The revival of Star Wars under Disney, led by producer Kathleen Kennedy, has been much more turbulent than expected. Despite the first two films, The Force Awakens and Rogue One, being overall solid action flicks, the two most recent films have left fans and critics at odds. The Last Jedi was  a well-executed film that perhaps went too far in the direction of  subverting expectations, which left critics content, but incited a  rebellion among fans that has so far carried into the reception of their  future products. The first of which is Solo: A Star Wars Story. Fortunately for Star Wars fans, Solo is  a comfy blanket of nostalgia that doesn’t try to change too much of  what they know. For anyone else, the film just blends too well into the  crowd of run-of-the-mill action blockbusters to be worth noticing.

An origin story with the personality of a plastic cup

Image from IMDb

Solo: A Star Wars Story tells the tale of a young Han Solo,  played by Some Guy™ (Alden Ehrenreich), who is involved in crime on a  planet named after something from a throwaway line said during A New Hope.  After almost escaping but getting separated from his love Qi’ra, played  by Emilia Clarke, Han decides to join the Empire in an effort to become  a pilot and rescue his love, despite their lack of chemistry, from  their dead-end planet. After some hijinks, Han meets Chewbacca, and the  two join a smuggler named Beckett, played by Woody Harrelson, who serves  as Han’s father figure and mentor of sorts. Han is then launched on a  heist greater than anticipated, and the only advice he has is to never  trust anyone.

The biggest problem with the story of Solo is that it does nothing to really make a general audience member care. People who aren’t already fans of Star Wars, or  people who aren’t invested in the plastic cup of a character that is  Han Solo get absolutely nothing out of the story. Scenes aren’t  connected by anything more than hard cuts and the overall heist  narrative. Due to the fact this is a prequel story to the original  trilogy, there’s no real threat for the main duo of Han and Chewy. It  became more of a guessing game to figure out which of the new characters  would get killed in an attempt to create emotional impact for an  audience that doesn’t really care. While it is structured well, it isn’t  anything too special.

Image from IMDb

The acting is pretty solid overall, though it’s very clear that Alden  Ehrenreich is playing Harrison Ford playing Han Solo. Donald Glover  puts in a good performance as Lando, and Emilia Clarke does her job  sufficiently well. Woody Harrelson seems to phone in a couple of line  reads, but it isn’t too much of a problem. The writing given to the  characters in the film, however, is inconsistent. While Han and Chewy  have pretty great chemistry and a few good moments, the rest of the cast  of characters aren’t given much. Lando essentially appears as a  glorified cameo, disappearing from the plot as fast as he entered it.  Beckett and his relationship with the smuggler group Crimson Dawn seems  interesting at first but is watered down to a simple good guy/bad guy  dynamic. Even Han Solo himself shows no real growth over the course of  the film, other than learning to shoot first. That’s it. That’s the  character arc of Han Solo during his entire little origin story, and it  amounts to a Star Wars reference.

This is not even touching on the droid, named L3-37 (yes, like “LEET  GAMER SPEAK”). Phoebe Waller-Bridge is given possibly the most poorly  written character in the entire franchise (yes, including Jar Jar  Binks), to the point where it almost seems like Disney is making a  parody of her character archetype. L3 is a droid obsessed with “droid  rights,” and that is her only defining character trait. On watching the  film the first time, she’s relatively entertaining as a comic character,  but it seems bizarre that Disney would make a character that mocks the  whole “social justice warrior” character. Which then means L3 was  written to be played completely straight, and that makes her character  so hamfisted and cringey it’s laughable. Aside from one good scene with  Emilia Clarke and L3, where L3 leaves a passing mention that she and  Lando are getting it on, the character seems like a carry-over from a  completely different movie. Perhaps she is, considering this film’s  production history. L3 is a good summary of the film itself:  unnecessary.

Great action ruined by terrible direction

Image from IMDb

Solo had a number of cool action sequences. The spice mines of  Kessel served as probably one of the coolest parts in the film, with  the robot uprising providing a mood that actually got close to feeling  like Star Wars. The final action sequence was also very minimal,  which felt perfect for a small story like this one. Even the action  sequences that seemed like they were part of a different film, like the  car chase at the start or the train-heist that’s shown in the trailers  were still entertaining enough for what they were. Sure, the music has  to over-compensate for the more underwhelming action sequences, but it  still provided a fun diversion from the dark-brown mush that is the rest  of the film.

For some reason, Solo is a very dimly lit film. It’s like Zach  Snyder directed it. The first planet, the non-action sequences on the  train-heist planet, the mud planet where Han is stationed as an imperial  soldier, and even parts of the Millenium Falcon seem like there was a  lightbulb out on set, but they were already over budget so it couldn’t  get fixed. There are some scenes that are more reasonably lit, mostly  the action sequences that weren’t in the spice mines of Kessel, but the  rest of the film just seems overly dark compared to the goofy tone of  the film. Speculation is that these scenes were carried over from the  first directors of Solo, but that just makes this film feel like two different films pulling in two different directions.

Speaking of which, the pacing in this film is pretty terrible.  There’s more than one action sequence in the film that hard cuts from  blaring Star Wars music and fast-paced action to dead silence,  complete with a wide shot of Han wherever he is at the time. It feels  like someone choppily edited two different terrible films together, and  the result is a Frankenstein’s Monster of a film that at least makes  people smile at times. Despite the fact it jumps from one scene to the  next with reckless abandon, the film also feels like it ends the third  act three different times. Traditional film structure seems to have  gotten lost somewhere along the line, possibly during the copious  reshoots the film went through.

An obsession with the past plagues Solo

Image from IMDb

A problem Solo has, at least from the perspective of a general audience member with no connection to Star Wars,  comes from its obsession with the past. A number of lines in the film  exist to either be direct call-backs to the original trilogy, or explain  things that didn’t need to be explained in the original trilogy. Some  moments felt like the writers actually just did a Wookiepedia search on  “Han Solo” and copy pasted moments word-for-word. Han Solo’s dice, how  he got the Millenium Falcon, why he gave Chewbacca a nickname, why he  uses a blaster, almost every part of Han Solo’s character is given an  explanation. The only elements they missed were explaining where Han  Solo got his boots, or the trademark red stripe down the side of his  pants.

This is all well and good for the Star Wars fans. After Rian  Johnson brutally murdered what they loved in cold blood while telling  them all their fan theories and extended universe fan fiction was  absolute trash, they need a caring voice reminding them about the good  old days. But The Last Jedi is infinitely more interesting as a film because of the risks it took in bringing Star Wars to a new place. Solo just  brings it right back where it always was: a boring place where every  little detail is explained. The only acceptable reference to old Star Wars is the confirmation of Chewy’s family as canon, meaning the entire Star Wars Holiday Special is canon. Lumpy is canon, and really, that’s all that matters.

Image: We Got This Covered, IMDB

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