Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Erin Kellyman
Words – Christian Abbott
Since the franchise began back in 1977, Star Wars has always had the most volatile reactions of any fan-base. You either love it or hate it. The Original Trilogy is one of the most beloved series in cinema history; The Prequel Trilogy is still reviled among fans to this day.
In recent years, under the guidance of Disney, Star Wars has become a yearly franchise with last years The Last Jedi receiving one of the largest backlashes in modern Hollywood (though liked by this writer).
This brings us to today, the next addition to the saga – Solo: A Star Wars Story, the second of the spin-off films following 2016’s Rogue One.
This time we follow a young Han Solo, years before the events of the first film, A New Hope. Han is living in the streets, dreaming of buying his own ship to escape and become “the best pilot in the galaxy” as he reminds us throughout the film. Along the way he’ll meet a motley crew of thieves and smugglers that’ll shape him into the Han we know and love.
The production history is as messy and chaotic as the events in the film, losing original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Jump Street and Lego Movie) and being replaced with Ron Howard (Beautiful Mind and Rush). This shift in leadership led to Howard reshooting 70% of the film, though the final product is surprisingly a seamless one. There is little sign of the turbulent history behind the film to Howard’s credit, a feat other recent films in a similar situation couldn’t boast (Fantastic Four).
Despite all this grief to get the film into theatres, there was a real sense of indifference towards it – little buzz from fans and obvious questions such as why this story even needed to be told in the first place? Do we need to know how Han got his name or blaster, how he met Chewbacca or flew the Kessel Run? There is a certain mystique in not knowing that is now lost.
Taking on this burden though is Elden Ehrenreich playing Han himself. He has gone into this role not-so-much playing a young Harrison Ford (the original Han) but echoing the beats of the character. A wise choice as it would be impossible to best Ford’s performance, yet, it makes you forget that you’re even watching the same character at times – this could be any smuggler.
This issue doesn’t stop there; the entire cast of characters are one-dimensional and utterly forgettable. Emilia Clarke playing Han’s pre-Leia love disappears for 30 minutes of the running time and I completely forgot she was even in the film until she resurfaced. There was a lot of excitement to see Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, the sometimes friend, sometimes foe of Han. Yet, even he is as dry as the rest of the cast.
This isn’t the fault of the clearly talented cast though; it comes from a script which is bland, safe, generic and completely predictable. The way you think this story will go, it does, with little deviation. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but after The Last Jedi, which did so much to subvert the franchise and take us in a new and exciting direction, it just feels like a step back.
Howard should be commended for salvaging a coherent and adequately entertaining film from the disastrous production, it’s just a shame he couldn’t have done something more with it.
For a franchise so known for its adoring fan-base, for its infamous prequels and landmark originals, it’s a shame the series has its first average entry. It isn’t bad, it just isn’t good either.