SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY

Kurt Russell is one of my favorite actors of all time. He’s the kind of actor who oozes charm, charisma, and suaveness, making the ladies swoon and the guys jealous. Have you ever seen his audition footage for Han Solo back in the 70’s, though? Well, it’s just odd to watch. The dialogue and character’s name remains the same, but something feels missing. That missing thing is Harrison Ford, who has been ingrained in our consciousness as the roguish scoundrel. Kurt Russell has displayed that he can play that type of character in other films and his audition is quite good, but when one actor has defined such an iconic character, it’s difficult to accept any substitutes. 

In [Not Han] Solo: A Star Wars Story, Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) lives his life as a lowly criminal who longs to fly amongst the stars. He finally gets his chance when he meets up with smuggler Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his crew, who offers to bring him on. When Han joins up with Tobias and his team, they’re hired by crime lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) to perform a heist. Han is eager to do the job, but as the going gets tough, he slowly realizes that he must rely on himself to make it in the galaxy.

Out of all the Star Wars characters, Han Solo is definitely my favorite and that’s 90% to do with Harrison Ford’s iconic performance. He got a decent send off in The Force Awakens and I was happy the character would be retired. Well, Disney still saw the dollar signs and decided to make a young Han Solo with a different actor. Star Wars has had different actors portray younger versions of characters before, such as Obi-Wan Kenobi, but it was with a much larger age gap between the actors where it was still believable. Here, Han Solo is only about ten years younger than he was in A New Hope, where he was already somewhat young. So, here we have somebody who doesn’t look, sound, or act a thing like Han Solo. Alden Ehrenreich turns in a perfectly fine performance. He has the charm and attitude, but I never felt like I was watching Han Solo. They may as well have called this Guy: A Star Wars Story. 

Even if this was about a totally original character we’ve never seen before, I don’t think the film would have really worked. That’s because there’s no real story being told here. The film opens with text telling us about a boy who “dreams of going to the stars” and that’s all Han really has going for him here. He pretty much just goes from action scene to action scene, never really growing, or fully developing as a character. That’s the problem when you’re exploring a character who’s already been explored enough. The “prequel problem” definitely permeates this film. Since we know characters like Han and Chewbacca aren’t in any real danger, there’s never any weight to the many action sequences. The only characters who suffer any consequences are ones we don’t really care about. The characters don’t seem to care much either, as some will die and others will just shrug it off the next scene, with hardly any emotion. The performances are all fine, but their characters are little more than blank slates.

Since the film lacks focus and doesn’t know what it wants to be, it’s basically a mess of a plot strung together by confusingly directed and edited action scenes with underdeveloped character motivations. The first action scene feels like the climax to a film, with the characters all working together to pull off a dangerous heist. The final action sequence ends up being anti-climactic, and then the film quickly wraps up from there. It’s all over the place with no real dramatic thrust. Some of the stuff in here isn’t even in service of the story, it’s in service to the fans. Critics, including myself, have complained about the fan service in the other Disney Star Wars film, but it’s at an all-time high (or low) here. The attempts at fan pandering come off as so desperate and cheap, I felt like I was rolling my eyes or groaning every five minutes.

It’s also impossible to talk about this film without the behind the scenes production issues. Original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the comedic masterminds behind the brilliant Jump Street films and The LEGO Movie, were fired very late into production. Apparently trying to make the film more comedic and relying on improv, Disney let them go and brought on Ron Howard to finish the job. 80% of the film ended up being reshot, and it really shows at times. You can tell a lot was rushed, as evidenced by the awful, blown out lighting and drab cinematography. There are also some tone issues where goofy comedy clashes with more serious elements. Ron Howard is a perfectly fine director, but that’s it, he’s perfectly fine. Nothing too extraordinary, or terrible. Everything about the film feels very safe, bland, and predictable, with occasional moments of some fun creativity. 

It’s a shame Lord and Miller couldn’t stick around. Would it have been a success? Who’s to say? But it at least would have been somewhat interesting and different than what we’ve seen before. Without them, Ron Howard, screenwriters Lawrence and Jonathan Kasden, and Disney has made [Not Han] Solo: A Star Wars Story the safest and most generic film in the franchise yet. While they are terrible films, I’d rather watch any of the three prequels, because there’s at least some creativity and originality to be found there. While I found The Last Jedi to be quite good, the divisive fan reaction makes me think Disney will try to play it safe for the time being. After the next film, Episode IX, we’re apparently getting a Boba Fett standalone film, so it’s pretty obvious where Disney views the money to be. Unfortunately, from here on out, it seems Star Wars is made for just the fans and absolutely nobody else. 

4.5/10

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