The Hippo


Jun 3, 2020








Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story (PG-13)
Film reviews by Amy Diaz


See how Han becomes the world-weary smuggler we meet in the original Star Wars trilogy in Solo: A Star Wars Story, an underwhelming look at one of the saga’s most fun characters.
When we first meet him, teenage Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is a thief Oliver Twist-ing his way through the mean streets of the planet Corellia with girlfriend, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). Instead of turning in a high-value item he’s recently stolen to the crime boss they are both beholden to, he decides to use it to get them both off the planet. During their escape, however, he gets free and she doesn’t. Hoping it’s a fast track to becoming a pilot and rescuing Qi’ra, Han joins the Imperial military.
Three years later, Han is trudging through some muddy battlefield as an infantry member, his wise-ass nature having closed a lot of career doors. A chance meeting with a bunch of smugglers — Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), Val (Thandie Newton) and Rio Durant (voice of Jon Favreau) — and an enslaved “beast,” the Wookiee Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), leads Han to  desert and set off on a profitable life of crime.
His plan is to earn enough money to buy a ship and then search for Qi’ra, and a planned heist by Beckett’s crew to steal a large cache of fuel could accomplish this. But the heist goes badly and Beckett finds himself on the hook to crime boss Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) for the fuel. Han agrees to help Beckett steal it elsewhere and, when they all go to see Vos, Han is surprised to see Qi’ra, now an assistant manager of, I don’t know, the floor staff at the bar and also evil endeavors for Vos and also perhaps his girlfriend (and by “girlfriend” I mean that she’s seems to be “with” the crime boss but appears to have no real say in the nature of their relationship). 
Crew thusly assembled — Beckett, Han, Chewbacca and, to keep an eye on them, Qi’ra — they go to find a ship. As it happens, an acquaintance of Qi’ra’s has a mighty fine ship. The man: one smooth-talking, suavely dressed Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). The ship: one Millennium Falcon, complete with walk-in closet and, Lando says, a wet bar. 
Can it make a Kessel run in under 20 parsecs? (Also, this is The Kessel Run? This thing that happens in, I’m guessing, his early 20s is the thing Han never stops talking about?)
Of our original-trilogy core group of heroes, Han Solo was unique in that he had no destiny to be a part of the story. He wasn’t a Jedi and didn’t have the Skywalker genetic destiny. He was just a guy, who could stay or go and who made decisions based on his own moral code and eventually on his loyalty to his friends. And he was a fun character, a wisecracker a la “boring conversation anyway” and is recognizable as a modern genre hero. He has a character arc in the first movie and throughout the trilogy. This all makes him a natural for this kind of pull-out backstory. 
Which is to say I understand why this movie exists. And there is a lot in it that I appreciate. The introductions of Chewbacca and Lando are solid, probably the most enjoyable and lively parts of this movie. Chewbacca is not as developed as he could have been (especially considering that he becomes Han’s life-long partner and constant companion) and Glover is having so much fun as Lando that it shines through every scene he’s in, almost to a degree that it diminishes the rest of the goings-on, but generally speaking, these characters’ introduction and development works. 
(And Glover is the stand-out, performance wise, in this movie. His Lando is familiar to the character played by Billy Dee Williams while bringing a fresh energy. Ehrenreich, meanwhile, is fine as Han but doesn’t do anything you can’t imagine any number of similar-aged actors doing and doesn’t do anything with the character that adds any new layers or recaptures the sparkle that Han added to the very first Star Wars.)
But Solo is full of decisions that, while they make sense from a marketing and universe-building standpoint, don’t serve this specific movie well or do much for the fan for whom the movies are the primary exposure to the Star Wars universe. 
At several points in the movie I found myself thinking, “This is some Star Wars cartoon series thing, isn’t it?” at some reveal or plot point or name that was presented as important but meant nothing to me. And that’s fine, to some degree. Deadpool 2, for example, is full of references to the comic books, and Marvel Cinematic Universe movies always have baskets of Easter Eggs. But these expanded-universe movies also need to tell a story that makes sense for (and matters to) people who haven’t done all the homework.
Solo has that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them self-conscious first-movie-in-a-series feel. The stakes in this movie already feel kind of muted — we know what Han will end up with (ship, Wookiee buddy) and what he won’t (there was no Mrs. Solo hanging out with Han and Chewie in Mos Eisley). Even by that already lowered bar, however, this movie ends up feeling like it has no real stakes. The use of expanded galaxy elements and characters whose fates aren’t resolved here sets up plenty of story possibilities for future movies. But the way it used them didn’t do anything to make me want to see that future movie. 
Solo could have been a lot of things — more heist-y, funnier, more romantic (both Han and Lando are inherently romantic characters). It’s hard to watch the movie and not think about the movie that original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (of The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street fame who eventually replaced on Solo with Ron Howard) might have made and how it could have injected life and originality into this story. I am generally supportive of the idea of growing the Star Wars universe and telling all kinds of stories in it. Solo seems like a missed opportunity to have some fun with one of the franchise’s most beloved and attention-worthiest characters. C+
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence, according to the MPAA. Directed by Ron Howard with a screenplay by Jonathan Kasdan & Lawrence Kasdan, Solo: A Star Wars Story is two hours and 15 minutes long and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. 

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