Contains minor spoilers.
No film franchise is viewed with quite as much sentiment as Star Wars, and the strong emotive power of the series is easy to get sucked into. I would be lying if I said that Solo‘s nods to earlier installments didn’t set my heart aflutter, but it is important to remember that references alone do not a movie make, and ultimately they serve as a stark reminder of how stagnant this franchise has become.
Solo: A Star Wars Story hits all the beats you would expect from a Han Solo origin tale, chronicling in excruciating detail how he first met Chewbacca, how he completed the Kessel run and how he won the Millenium Falcon. Throw in a half-baked mentor relationship and a token love interest, and you’ve got yourselves the making of the laziest Star Wars movie to date.
Solo is remarkably similar to Disney’s previous Star Wars anthology, 2016’s Rogue One, borrowing the same drab colour palette, underdeveloped ensemble cast and sparing use of comic relief. The result is a film that for long stretches feels like a rather joyless affair, particularly in the first half.
Alden Ehrenreich takes the title role and, against all odds, gives the strongest performance. His interpretation of the character takes obvious cues from Harrison Ford, but isn’t bogged down in trying to be an identical impersonation. It’s a performance unlikely to blow minds, but neither will it enrage die-hard fans of the series which is a small victory in and of itself.
Solo is soon taken in by space outlaw Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his gang of
loveable misfits to assist them on a heist. The obvious comparison to draw from this ragtag team is Guardians of the Galaxy, but that would be far too flattering. Harrelson does a fine job but his cynical authority figure shtick is hardly anything new. Meanwhile, Thandie Newton and Jon Favreau have so little to do that it would be easy to forget they even appeared.
Donald Glover was long-thought to be this movie’s ace in the hole, but fails to live up to such high expectations. His portrayal of Lando Calrissian feels like a spoof of Billy Dee Williams’ original performance, so much so that it would fit right at home in an SNL sketch. However, nestled among the largely humourless supporting cast in Solo, he sadly just feels out of place and actually becomes quite irritating towards the end.
Every modern Star Wars film needs a British brunette and in this entry that role is filled by Emilia Clarke. Similar to Harrelson, her performance isn’t bad but very much business as usual and nothing we haven’t seen before; much like the movie itself!
Yes folks, what it boils down to is that Solo is Star Wars on autopilot: it isn’t without merit, but it reeks of mediocrity. Arguably, there is very little about Solo which is outright terrible, but equally there’s very little to praise. It’s an inoffensive film, most likely made by a committee, which plays it safe to an insane degree. The finished product is… fine, I guess.