Usually there’s always some form of excitement coming right before stepping into a Star Wars film but in the case of Solo: A Star Wars Story I could not ever bring myself to be even find myself even able to get enthusiastic in the slightest. As a matter of fact, my potential enthusiasm had already died off given the film’s troubled production history which involved numerous reshoots after the firing of the film’s initial directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, only to have been replaced by Ron Howard – a director who I’ve never exactly been the fondest of for the most part. As I walked into Solo: A Star Wars Story, I was hoping that all of my skepticisms would have faded away from watching the final product given as it was only properly marketed just a few months before its release – only to have found that every reason I had for being skeptical of how this would turn out would have been reaffirmed. Even Rogue One had given me some hope as much as I was never on board with the idea of a Star Wars anthology, but I can’t say that I felt anything from Solo.
Supposedly having developed itself from the origins of Han Solo’s last name, we’re told the story of how Han Solo had come to be, before we first met him in A New Hope – from the moment when he first met Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian to what he did for a living as a criminal on the loose, his first love before having met Princess Leia, among many more. Surely enough, there should already be something interesting here but there really isn’t so much to tell about Han Solo that wouldn’t already go anything beyond exposition that would have been presented in a previous Star Wars film. But because Han Solo is a name that we have already come to love over the years unlike the protagonists of Rogue One, surely there would at least be something about Han Solo’s own origins that would serve some form of purpose later on within the Star Warstimeline, but that’s not the case that Solo makes – for you have the worst qualities of Rogue One coming back to bite, they don’t feel like stories that are necessary to the story we’ve known all these years but more like overly glorified fan fiction set within the universe and it’s more evident in the case that our focus is a lead whom we’ve already known for far too long.
For a Star Wars movie, the first thing that caught me about this one in comparison to the rest was just how ugly it all looked. It’s almost stunning just how visually appalling Solo is, but given the strained production history with numerous reshoots having taken place since the firing of its original directors it can’t help but be felt that dead air is felt in the direction, it just feels like a rushed product that never had enough time to breathe. It all started right from Han Solo’s own introduction and I stayed there in the hopes that it would improve from there but even in some of the film’s best moments all that I had ever felt never went beyond dry colour templates that only made me feel as if I were about to drift off to sleep so quickly. A Star Wars movie of all things shouldn’t feel this way at all, but with Ron Howard taking over directorial duties it just feels like something with even a hint of potential was just simply painted over in the blandest possible manner. Whether it be the sets or the action scenes, this is perhaps the ugliest theatrically released Star Wars film to have come out in recent years. He’s not doing too badly behind the camera and I don’t blame him for most of the film’s worst qualities, but more what just feels like a creation from pressure – for Lord and Miller had been pressured to stick to a bland draft by Lawrence and Jon Kasdan.
Characters never really feel like characters either unless they’re people we already know. Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover make for a great pair as Han Solo and Lando Calrissen respectively, but even their best moments never feel like enough in order to give energy to what feels like such a lifeless product. In the role of Han Solo’s first love interest Qi’ra is Emilia Clarke, who is only about as stoic as she’s ever been and Woody Harrelson also comes by to play a fellow outlaw Tobias Beckett, and he’s wasted terribly. Most of the cast only ever feels more phoned into the story than part of it, Paul Bettany being the villain perhaps being one of the most glaring issues. It was from here where I had only felt that everything only seemed as if it were presenting only the opposite of what a Star Wars film was supposed to aim for, first from the ugly templates now to the lack of new possibilities. There’s a whole lot that could happen within the Star Wars universe that never needs to necessarily feel so closely connected with the story that we all know, and even Rogue One managed to accomplish something out of that despite only ever feeling so much like exposition to bridge the prequels and the original trilogy.
What’s perhaps most disappointing about Solo is the fact that so much of it only seems to be made within a realm of feeling safe. There’s no new depth to Han Solo or Lando Calrissen that would ever feel as if it would eventually be meaningful in any way to the stories that we have come to know. Even from the fact that it was written by Lawrence Kasdan, everything feels as if it were written in such an expository manner for conversations never really mean anything but I also think it’s rather jarring how the female characters feel treated in this story. The most meaningful conversation that they have with one another is one between a droid and a human female, and yet it’s still about sex? It feels like the oddest way to justify Lando’s sexuality on the screenwriters’ part but why is this the manner to which you want to show it, at the expense of another character? It just feels like it goes against what Star Wars stood for to begin with.
The whole universe that Star Wars is creating is one that’s open to so many new possibilities and there’s also a new story that can be told that doesn’t need to rely on being exposition for the story we’ve already come to know. What Solo does is represent the exact opposite of those possibilities by giving a character we’ve already known for years exposition that doesn’t add anything all the more meaningful to the stories we know. It feels like the antithesis of what more can be done out of an experiment with the Star Wars universe, because they are too caught within one thread to really expand. At least Rogue One tried to do something new with this world to its credit, something that Solo failed to accomplish. It never really exists to “stand alone,” it just exists to milk on a brand name – and thus only its worst qualities shine brightly. For everything that so-called Star Wars fans complain about The Last Jedi that makes it “not my Star Wars,” knowing that they’re being pandered to with Solo is also a huge no from me. This is not what Star Wars should be about.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Directed by Ron Howard
Screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, Jon Kasdan, from characters created by George Lucas
Produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur, Simon Emanuel
Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany
Release Year: 2018
Running Time: 135 minutes