“This is nothin’. You should see that”
Did we need a Star Wars spin-off about the early years of Han Solo? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself since the film was announced. Let’s disregard the problems behind the scenes. Let’s disregard Solo’s box office “failure” (let’s be honest, it will make a profit, won’t it? Disney have left it to die in a May slot, slotted between Deadpool 2 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. But it will still make a profit). The bare fact is that Solo: A Star Wars Story needed to be something pretty darn special to justify its existence. Didn’t the Original Trilogy tell us all we needed to know about young Solo? This spin-off isn’t special, and doesn’t tell us much that we needed to know about young Solo!
I won’t spoil anything here, as there isn’t much to spoil. We follow a teenage (?) Solo in what is supposedly a space Western, from his criminal upbringing to…getting involved in more criminal antics! The Mother of Dragons stars as his love interest, Kira, and some of the film revolves around Solo trying to find his way back to her after they are split up. Oh, and Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian find their way into the film as well. But of course, you already knew that, didn’t you? What would a Solo film be without those two? It’s supposed to be a space Western, but only infrequently resembles one.
Think about what you’d expect to happen from a Solo film, based on what we know of Solo’s past. That’s pretty much three quarters of the film. There are few surprises. There’s a particular checklist, and it’s certainly ticked off here in the most workman like fashion. Yet another scene where Chewbacca gets angry at space chess (didn’t he do that in The Force Awakens as well?). Tick! Yet another lovingly shot scene revealing the Millennium Falcon (also done in The Force Awakens!)? Tick! Solo has the problem all prequels have to confront: the human imagination conjures up wonderful things. For example, we all imagined wild ways in which Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. Seeing it in the prequels was destined to be disappointing. It’s the same with Solo. The checklist involves key events in Solo’s pre-A New Hope life that we’ve heard about and had decades to think about. They are disappointing to witness in the flesh.
It wouldn’t be a great problem if the film was entertaining. I’ve heard that a film doesn’t need to be Citizen Kane if it’s a fun two hour ride. But Solo suffers from awkward pacing and lacklustre action scenes. The space train heist is spectacular, no doubt about that, but it comes too early in the film (a common problem with modern blockbusters. They blow their load too soon!). After that I’m struggling to remember one sequence that stood out. Even the obligatory Falcon space chase fell flat. A sci-fi romp is supposed to be popcorn fun, isn’t it? Solo is boring, even when it’s trying it’s best to tickle your nostalgia glands with Easter eggs and nods to the wider Star Wars universe. It’s not enough anymore, Disney!
“I don’t like it, I don’t agree with it, but I accept it”
Anyone stepping into Harrison Ford’s shoes would have a difficulty fitting into them, and Alden Ehrenreich‘s feet are too small. That’s not to say that he does a bad job, but more to say that it’s an impossible job. There’s no real journey for Solo as a character, either. So Ehrenreich is hit with the double whammy of having an impossible task and no character arc. The only person who makes an impact is Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, but I can’t tell whether that’s because he nails the role or that I still have ‘This Is America’ playing in my head. Everyone else is just there, devices to propel the plot along.
And that plot is pretty flimsy. Beyond the fan service (and believe me, this film tries harder than any Disney Star Wars film to appease hardcore fans), there’s only an empty shell here. Sure, I smiled every now and again at a particular reference or Easter egg, but that nostalgia gland likes being tickled, doesn’t it? You can’t help moving your foot when it’s tickled, and you can’t help smiling when the nostalgia gland is tickled. Solo needed to justify its existence with something other than fan service and showing us events that we’ve been told about. Unfortunately, it doesn’t justify its existence. It’s simply there, not a terrible film, but a forgettable one. That’s more of a crime, isn’t it (oh, and was it just me, or was a large portion of the film literally too dark? I found it hard to make some things out!).
VERDICT: 5/10. Solo: A Star Wars Story is a totally forgettable spin-off that fails to justify its meagre existence. It’s not the car crash of a film that I expected, but it simply fails to entertain.
What did you think of Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)? Leave your thoughts/comments below!
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