was their weakest pairing, I’m sorry. It’s okay, but nothing special. They try and incorporate some emotional baggage with Chewbacca, but it’s really forced. It’s nice seeing them together, but it’s not even in the same galaxy as the original trilogy or The Force Awakens. Chewbacca also does something in this movie you’ve wanted to see for years, but it’s a blink and you’ll miss it moment. It got completely Disney-ified.
The best part of the entire movie is about as surprising as Starbucks brewing coffee. Donald Glover is absolutely incredible as Lando Calrissian. Cool as hell. You can tell this role meant a lot to him. He delivers one line in particular where I literally thought it was Billy Dee Williams on the screen. He’s not enough to save the movie, but Donald Glover flat out delivered.
Lando also has a droid sidekick named L3-37, voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. She’ll no doubt be the breakout star of this movie and easily got the biggest laughs. We’ve never seen a droid so hell-bent on droid rights. It’s interesting at first, but she devolves into Marvel Cinematic Universe quips pretty fast, despite being well voiced by Waller-Bridge.
Aside from the characters, the action is decent. To its credit, the Kessel Run is a high-octane blast. They also play classic Star Wars music here, whereas the rest of the score is a complete waste. Star Wars is going to have a real problem when John Williams retires. As good as the Kessel Run is though, we get another “Darth Ruiner” moment. It’s a subtle one, but it really pissed me off. I might be over thinking it, but it’s there.
After the Kessel Run, the movie turns into a rushed rebellion plot. This is why prequels are so hard to pull off. They really lay it on thick with Han. He cares, even though he says he doesn’t. He’ll be in the rebellion someday. We get it. I’ve seen Star Wars! The only redeeming part to the third act is Paul Bettany as a solid villain, who they probably could have done more with.
We also get our final Darth Ruiner moment at the end in regards to a certain character. This made me physically ill. I don’t care how many people tell me these spin-off movies are cannon. I’m not accepting it. I don’t want to hear about it. I don’t even want to debate it. I’m glad if you like it, but leave me the Hoth alone. I’m ignoring this.
I give this movie credit for being better than Rogue One. At least it has a pulse. Having said that, it was still the movie I feared it would be. All this movie does is go down a laundry list of stuff fans think they want to see, but they do absolutely nothing special with it. They just go through the motions.
The reaction to this film is exactly what I thought it would be. Everyone is being forgiving of its mediocrity due to bottom of the barrel expectations. It irritates me to no end that fans will give Solo a pass, yet The Last Jedi, the most ambitious Star Wars film we’ve seen in years, gets ripped to shreds.
What a bunch of bantha fodder.
Rating: 5.5 out of 10 (Passable Entertainment)