Disney sure is holding true to their word about releasing a Star Wars movie every year. I’d complain if I didn’t care about Star Wars, but… Star Wars is love, life, and happiness. Screw you, if you want to argue with me.
Although I do have to ask, what’s with all the origin stories? Did anyone seriously ask for an origin story on how Leia got the Death Star plans? And was anyone really asking for a Han Solo origin story? Yoda, I can understand. Even an Obi-Wan story between the events of REVENGE (2005) and HOPE (1977) would be interesting. But Han? I don’t know, I don’t know many people asking for that one. But hey, I guess the most marketable character in the movies deserves his own. I suppose it couldn’t be helped.
The story looks like it’s about Han as a younger man just starting his career as a smuggler, working with a group for a big gang leader. Further details have been sketchy, and I’ve avoided later trailers and TV spots, so I can’t even guess at the plot.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Alden Ehrenreich (RULES DON’T APPLY  and HAIL, CAESAR! ), Joonas Suotamo (THE LAST JEDI  and THE FORCE AWAKENS ), Woody Harrelson (THREE BILLBOARDS , THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN , THE HUNGER GAMES – MOCKINGJAY 2 , and the upcoming VENOM ), Emilia Clarke (ME BEFORE YOU , TERMINATOR GENISYS , and the upcoming ABOVE SUSPICION ), and Donald Glover (SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING , THE MARTIAN , MAGIC MIKE XXL , and the upcoming THE LION KING ). In support, we have Paul Bettany (Avengers INFINITY WAR  and AGE ULTRON , and CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR ), Thandie Newton (GRINGO ), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN ), Warwick Davis (LAST JEDI, ROGUE ONE , FORCE AWAKENS, PHANTOM , LABYRINTH , and RETURN OF THE JEDI ), and Jon Favreau (SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, THE JUNGLE BOOK , and the upcoming Avengers 4 ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Ron Howard, known for INFERNO (2016) and IN THE HEART OF THE SEA (2015). Co-penning the script are Kasdan brothers Jonathan (3 episodes of DAWSON’S CREEK [1998 – 2003] and 1 episode of FREAKS AND GEEKS [1999 – 2000]) and Lawrence (FORCE AWAKENS, RETURN OF THE JEDI, and EMPIRE ). The composer is John Powell, known for FERDINAND (2017), JASON BOURNE (2016), PAN (2015), and the upcoming HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD (2019). The cinematographer is Bradford Young, known for ARRIVAL (2016) and PAWN SACRIFICE (2015). Finally, the editor is Pietro Scalia, known for ALIEN: COVENANT (2017), 13 HOURS (2016), and THE MARTIAN.
Overall… I love Star Wars, but I don’t think this is going to be very good. Remember, there was a ton of drama behind the scenes during production. Back in 2015, the film was original co-directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who directed such films as 21 JUMP STREET and THE LEGO MOVIE. They were fired for filming in a way that was against what was originally written an envisioned. Apparently, Lord and Miller thought they were making a straight comedy, encouraging too much improv, but were supposed to be simply adding comedic edges. There’s likely a lot of information on the internet as well as hidden truths that the pubic doesn’t know about. An acting coach was hired for Ehrenreich, as the big wigs weren’t happy with his performance to that point, Ron Howard came in to direct for the final month of filming, who apparently reshot 70% of the film, the producers wanted to take the movie in a new direction with Howard, an entire role was written out of the movie due to scheduling conflicts with reshoots, Lord and Miller decided to accept credit as executive producers and not directors… man, I’m stressed out just from typing this all out. Two different visions of this movie clashing and most of it reshot in a matter of a month. Maybe a little less? There’s no way this is going to be a great film. I just can’t fathom it. Sure, Howard is a great director… from time to time, looking at you GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS (2000), but even great directors have time to see their visions come true. Really, Howard’s a substitute teacher that stuck around for the last month of the school year with the intention of reteaching everything that the students were taught. This… is not going to end well. At best, it’s going to be… solid. At worst, it’s going to be… a Star Wars prequel. Please, God, no. But that’s the truth. I want it to be good, but I think it’s going to suck. Please let me be wrong.
This is my honest opinion of: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY
Three years ago, Han (Alden Ehrenreich) was a young man who stole what was needed for the underground gangs that he found himself a part of, alongside his girlfriend, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). After stealing some unrefined coaxium (hyperspace fuel), they attempt to escape their current life and go wherever they want to live the life they choose. However, their pursuers catch up to them and only Han escapes with Qi’ra getting apprehended. Needing a cover, he signs up as a cadet in the Imperial Navy under the made-up surname Solo.
Sorry for the relatively vague summary, but any more information and I’d be giving away a little too much of the story.
So on that note, let’s start with the movie’s worst problem: the pacing. Holy God, I do not want to hear another person complain about ROGUE ONE’s pacing anymore because now, y’all are going to have a field day with this one, which will make or break your enjoyment of this movie. It takes half, maybe more, of this movie to get its plot underway. Not even kidding. Also, the scenes drag like molasses to the point where you’d swear to whatever higher power you believe was closer to a Transformers movie rather than Star Wars.
The opening scene, for example, shouldn’t be more than five to ten minutes long. Set up your characters, where they come from, some motivation, and then get to the actual story. I swear, this opening is about fifteen to twenty minutes and most of it is completely unnecessary. Han steals coaxium, resulting in a longer-than-necessary chase. Overly long dialog with Qi’ra. Overly long dialog with Lady Proxima (voiced by Linda Hunt), who served as nightmare fuel for me the following night as she’s basically a giant sentient centipede. This isn’t a specific negative against the film, I just wanted to point out that I’m deathly afraid of centipedes. Then segue into another chase scene that lasts longer than it needs to, ultimately leading to the separation of our love interests, and Han’s inclusion into the Imperial Flight Academy. Basically, everything with Proxima could have been cut and a ton of the dialog could have been trimmed, and the movie would have smoothed over just fine. The land battle scene where Han meets Beckett, the failed heist, all of these scenes are overly long filler to a plot that never truly gets underway until halfway through the movie.
Even when the actual story kicks in, it’s… really nothing all that special. Go in, steal some more hyperspace fuel, and get out. You know, a heist film. This, in of itself, wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the movie played out more like a space version of OCEAN’S ELEVEN. An elaborate, but easy to follow plan. The thing is, OCEAN’S didn’t take forever to get its characters set up and spent most of the runtime putting their plans into action while throwing in legit obstacles in their way. This movie doesn’t. The heist itself is literally a disguise, a distraction, and an extraction. It really is that simple and the scenes don’t play out in a very interesting way. Hell, the actual plot of the movie probably takes up as much of the runtime as the opening scenes, which is not a good thing.
What about the characters? Do they fare any better? Performance-wise, sure, but there’s a pretty damning issue. A lot of the relationships aren’t developed very well. While I do like the chemistry between Ehrenreich and Clarke, and both are certainly acting well enough the sad truth is that Qi’ra is a pretty thin character by the end of the day. Why do I say this? Their mutual backstory is fine. They were street rats, homeless, thieves, but wanted out of their current lives to live the way they want. Cool beans. But as soon as she comes back into the picture, all we ever hear is that “she’s done things.” Um… okay, whatever ruthlessness she’s acquired over the years is not translated into the character in front of us. She mostly just makes googly eyes at Han and carries out her part of the heist without actually contributing to it in any meaningful way. Oh, but she throws a grenade while screaming… so there’s that… I guess. The point is, for a character that is built up to be such an imposing figure within the Crimson Dawn, as well as Vos’ second in command, she’s not very impressive.
But how about the titular character himself? Is he at least worth it? Mmph… I have so many problems with how this character is written.
I’ve got mention my disdain for the origins of Han’s name, “Solo.” At first, I was kind of digging where his name came from. I originally guessed that this movie took some kind of inspiration from the Star Wars video game KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC. To give some context for those of you that haven’t played the game, there’s a race of warriors known as the Mandalorians. You were born into a clan, and the clan’s name was your last name. For example, if your clan’s name was Ordo, and your first name is Canderous, your full name would be Canderous Ordo. Doesn’t matter if you are blood-related or not, if you were born into a clan, you were all brothers and sisters to each other. I was guessing that Corellia operated on a similar system, and that Han was an orphan, hence why he doesn’t have a last name and adopts “Solo.” But here’s what gets me later on. In a casual conversation with Lando (Donald Glover), he mentions how his father worked in the shipyards and that he didn’t get along with his father much. Clearly, he knew him. So why doesn’t he share his last name? I’m totally confused on this. Perhaps Han was lying to the Imperial officer about not having a last name? Someone could tell me a bunch speculative things like, maybe he so didn’t get along with his dad that he relinquished his last name, or any number of explanations that ultimately could all explain this away, but because it’s not hinted at or explained at all in the movie, it looks like a weird detail within the screenplay.
Han also falls into a similar weak bit of writing that was kind of present in A NEW HOPE: a character who claims to be a great pilot, but we never see their abilities at work. With Luke, he never pulls off any fancy maneuvers, he just flies his X-Wing and fires his lasers and torpedoes. He’s an ace-shot, I give him that, but we don’t see that “not such a bad pilot” skillset that he claims to have. Maybe during the Hoth battle against the AT-AT walkers, but I feel like flying in a tight circle is pretty standard fare for a trained pilot. Anyway, this is a similar problem that I have with Han. He never really showcases his skills to warrant his boasting. Sure, he can drive a speeder with some finesse, but a speeder isn’t a starship and likely requires a whole different level of skills. During the train heist, he simply handles Beckett’s ship to latch the cables on to the desired car. Really, similar to Anakin in PHANTOM MENACE, he doesn’t show his skills until toward the end of the movie and that’s kind of frustrating if you ask me. Maybe Han had some skills to show off in the academy, but we don’t see those skills. They’re just implied for a majority of the movie.
And somehow gurgling and counts as speaking the language of the wookies. Wookies, were I to guess, aren’t gurgling. They grunt, growl, and roar. That’s their language. Han is literally doing a common man’s impression of a wookie, not actually speaking the language. And where the hell did Han learn to speak Shyriiwook anyway? I didn’t see many wookies in that sewer he called a home in the beginning.
Sadly, Vos is a boring and forgettable villain. Man, for as good of an actor that Bettany can be, he is never utilized well and this movie is no exception. While his scarred face is pretty cool, he’s not an interesting character. There’s so much build-up to how much of a force he is to be reckoned with, but he never does anything. A cool knife isn’t a character. As a result of how poorly written his character is, the urgency behind other character actions seems dumbed down considerably. Because of Vos’ lack of intimidation, we can’t get behind Beckett’s fears of failure. It almost feels like he could take any random ship and high-tail it into another civilized system and be safe.
Newton is wasted talent on a character that gets very little screen time and barely makes an impact on the overall story. She’s supposed to be Beckett’s girlfriend or wife, but she’s axed off pretty quick and her death barely affects Beckett for the rest of the movie, rendering her completely useless, both as an actress and as a character. Most of the action simply happens and has zero context, so I can see a ton of people being bored with them. Chewy’s (Joonas Suotamo) motivations don’t make sense. Once he and Han get off Mimban, there’s no reason for him to stick around and helping with their heist. L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) is creepily infatuated with Lando, and awkward humor with Han and Chewy showering together… ugh. There’s a weird visual of a singing fish thing in a tank. Very prequel-trilogy of this movie. Is it just me, or is the Millennium Falcon’s design a little too… stretched? I don’t know, its design always bugged me. Even when the design is back to it’s original look toward the end, it looks different from what we’re introduced to in this film. Oh, brandy is now part of the Star Wars universe? Why am I complaining, LAST JEDI showed me that roulette, horse-racing, slot machines, and the expletive “ass” all exist in this universe now. Best drink the kool-aide before it’s shoved down my gob. Does anyone else think it’s a huge-ass coincidence that Han and Qi’ra just HAPPEN to meet up in Vos’ ship? The stars were @#$%ing aligned, if you ask me. And who the hell is Enfys Nest (Erin Kellyman)? Just some weird-looking rebel fighter?! What’s her deal, other than spouting exposition?!
But before anyone starts thinking that this movie is prequel-trilogy quality… well, to many it just might be, but like the prequels, there are elements to the movie that actually enjoyed.
It’s not often that the Star Wars films take place in the gritty streets. I suppose you could argue Mos Eisley in A NEW HOPE, but nearly every other location is either pristine and upper class, like Naboo or Coruscant. The closest we really get is the CLONE WARS animated series. So to see it in live-action, I have to admit that I enjoyed hanging out on the streets, even if it is just on Corellia. Give the drawn out beginning some credit, it gave me an aesthetic that I enjoyed looking at. But there’s also the cargo trains, the spaceport in the beginning, it’s just nice to see a more civilian grounded film in the Star Wars universe.
Did you know that this movie was made on a $250 million dollar budget? Well, that money is definitely on the screen because I might argue that the special effects in this movie have never looked better and might even rival that of ROGUE ONE. With maybe the exception of the giant space octopus toward the end, the CG is incredible.
Much as I disagree with the way Han is written at times, I do admit that I think Ehrenreich played his part pretty well. There is a charm factor that he brings to Han. His posture, his sly smile (which should be a crooked smile), his base performance isn’t without redemption. Also, I remember recently watching a Youtube video about how Han’s “less than twelve parsecs” boasting and how it wasn’t possible and that he was just exaggerating his skills. I can’t find this video for the life of me, but I like how this movie acknowledges this as he does eventually say, “just round down” or something to that effect.
Really, there’s no problem with the acting. Clarke’s got a charm to her, Harrelson’s great in anything that he does, Glover’s kind of a scene-stealer, and I was pretty tickled by L3 being like a droid-freedom activist. Even though most of the action makes very little sense in the movie, I give it credit that they’re well-shot and are fairly harrowing. I also found myself completely engaged in the gambling scenes between Han and Lando. Those were a lot of fun. Also, Sabacc is basically poker? I did not know that? I’m happy to know that now. Sabacc is poker, Pazaak is blackjack, I’ve legitimately learned something new. Oh, and I want to know if Chris Stuckmann was raging about the giant tentacle monster. Please tell me he flipped his lid when that came around, I need a good laugh.
Why is Lando so dramatic over L3’s destruction? Their chemistry was never really well-established outside of him treating her like a droid and not a person. So why is he so torn over her getting destroyed? Don’t tell me that he harbored legit emotions for her, I’m totally fine with leaving that a mystery…
Also, there is a ton of useless information that this movie throws at us in the final minutes, as well as questions that will likely not get answered, ever. One of the bigger ones that came to mind is if Qi’ra survived the events of this movie, would she make an appearance in next year’s Episode IX? My gut’s telling me, no. This movie is sequel-baiting like it’s nobody’s business and it’s frustrating. The movie, as a whole is pretty subpar and if the same creative minds are at the helm, then I don’t know if I want to see it. It’s not like Qi’ra is ever referenced in the movies, but she lives by the end of this. Something’s telling me we’re never going to see her again.
But the biggest piece of useless reveal has to go to Vos’ own personal boss, Darth Maul (acted by Ray Park, voiced by Sam Witwer). Yup, this is a thing. Qi’ra takes Vos’ place as the leader of the Crimson Dawn and now answered to Maul. While it’s awesome to see both Park and Witwer reprise their respective roles as Maul, this means nothing. Unless this is hinting at an appearance in the future Obi-Wan Kenobi film, similar to Qi’ra, this is going to amount to nothing. I’m calling it, it will amount to nothing. Time will prove me right or wrong.
Overall, the more I wrote about this movie, the more disappointing it got for me. Say what you want about LAST JEDI, I think it’s leagues better than this. It’s definitely one of the lesser Star Wars films, right there among the prequel-trilogy. But is it an awful movie? I can’t say that. There’s more than enough that saves it for me. The performances were fine, the very look of the worlds we visit are all cool, the effects are great, but none of this culminates into a good film, or really an average one. It’s… below average. As a recommendation… man, it’s Star Wars, so I think they’re all worth seeing, even if they’re not good. There’s some redeeming value, so I say it’s worth seeing if you’re a Star Wars fan. But if you’re a simple casual movie-goer, not into Star Wars like the rest of us are, no. I say, you can pass and you won’t miss much. Hell, thanks to the ending of this movie, I might even say that the actual fans of Star Wars aren’t missing anything.
My honest rating for SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY: a weak 3/5
Next week’s reviews: