Disney’s second anthology film in the Star Wars franchise, Solo, quietly released last month with an underwhelming performance at the box office. Surely the $1 billion grossing Rogue One isn’t to blame for Solo’s lackluster presence, but most likely 2017’s The Last Jedi which has divided the fandom and lead to wide distrust of Disney’s handling of Star Wars. Perhaps Solo’s commercial failure will encourage Disney to slow down the releases of blatant cash grabs and instead take their time to produce decent Star Wars films. While the story of Solo is unneeded and falls under a clear money-grubbing project category, Ron Howard, Alden Ehrenreich and co. surprisingly delivered in creating an extremely fun and entertaining movie.
Solo isn’t instantaneously gravitating as it suffers in its first act set on Han’s home planet of Corellia. Fortunately, the film gains a little momentum when young Han is thrusted into the underground crime world of the galaxy after meeting Beckett (Woody Harrelson), Val (Thandie Newton), Lando (Donald Glover) L3 (voiced by Phoebe Waller Bridge)
When the second half of the film still suffers from pacing issues it makes up for well-done action sequences. The most notable is the coaxial train heist on Vandor which sees Han and his new smuggling team fight off Enfys Nest – a character first introduced as a pirate but revealed to be part of The Rebellion.
Contrary to popular fears, Alden Ehrenreich shines in his charismatic portrayal of Harrison Ford’s iconic character as does Glover in his interpretation of Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calrissian. A surprising standout is Lando’s sassy droid L3 who fights for robot rights and sparks a liberation movement in a fun sequence mid-way through the film.
While all of these characters and set pieces are exciting, perhaps they act as Solo’s biggest weakness. It’s a loose story of incredible moments and instances that build to what is rather a forgettable film.
Regardless of the production issues that may or may not have hindered Solo, the film’s biggest issue is first and foremost that it seeks to achieve the insurmountable task of replicating Harrison Ford’s beloved character back to the screen. Ehrenreich is quite good as Han but it’s difficult not compare his acting, which is ultimately an interpretation, to Ford’s version of the beloved character.
Failing to create a Han Solo not played by Harrison Ford was, for the most part, expected from Solo. However, the film could have proved to be of substance if Han’s character was expanded or revisited in a new way which, unfortunately, he wasn’t. The film fails to understand that the most enticing part of Star Wars and its characters are their mysteries. It’s Yoda’s strange personality in Empire Strikes Back, Darth Maul’s unknown past- in the cinematic canon- or even the sunken Star Destroyers on Rey’s home planet of Jakku that intrigue viewers and draw them into the universe. Star Wars has always, even in the Disney produced films, challenged viewers to use their imagination and concoct past stories of the universe on their own.
Yet, almost everything about Han’s past is fully unpacked in several whelming sequences which, based on the level of importance suggested in the originals, deserved much more emotional weight or should not have been brought to screen entirely. The infamous Kessel Run, referred to in a couple of lines in A New Hope and Force Awakens, is a standout example of a scene which destroys the mysteries of Han laid out decades ago. Now we know exactly how Han earned the rights for the Falcon due to a fan service service scene near the end of the film. We learned how the best friendship in cinematic history is formed when Han meets Chewie and, unfortunately, learned that the “Solo” in Han is present because he travels alone.
Attempting to replicate the Original Trilogy, and unfold every unexplained and uncharted territory of the canon is an issue shared across all new Disney Star Wars projects . Rather than find a distinct identity, Solo, and the new Sequels, heavily rift of the nostalgia of past films. It’s is a fun adventure that is filled with truly great moments but struggles to realize itself as unique entry to the franchise.