Movie Review: Solo
click on the play button below to hear the review:
Director: Ron Howard
by Jason Koenigsberg
The Star Wars franchise keeps cranking out hits, but regardless of whether they are good or not, each film feels less and less special. Star Wars movies used to be an event, something that happened once every three years or a once in a decade type of cinematic experience. Now audiences have come to expect to see an adventure from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away once a year. The newest film Solo comes only five months after The Last Jedi (2017) and it feels about as rushed and as special as a cheeseburger from Five Guys. Sure it might hit the spot as you eat it, but it is highly unlikely you will remember it as a great and satisfying meal a few weeks from now. Like so many recent Marvel movies, Solo falls into the “OK” category. It is not a bad movie by any means, but it is just not very memorable either. There is nothing great about seeing Han Solo’s first adventure, which is a far cry from the great memories the Star Wars saga has provided moviegoers for decades.
Solo opens up with some text to catch the audience up to speed on what they can expect from the plot, not the iconic scrolling text over John Williams’ score that other Star Wars movies feature. It then cuts to some quick dark images of mechanical parts being hot-wired and then we see our first glimpse of Alden Ehrenreich as the iconic title character stealing some sort of hovercraft. Ehrenreich is a young, up and coming star with obviously very big shoes to fill taking over from Harrison Ford as an upstart Han Solo. Needless to say he lacks the charisma of Harrison Ford and where it felt like only Ford could have played Han in the original trilogy, any actor could have filled his shoes here, but it probably would have been best if no actor even tried.
All of the other actors are decent enough. The always reliable Woody Harrelson is good as usual as a father figure/mentor who cannot be trusted, but this is not one of his better performances like his remarkable 2017 with outstanding turns in War for the Planet of the Apes and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Emilia Clarke is gorgeous as always but her role in Solo ranks below her work on HBO’s Game of Thrones. Donald Glover has all the charm and confidence as a young Lando Calrissian but the script for Solo makes him a non-factor in the conflict. Paul Bettany does a commendable job as a villain but his role is basically two scenes. All of the performances are serviceable, none are particularly interesting or memorable.
The same can be said for the craftsmanship of Solo. The lighting is dark most of the time and gets bright and changes back and forth when it serves the story. The scene where Han Solo meets Chewbacca for the first time was weak, they are forced into a conflict and quickly team up against their captors, nothing special. The convenient plot contrivances in the script are distracting as characters disappear and reappear with perfect timing. All could have been forgiven if the screenplay itself was more interesting but instead it settles as most blockbuster movies do with boring dialogue that leads itself to uninteresting performances. The romance between Ehrenreich and Clarke was predictable and dull, they had no chemistry together onscreen. Harrelson as his untrustworthy father figure should have had moments that felt devastating to the viewer, instead they just seemed matter of fact as the movie rolled on. The feeble attempt at humor will make one wish they hired a comedy writer from SNL or The Simpsons to elevate the jokes to being chuckle-worthy. Unlike the better Star Wars movies, there is no magic, no sense of awe and very little excitement to be found in Solo. Everyone involved including director Ron Howard, who picked up a troubled production as a favor to his friend George Lucas, are just going through the motions. This is not a great film for anyone involved.
There are some clever homages and references to the original trilogy that fans will pick up on and enjoy. Han Solo also had a sly origin story to his name that left enough mystery and the sets in some early battle sequences are meant o recall the trenches in World War I. Plus, director Ron Howard’s brother Clint Howard has a memorable cameo which was the only attempt at humor that really worked in the entire film. Other than those strength’s Solo is a pretty flat, by the numbers blockbuster. It is not thrilling, it is not funny, it is not thought provoking, but it will give audiences something to look at for two and a quarter hours that is better than staring at a wall. If that sounds appealing to you, then by all means, check out Solo. Nothing about this movie is memorable and it goes against what made Han Solo such a great character. He was the only everyman caught up in this battle between good and evil over the fate of the galaxy. He did not have the power of the force or any reason to care for the cause. He was in it for money and Solo hints at that but not enough to make a worthwhile movie.
Stay home and watch Harrison Ford as Han Solo in one of the original Star Wars films.