Was “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (2018) really quite as bad as everyone said it was?
Yes, I do understand why it’s so maligned by “Star Wars” purists. Han Solo has arguably been the entire franchise’s most memorable protagonist since his debut in its very first film in 1977. (When we were kids and playing “Star Wars” in the street, how many of us wanted to be Luke Skywalker and how many of us wanted to be Han?)
Disney missed an opportunity to serve up what fans undoubtedly wanted — an edgy origin story that took risks to portray this famously wily criminal anti-hero. What the studio gave us instead is a generally toothless, safe-for-primetime fable that even managed to become saccharine at times. (You could argue that Luke’s origin story was far darker — he discovered the burned bodies of murdered aunt and uncle. Then he studied magical martial arts with the mysterious mystic samurai-hermit who once fought wars with his absent father.) “Solo” feels too much … like a Disney movie.
There are other problems too … its narrative is unfocused, it’s cluttered with too many characters, and, yes, it slavish attention to origin-story details is annoying. (The how-Han-Solo-got-his-surname bit, for example, is indeed a big misfire.)
But “Solo” felt far more like an average film to me, instead of one that was truly terrible. I’d rate it a 6 out of 10 for being an acceptable, passably entertaining “Star Wars” entry. It’s got a few things going for it.
It’s well cast, for one. I was actually very surprised at how well actor Alden Ehrenreich captures the character of a young Han Solo. They guy has natural charisma, and he seems to absolutely channel the character without once mimicking Harrison Ford. You could do a lot worse. Ehrenreich also has great chemistry with Chewbacca (Joonas Duotamo), and with Donald Glover, who equally shines in the role of a young Lando Clarissian. If you put the three of them in a sequel with a leaner, darker screenplay aimed firmly at adults, it could be a truly great movie. (Consider how lame the first “Captain America” movie was in 2011, and how its far darker 2014 sequel was so unexpectedly great.)
“Solo” also has great visual effects. (All the newer “Star Wars” movies have come a long way from the clumsy, heavy handed CGI of the prequels.) The Kessel Run sequences were especially good, and I’m still enough of a kid at heart to love those kind of dazzling set-pieces, even when they punctuate a lackluster script.
“Solo” was the sixth most expensive film ever made, at $392 million, and it was a complete commercial failure. So I doubt we’ll ever see these versions of the characters again in theaters. But what about television? What about streaming services? I, for one, would keep an open mind about whether Disney could do better with this film’s ingredients.