Solo: A Star Wars Story – REVIEW

Solo: A Star Wars Story – REVIEW

0 comments 📅24 May 2018, 12:00

Spoilers ahead.

Disney knew what it was taking on when it bought Lucasfilm. In 2012 it paid $4.06 billion to acquire the rights to Star Wars from George Lucas and it’s already made that monumental amount of money back. In just six years, we’ve had two sequels and two spin off movies with one more of each on the way as confirmation comes of a Boba Fett origin story not to mention the rumours gathering momentum of an Obi Wan Kenobi spin off story.

The story of Han Solo had a high benchmark right from the very beginning. Han is arguably the franchise’ s favourite character, since he’s the lovable rogue – flawed, but fearless – compared to Luke’s steadfast force-based focus or Leia’s inexplicably unexplored personality.

And perhaps herein lies the problem; Disney had only cranked out Rogue One before this movie and while that spin-off turned out rather well, it wasn’t without production problems of its own. So it could be said that more practice was needed before the House of Mouse tackled a story that is a major, load-bearing foundation of the Star Wars saga.

There’s no denying whatsoever that the Star Wars universe was ripe for picking; so many characters with so many adventures, the possibilities were only limited by the constraints of your imagination. Sadly though, what we’ve seen as a result of Disney’s massive investment hasn’t impressed us. With the exception of Rogue One, The Force Awakens was basically a remake of A New Hope and The Last Jedi was equally as disappointing.

Disney has to bring Star Wars to a new generation without tarnishing it or even straying too far from the original formula. Given the budget, you’d think they could hire a team that could accomplish that. So now Star Wars has an identity crisis: the kids love it…but now the adults also make up a significant percentage of the fanbase and yes, they even buy the toys too. Christ, they’re the only ones that can afford some of them.

The thing to remember is that the original trilogy still appeals to every audience demographic, because they were well-written. That’s the key phrase here.

And Solo, sadly, isn’t very well written.

Instead, it might have taken a leaf out of the Indiana Jones movies with Saturday morning serial-style titles, like Han Solo Defies the Hutt Cartel or Han Solo and the Korriban Connection or Han Solo and the Spice Mines of Kessel, but without leaving an average of seven years between each movie.

Instead Disney explained every single unique characteristic in one adventure: How he met Lando, how he met Chewie, how he became a smuggler, how he got his iconic DL-44 blaster, how he won the Falcon, how he navigated the Kessel Run and even how he ended up working for Jabba the Hutt…all happened over a period of a few days. Talk about a wasted opportunity.

It’s a little like the young Indiana Jones sequence starring River Phoenix at the beginning of The Last Crusade – we see how he gets his Fedora, his whip, his fear of snakes, even the scar on his chin…all in the space of 20 minutes.

When we first see Han Solo in the cantina in Mos Eisley, it can’t be that long after the events of this movie. How many times can he make runs for Jabba the Hutt before that infamous time he gets boarded and dumps his cargo? But by then, he’s a totally different character. Gone is the smiling, thigh-slapping, chirpy optimistic Solo of this movie…and instead we see the more seasoned, suspicious, cynical Solo that we first fell in love with.

If enough events transpired to cause one character to morph into the other, then why couldn’t some of the origin story take place during this time? Why did Han have to do the Kessel run the very first time he ever piloted the Falcon? An entire plot could’ve been based around this one legendary feat.

Despite the overwhelming sense of rushed this movie fills you with, there are some nice touches. The final lesson that Solo learns from Beckett on Savareen is not so much “don’t trust anybody” but more “shoot first” – a nice nod to the Lucas tinkering of A New Hope. Even how he gets his last name is nice…but any feeling of respect for that idea is washed away by the onslaught of origins of every other element of his character.

You can see where it was trying to go: A high-jinks movie about a heist gone wrong. In order to make amends our heroes must dive deep into the criminal underworld, get a ship and embark on a tale of brave deeds, shady deals and a daring double cross and ultimately ends with Han and Chewie having done the right thing. But it just sits uncomfortably and leaves you feeling that there really isn’t anything interesting left to learn about this character.

It might have better if Han only turned up at the end and this was about how Chewie and Lando meet with a bit more history of the Falcon. After all, in Episode IV, Han says, “It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs…” He never says that he did it.

Probably the biggest surprise – if you hadn’t accidentally seen it actually written in a headline before you got around to watching the movie – was the appearance of Darth Maul towards the end.

If you’re wondering how this is possible, remember that Maul survived his defeat at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi through sheer force of will. He made his return in The Clone Wars animated series after being dumped on a junkyard planet and fashioning himself spider legs out of trash. He slowly rose to power once again, fueled by his thirst for revenge against Darth Sidious, the master who abandoned him, and the Jedi who almost killed him. At the height of his power during the Clone Wars, Maul was the leader of the Shadow Collective, an alliance of criminal organizations, which he used to wage war against both the Republic and the Separatists. He also became ruler of Mandalore.

Not much is known about what Maul got up to after the end of the Clone Wars and before his return on Rebels, but Solo confirms that the former Sith apprentice was still leading at least one criminal organization in those years. This is clearly a lead-in to something else, somewhere.

We’ll probably never know the exact details behind the production problems, but there was certainly no issue with actor Alden Ehrenreich, nor with any of the cast. The problem instead lies with the screenplay and the director. We’ll probably also never know what direction Lord and Miller originally wanted to take it, consequently we’ll probably never know the scale of the task that Ron Howard undertook. Was this the very best we could have got without starting again from scratch? We know there were reshoots, we understand there were reshoots of the reshoots, but we might never know how much of the story was changed.

Apparently, Lucasfilm has signed Alden Ehrenreich for three movies, with plans to make a trilogy of films around the character. Which begs the question, were many of these events originally written for a trilogy and upon the orders of El Mouse, then crammed into one movie? That seems unlikely. But the fact remains, the story is not very well written…but it was written by Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan, two veterans of the Star Wars universe. So who’s responsible? Big Cheese Bob Iger? Kathleen Kennedy? Who knows.

Finally, L3-37 deserves a special mention as she was a great character and it’s awesome to see the expanded universe featuring so prominently – despite Disney officially discontinuing it – with both the Cloud Riders and the reappearance of Darth Maul. However, the less said about Han speaking Shyriiwook, the better. Naturally the parsec pickle with the Kessel Run was resolved, which was nice and it was handled in an OK manner, although we weren’t convinced about the rush to get to the coaxium refinery planet.

Despite Solo breaking records with advance ticket sales, it has been more or less deemed a bomb in Disney terms – for any other studio, the same numbers would probably equate to a smash hit. Such is the importance of foaming-at-the-mouth fanboys going back and watching it two or three times over the same weekend. That said, in the US, Memorial Day weekend has always been a difficult time to release a blockbuster.

But perhaps more importantly than that…The Last Jedi only opened in December of last year, less than six months ago, probably indicating that Star Wars saturation is a real issue and for audiences to really appreciate a multi-million dollar movie set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, more time between installments is required.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is out now.
Rated: PG-13

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