To The Cinema!: Solo: A Star Wars Story
I went against my own judgment and several friends warnings and did something risky recently. No, I didn’t use expired mayonnaise on a sandwich or even put a fork in an electrical socket. I went to see the latest Star Wars film, the very boringly titled Solo: A Star Wars Story. Here is MY story.
First of all, I didn’t want to pay full price, so I hit my local Cineplex and purchased a $7.00 matinee ticket. I grabbed a tray of particularly shitty movie theater nachos and headed in to the showing. Let’s get back to the nachos for a moment. I have never had a good serving of nachos at a theater, yet if I do go savory over sweet, I almost always get them over the ever reliable popcorn. This may be indicative of a bigger issue in my life, which we will not get into here. No, this space is reserved for one Mr. Han Solo. Or just Han as we learn in the film. See, I unlike many people did not have a real problem with how our beloved hero is given his surname. Even as a kid, I felt that this was a guy that kind of invented himself, and Solo is just too cool of a last name to have anyways. How does he get his surname you ask? Ever see The Godfather Part II? Remember how Vito Andolini was given the last name of Corleone when he came to America based on the name of the town he was from in Sicily? Han, being a runaway or orphan when he joins the Empire is given the name of Solo as he has no family name to give to the admissions clerk (I can’t wait for that action figure!). If that bothers you, stay away from this film, because it goes out of it’s way to give origins to many things we know about Han and the Star Wars universe in general. We see how Han meets Lando and Chewbacca, Han breaking his shooting first cherry, oh and of course the Kessel Run, much talked about amongst fandom since 1977.
The plot is pretty straightforward. Han escapes a life of criminal servitude on Corellia with the dream of becoming a pilot. As in real life most dreams flounder and Han ends up joining the Empire and fighting as infantry in the space version of World War I. He joins up with a group of criminals who have infiltrated his platoon who are planning a heist. Desperate to get out of the Empire, Han talks his way into the group, led by all around O.G. scoundrel Beckett. On the way off planet Chewbacca and Han have their first encounter and start what will become one of cinema’s greatest partnerships. The film then follows Han’s adventures as a member of Beckett’s crew, which eventually end up utilizing the piloting skills and ship of one Lando Calrissian, and the droid he may be fucking, L3-37. Yes, Lando and his droid may have done it . It’s mentioned and I can’t get it out of my head. If Billy Dee Williams was dead he would be rolling over in his grave. The crew run a job for Crimson Dawn, a criminal syndicate run by gangster Dryden Voss, along with his right hand woman Q’ira, coincidentally Han’s hometown flame. Things go wrong and they are forced to try a bigger job or be executed by Voss. It was a bit refreshing to have a Star Wars film where there are no mention of Jedi, no galaxies future at stake, just a simple heist story and some really well done action scenes. There is a scene set on an elevated train early on that is done really well, and a riot on Kessel that also has some good action moments.
We also get some bad stuff too. L3-37 is amongst the worst of the many bad new Star Wars characters fans have had to put up with over the last few years….ROSE TICO! Oh sorry, I just had a moment. After fans accepted BB-8 and K2-S0 readily in the last few films, I’m sure the studio figured one more sassy droid was needed, but this character proved to be abrasive, unfunny and it’s actions are nothing but detrimental to the crew during a high stakes scene. The only two saving graces the character possesses are the navigational systems it is imbued with become important to Star Wars lore in a nice little Easter egg and that Lando can also fuck it when he wants to. Besides that L3-37 is a waste of screen time. A scene at the end of the film that establishes a long thought dead character to be the actual head of Crimson Dawn is good, except it leaves fans who have not watched the Dave Filoni Star Wars cartoons scratching their heads. Yes he has been established as being alive in The Clone Wars and Rebels, but it is a mistake to assume casual fans would know this. A nice reveal done with too little explanation in my opinion. All in all, for a movie that lost it’s Directors 80% of the way through, I expected much more to be disappointed in, and walked out enjoying it more than I ever expected. I also admittedly have a bad habit of not digging too deep into plot mechanics in popcorn films because I, just like the girls in that song, want to have fun.
I think a lot of that has to do with the cast. Alden Ehrenreich is good on his own and in doing a passable Harrison Ford imitation. He plays Han better than the character deserves from the writing. Han’s motivations change several times in the film, and not always logically, yet Ehrenreich imbues the character with charm. Donald Glover gives us swag as Lando, who despite banging a walking dishwasher on the regular, still comes off as the coolest guy in the room. His proclivity for cheating and scamming foreshadows that his eventual betrayal in The Empire Strikes Back is not out of character for this rogue. Oh, did I mention that he has a cape room in the Millenium Falcon? Woody Harrelson steals scenes left and right as Beckett, a career criminal who Han looks up to and emulates his life after. Harrelson plays him as a man always working that last job, yet never actually going straight. Emilia Clarke is pretty yet bland as Q’ira, showing very little of the power she exhibits as a certain Queen in a certain show on HBO. Paul Bettany stepped in late during production after Ron Howard took over as the villain Voss, and actually lends a nice layer of sleaze to an otherwise unmemorable character. Still a step up from General Hux though.
In the end is Solo a great Star Wars movie? Nope. We honestly have only had two, maybe three of those in the whole series in my opinion. Has it deserved the bashing and comparatively poor box office receipts it is earning? No as well, that I believe is an effect of Star Wars fatigue. All of a sudden we are getting a new film every few years from Disney, and they mostly have been mediocre. The failures of The Last Jedi in many fan’s eyes has been a last straw, and the future films are going to suffer because of that. My blinded fandom of all things Star Wars was destroyed many years ago by the prequels, so when a fun romp like Rogue One or Solo come along, I am ok with it not being The Empire Strikes Back, and that’s because it wasn’t Attack Of The Clones either. I give Solo…
3 out of 5 Death Stars. See what I did there? Oh and I also give it credit for being one of the only damned Star Wars films to not feature or even mention a Death Star.