‘So-So: A Sad Fan’s Review
“Solo: A Star Wars Story”
By Jason Wiese
From the moment it was announced that Lucasfilm would release a film chronicling the early adventures of Han Solo, a role originated by Harrison Ford in the first Star Wars film in 1977, I could not help but speculate that this prequel would lack one essential element to storytelling: purpose. When we first met Han Solo, he was a cynical, self-serving outlaw with a Wookie best friend, a lightspeed-fast ship and just about zero interest in being a hero, until the story’s climax, of course. So, why make a film taking place years earlier in which he is the hero? To explain how he acquired his best friend, his ship and his arrogant disposition? I cannot say that was a premise that interested me nor did I believe that giving a perfectly developed character as Solo a deeper backstory was particularly necessary.
I understand that necessity is not a particularly strong argument to support my belief that a film should not exist. If anything, other than financial gain, the true purpose of Solo: A Star Wars Story, the latest spin-off from the Skywalker storyline putting the titular intergalactic outlaw at the forefront, is merely to entertain. To succeed in that goal, a prequel must have a self-sufficient story that does not rely on its predecessor(s), well-rounded characters and, most importantly, payoff.
Do you have a bad feeling about this?
Ron Howard, who succeeded the reins originally assigned to Phil Lord and Christopher Miller after the duo backed out of the project, directs the film which focuses on the first adventure of Solo, played by Alden Ehrenreich. Along this journey, Solo learns the ropes of being an outlaw from an experienced thief named Beckett (Woody Harrelson), befriends a Wookie named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo in the role originated by Peter Mayhew), is reunited with a past lover named Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) and meets a man named Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) whose fancy space ship is of much interest to Solo.
The film is adamant to be its own without feeling married to the original films. The tone is certainly bleaker, the plot is far less complex and more predictable, the humor is almost nonexistent and the pacing is consistently jarring. The story did not have the excitement to keep my attention or a single character with the well-rounded development to charm me. As hard as I tried, I could not shake the feeling of disappointment and allow myself to enjoy the film. The fact that I actually had to try was enough for me to realize that entertainment was a lost cause.
I will say this: I do have some appreciation for Ehrenreich’s performance. In fact, other than Chewbacca, he is just about the only character who carries a certain congeniality about him. But the character he plays, despite what the credits read, is not Han Solo. I do not mean that as a cynical fanboy attack on the actor for attempting to fill the extravagant shoes of Ford. However, based on my observations of the character, there is no evidence in this particular story’s arc, other than a few material items, to support that this is the same man we met in a bar on Tatooine. Furthermore, based on my personal observations of this film, there is no evidence to support that this is the fun slice of Star Wars excitement that a part of me genuinely hoped it could be. Instead, I found it incomplete, forgettable and underwhelming. I hope you disagree.