SOLO provided me with a very unexpected experience. It is the first time a Star Wars films didn’t make me feel -anything-. I have always had an emotional response to each and every Star Wars movie. These haven’t always been positive experiences, but there’s always been SOMETHING. No so for Solo.
Being a “Star Wars Story” and not part of the Skywalker Saga, the opening crawl is replaced with a few paragraphs of blue text with oddly selected words in all caps. We learn that there are small skirmishes over a highly sought after HYPERFUEL. Apparently, the stuff that powers all the spacecraft in the galaxy. For being so necessary, there is a surprisingly small number of places to steal/find/refine it. But, since it’s in all caps, we know that this newly introduced item will clearly be the MacGuffin for the story. Enter a relatively young Han, Sans-Solo, (Alden Ehrenreich) who we quickly learn is an orphan working for a gang, Oliver Twist style. He has just run away from his latest “job” after it went sideways and is soon running away again, hand in hand with love of his life, Qi’ra(Emilia Clarke). Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned and after becoming separated, Han enlists in the Empire Training Program. His goal: To become the greatest pilot ever. Unfortunately, the tease of his days in a stuffy suit is completely skipped over as the movie jumps three years forward and we find him in the muddy trenches of a ground battle. Here he quickly meets a band of greedy opportunists led by Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and also develops a very unlikely friendship with a ravenous wookie.
After this point, the plot goes in both surprising and very expected ways. It’s difficult to critique without exposing possible spoilers, so any vagueness is intentional. SOLO is not a bad film, it’s not even a bad Star Wars film. It’s generic. Disney seems to be having a terrible time finding the right point on the pendulum to recreate the magic at the soul of Star Wars. Perhaps it’s because the Saga is something different to everyone? Some people dislike “The Force Awakens” because it’s a remake of “A New Hope”, while others despise “The Last Jedi” because of how it so blatantly “Killed the Past.” SOLO plays it so safe that it ends up being dull. It’s another example of a film where you wonder who it was made for? Whenever the answer is “everyone” that effectively means “no one”. The movie keeps teasing iconic elements from his backstory but then either sidesteps them or makes them so anti-climatic that you wonder what all the fuss was about. Chewbacca’s life-debt to Han? I don’t think we witnessed that, but if not, why would Chewie stick around this loser? The Kessel Run? We see it, but it sure doesn’t seem to have -anything- to do with his skill as a pilot. The filled in section at the front of the Falcon? Could that be the fabled ejected cargo space full of Spice that has Jaba after him in the original Saga?? (hint: Nope)
The entire movie seems like it’s pulling its punches and is setting up for a sequel/threequel. But since we already know the rest of his character arc, does it even matter? Even more so than Rogue One, SOLO feels completely unnecessary. We know the key characters will survive, and we also know the non-essential characters never show up in the Star Wars universe again, which deflates all potential tension. There are only two things that really stand-out in this bland offering: Seeing the Falcon in all its original (clean) glory, and it’s rightful owner, the sickeningly suave Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Forget another SOLO flick, let’s see more of the Lando’s collection of colorful capes!