May 24, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story

This is Calrissian

Grade: C +
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, and Paul Bettany
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hr. 15 min.

The good news about Solo: A Star Wars Story is that it’s not bad for the reasons many dread. Alden Ehrenreich strikes a suitable Han Solo, exuding a sufficient amount of smirk to channel the gestating days of the iconic scoundrel. Those (including me) fearing Chewbacca overload will be heartened to hear that the noble Wookiee ably fits into the film’s emotional innards. And those (including me) fearing the late-production director switch from Phil Lord and Chris Miller to Ron Howard would leave the hollow husk of a Star Wars movie will be glad to know the final product isn’t an unadulatered disaster (The Phantom Menace and Attacks of the Clones still comfortably hold their ignominious spots in the canon).

Solo is what you’d expect from any other Ron Howard joint: a banal, unremarkable product that is designed to both offend and exhilarate few. Considering that Howard was tasked with reshooting at least 70 percent of Lord & Miller’s work while recasting some roles and reconfiguring the storyline, it merits a golf clap that Howard—a reliable movie industry go-to, if nothing else—filed a finished actioner worthy of a weekday matinee.

That said, as I write this review less than 48 hours after watching Solo, there little about the film still highlighted in my hippocampus. Some elements—the bland score, the action sequences—didn’t linger beyond the theater exit. And those aspects I do recall aren’t too positive, chiefly the oppressively subfusc palette that forced me into a perpetual squint.

Somewhere amid the murk, Han Solo (Ehrenreich) is a young miscreant who escapes the mean streets of Corellia (and its law enforcement) by enlisting in the military—the passing shot of an Imperial recruitment video, set to a canned version of John Williams’ Imperial March, feels like one of the few remnants of Lord & Miller’s wry sensibilities. Solo must leave behind his underwritten girlfriend, Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke). Later, he predictably runs afoul of his superiors, necessitating another escape aided by a “beast” that turns out to be his lifelong sidekick.

Solo and Chewie hook up with a gang led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), an intergalactic pirate who is hoping to hijack a shipment of a rare hyperfuel called coaxium in order to pay the debt he owes to crime lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), who has somehow, somewhere, sometime taken Qi-ra as his space concubine. When that train robbery goes awry, Solo and company play cards with rapscallion Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and loop him and his Millenium Falcon on an even more perilous exploit.

At its core, Solo is a love story, but not between Solo and Qi'ra, or Lando and his unrequited droid companion-cum-freedom fighter L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), this film’s failed sassy knockoff of K-2SO (Rogue One). The central coupling in Solo is the bromance between Solo and Chewbacca, a platonic relationship built on Chewie’s tolerance for Han’s roguish ways and Han’s respect for Chewie as a being worthy of respect.

Otherwise, when Solo isn’t being perfectly pedestrian, it’s shoehorning stray imagery across the frame meant to channel some social woe or another. But like everything else, it’s a collection of passing references, meant to stoke feelings of nostalgia and the sense of meaning without fleshing out anything meaningful. Solo is good for a Star Wars sugar rush, but be ready for the crash.

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