Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

Star Wars is going to be around for ever. Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 for four billion (with a “B”) dollars. We will all be dead well before the Star War ends. Due simply to the law of averages, that means we’re bound to get a couple of less than wonderful films mixed in with the good. Solo: A Star Wars Story is, unfortunately, the former.

With most films set in a galaxy far far away, the creators walk a razor thin line between evoking this classic franchise without just being hollow references to something much better. Solo somehow manages to be both.

Everything in this movie is either referencing something from the original trilogy, or on it’s way to do so. And generally these references fall into one of two categories: either their providing an origin for something in the original trilogy, or making homage to fan-favorite moments.

The references are to be expected, but there’s a playful way to make homage and this is not it. Too often entire scenes simply exist for the film to say “Remember this!? It’s Star Wars! You love Star Wars! Don’t you love Star Wars!?” When homages are made, it not only brings the momentum to a grinding halt, but it reminds us of something far better.

It’s the origin’s the film provides that are the most perplexing. Not only are the mini-origins heavy handed and odd, they’re also wholly unnecessary. I won’t go into spoilers, but this film is providing the worst possible answers to questions no one was asking.

We don’t need everything explained. You’d think Lucasfilm would’ve learned after releasing episodes I-III. It would be fine if there was an organic story that introduced us to classic elements of everyone’s favorite smuggler. It’s not organic though, so clearly this movie is trying to include as much as possible that it doesn’t rise above to have an identity on it’s own.

Which is such a shame, because the new elements Solo brings to the Star Wars universe are genuinely great. The production design is fantastic, the new planet’s are interesting, and the first act features a train heist, something we’ve never seen in a Star Wars film.

It’s a law of physics that train heists are awesome, and this one is no exception. Not only are we seeing a fun action sequence, we’re seeing characters we love do something new. That’s a great recipe for success. Unfortunately, train heist aside, none of the action is particularly exciting.

The film opens with possibly the slowest-looking and least thrilling car (speeder) chase that’s ever been shot, setting a tone that it’s never able to fully shake. Most of the action is a confusing CGI mess, which isn’t aided by very disappointing camera work.

Bradford Young (Arrival) serves as cinematographer, and he was honestly what had me most hopeful going in. I thought to myself “Even if it’s crap, it’ll still look gorgeous.” But the shaky cam, shot selection, and bloated CGI resulted in incredibly bland action set pieces.

We all know our heroes are in no actual danger. We’ve seen Han, Chewie, Lando, the Millennium Falcon, and much more, survive on to be in different movies down the road. Couple that with uninteresting visuals, and the result is action sequences that are incredibly forgettable.

Speaking of Han, Chewie, and Lando, let’s call out the elephant in the room. Alden Ehrenreich was given an impossible task: be Harrison Ford. Not just any Harrison Ford, young, sexy, and charming as hell Harrison Ford. Thankfully, he wasn’t going for an impression of one of the most beloved characters in film history. He brought his own energy to the role, and the film is better for it.

Donald Glover, on the other hand, goes straight for impression, trying to replicate everything Billy Dee did in Empire and Jedi. I love the character of Lando Calrissian, I named my dog after him, but rather than put his own spin on the role, Glover gets stuck trying to replicate the suave and swagger of Billy Dee Williams.

Finally, there’s a new spunky droid in Solo, L3. She’s fine, and for the most part does the job she need’s to for the story to work. However, L3’s defining characteristic is that she’s an activist for droid rights. While Droid rights are somewhat of a gray area in the Star Wars universe, this movie handles her story line in the worst way possible. I won’t spoil anything, but the way the story wraps her character is…problematic at best.

Solo is somewhat of a worst case scenario of a Star Wars film. It clearly cares more about reminding you of the past than saying anything on it’s own, and the action sequences are too poorly constructed to be enjoyable. This effectively takes us to a galaxy far, far way, but it fails to say or do anything of consequence once we’re there.

 

Rating:  2.0 – Bad

 

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