“Solo: A Star Wars Story” is a real turd. It suffers greatly from a miscast lead (Alden Ehrenreich), a bland script (by Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan), and plain vanilla direction from Ron Howard. There’s zero passion, zero charisma, zero cleverness, and zero spirit. It’s an even greater failure when you consider this is a film about one of the greatest characters George Lucas has ever created. A film showcasing a young Han Solo has limitless possibilities, yet the best character isn’t the main one.
Nothing new is presented here and everything you expect to see (right down to the ‘hold for applause’ shot of the Millennium Falcon) makes an appearance. Every member berry box is ticked, from the card game where Han wins the ship from Lando (Donald Glover), to the origins of his last name, to his chance meeting of Chewbacca. I wasn’t surprised nor delighted at anything in the movie. This is supposed to be an origin story of Han’s smuggling days and it’s told in a half-baked plot about stealing an explosive material to deliver to stale bad guy Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).
A major part of the problem is that this is a movie that is trying to tell a new story with old characters, so there’s no real danger, suspense, nor high stakes. We know if Lando gets shot, he’s going to be okay. We know the double-crossers will double-cross the rest of the double-crossers.
The film suffers all around because it tries too hard. Ehrenreich tries too hard to walk and talk like a young Harrison Ford. Howard tries too hard to throw in Easter eggs for old-timers. Glover tries too hard to be so suave and hyper-cool that he comes off like a caricature of Billy Dee Williams the actor. The casting department tries too hard to avoid controversy over lack of diversity by including plenty of minorities in bit parts. The screenwriters try too hard to tie it all together into the galaxy’s long-established mythology. And diehard Star Wars geeks (like me) are going to try too hard to actually like this film.
I tried. I really, really tried.
The movie doesn’t pick up any steam until the last third and admittedly there are some glimpses of inspiration in some of the action set pieces, but everything about the first part is so crummy that it’s agonizing to watch. Bordering on grossly inferior, the special effects are barely good enough to pass muster. Every single scene that features the Millennium Falcon looks super cheesy, however. I’m talking Sci-Fi Channel, B-movie cheesy. I thought at one point I may as well be able to see a plastic model hanging from a string (it’s that bad).
Ehrenreich is one of the least appealing leading men in the franchise’s history. The studio famously hired an acting coach to report to the set early on during filming, which makes me wonder jesus christ, just how bad were the first cuts? His performance isn’t as terrible as I expected and not as good as I’d hoped. His face is glued with a dimwit grin as he spouts sloppily written dialogue that’ll make you groan. Want me to say something nice? He’s not as atrocious as Jake Lloyd or Hayden Christensen from the prequels.
One bad actor spoils the whole bunch, with the mediocrity infecting the supporting cast like an aggressive strain of the flu. Not even Woody Harrelson is immune (prepare to laugh out loud as he looks at the camera and shouts “noooo!”), and the lifeless Thandie Newton has a brief and futile role as his love interest and fellow gun for hire. Emilia Clarke serves up her usual blank-eyed stare while reciting lines like Vickie the robot from the 1980s television show “Small Wonder.” There’s even a pandering bone thrown to feminists with a social activist droid (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) that’s sure to induce plenty of eye rolls as she encourages protests and makes quips about demanding equal rights.
Nothing works as a cohesive unit. The costumes are showy but still feel oddly familiar, like a copycat of the same old wardrobe from any other Star Wars film (take your pick). John Powell‘s score feels clunky and out of place. The cinematography is gray and dreary. And a film about the beloved “scruffy looking nerf herder” isn’t at all fun or playful like the Han we all know and love.
This film is exhausting, lacks imagination, and is one that I have zero desire to ever see again. I honestly hope the magic isn’t completely gone from the “Star Wars” universe because it certainly appears to be with this latest standalone film.