Disney Plays “Solo” Way Too Safe In Tepid Prequel
“Solo: A Star Wars Story”
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Paul Bettany, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton
Director: Ron Howard
As I walked into the theater in Times Square Thursday night, you could feel it: Star Wars was in the air. The theater was packed, the crowd was ready and you couldn’t help but be a little excited for a new chapter in the saga of Star Wars. For the sake of transparency, I’ll let you all know that I was never a mega-fan of Star Wars. I always enjoyed the movies (and hated the prequels) like everyone else but you’d never catch me cosplaying on opening night. I was always much more of a “Freddy & Jason” guy, myself. I always had love for the franchise and I’ve always respected it for what it was, though. On this night, the room was filled with at least 75% mega fans. They were ready to go, even to the point of clapping when the ever-so-familiar “LucasArts” name came on the screen. Noticeably missing from the intro of this film, however, was the famous scrolling wall of storytelling made famous in previous entries. This was a paragraph or two and we were right into the action.
Han Solo is a space outlaw. That’s the beef of who he is. He’s also a master pilot and a scavenger. In the universe of Star Wars, Han Solo is the “bad guy” within the good guys. Aside from Chewy, Han really had no friends and he was willing to do shady shit to get what he needed. That is the Han Solo that we all know & love, created by George Lucas. In this movie, we get glimpses of that guy but it’s also very clear that Disney (now owner of LucasArts) has its hands all over the character. A lot of the edge of Han Solo has been smoothed out in this entry, showing the softer & more delicate side of the outlaw. Some would call that character development but what it really is happens to be a misfire. This version of Han is, for lack of a better term, fucking weak. That fact alone takes a lot of what people love away from the character. Add in the casting of Alden Ehrenreich as Young Solo, who isn’t able to hold his own against vets like Harrelson, Bettany & Clarke and you’ve got a recipe for a very lukewarm movie. That’s really the worst thing about the movie as a whole: It’s tepid. Star Wars films are many things, whether they be exciting, fun or even infuriating…but you can’t say they don’t illicit a heavy reaction from an audience. Solo is the first one that, in my opinion, doesn’t do that.
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They took a gamble with casting on this one and I feel like it didn’t pay off, which hurt the movie a lot for me. The supporting cast is better than the main star, which ends up pulling the movie down a bit. Casting Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, however, was a solid choice. It’s unfortunate that his actual screen time is only about 20 minutes but when he’s on screen, he does a lot. Damn good performance from Glover, overall. I’ll also point out that the effects were very good. There were a few instances of CGI shenanigans that took away from the cool stuff but for the most part, the effects were on point. Chewbacca was great, by the way. I wish I was joking when I say that Chewy had some of the best scenes in the movie and felt more fleshed out than almost any other character without speaking a single word of English. That credit goes half to the actor playing Chewy and half to the script being overall really shitty. Bettany plays an absolutely boring paint-by-numbers villain too, which is almost inexcusable. I mean, The Phantom Menace was dog shit but AT LEAST we got Darth Maul. Kylo may have looked like an intergalactic Marilyn Manson fan but we know what he did…he was nasty. What I’m saying is fuck Paul Bettany’s barely threatening, “Steven Seagal movie villain in space” caliber of a character.
My take-away from this is simply…why? Why did they cast this nobody with a name that sounds like an actual Nazi as Han Solo? Why did they turn in and sign off on a script that was barely even mediocre? Why did they give Donald Glover so little time on screen? Why did this feel like absolutely nothing more than a cash in on the name Star Wars? Why did the first act feel like Guardians Of The Star Wars Galaxy? Why did they even make this completely unnecessary movie in the first place?
2.5 Out Of 5. 3 out of 5 if we’re comparing it to just other Star Wars movies.