Solo A Star Wars Story - This Underwhelmingly Anticipated Beleagured Movie Still Rocks
Dir: Ron Howard
Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Paul Bettany, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jon Favreau, Joonas Suotamo
After all the Lord & Miller out/Ron Howard in shenanigans that very publicly plagued its production, the good news is that Solo is remarkably coherent and no, you can’t see the joins. The weird news is that, after all that, it manages to arrive feeling like the first ever inconsequential Star Wars film. Yes, box office will be boffo, but excitement levels are at an all time low. Where The Force Awakens, Rogue One and even all the way back to the rubbish prequels brought months of anticipation, Solo shows up with a sense of mild trepidation or even sincere indifference. Does it deserve such antipathy? Not really, because on a pure fun level it does deliver. Does it still feel inconsequential when placed alongside just about every other Star Wars movie though? Yeah, pretty much.
But, as we said, there is still fun to be had. And the other good news is that Ehrenreich quickly distils all those “young Jack Black vs fat Harry Styles” worries and displays a good deal of winning charm. (The bad news being it’s definitely not Harrison Ford charm – and he really does look like he’s a foot shorter than not only Ford, but most of the cast around him.)
The Kasdan father and son screenwriting team (Lawrence and Jonathan) have an obvious feel for that galaxy so far, far away and bring a playful touch to the relationships that does manage to evoke those feelings of a long time ago in 1977. Howard directs very ably, with the early Snowpiercer train hold up an action highlight of the film, and the kind of sequence not normally associated with the director, although for far too much of the running time, Bradford Young’s photography is all earth shades and a muted brown-y palette.
The cast is strong though – by now it’s a given that Woody Harrelson can do no wrong, and no wrong is thus done here by the great man; Clarke also impresses more than expected, as does Newton even if she is ultimately underused. Phoebe Waller-Bridge makes for the most human of droids we've ever seen, fighting in a timely manner for equal rights for robots, whilst Glover captures the young Lando to a peacocking tee. But it is Bettany (in his second major role of the summer) who steals the show, a late to the party re-casting choice who clearly enjoys every moment of his on screen villainy.
The plot jumps around from planet to planet, space yacht to pristine Falcon, as one would expect a Star Wars movie to do. References are dropped and events foreshadowed – from 12 parsecs, to a big job coming up on Tatooine, and yes, at one point, Han does indeed shoot first – and there’s a rather pointless cameo towards the end that reveals…well, nothing really.
So, over all, Solo delivers on the pure fun, entertaining side. But it does feel inconsequential. And that’s an unusual thing to say about a series of movies that have been – literally – defining their audience’s lives for more than four decades now.
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