Friday, 25 May 2018


The story of how Han became Solo, and Chewbacca became Chewie. There's more to it than that, but damned if I can remember what it was.

I watched this movie last night and I am really struggling to remember what happened. My 12 year-old Star Wars-loving self (RIP) would be apoplectic at me for saying this but this movie was almost completely forgettable.

It is better than Rogue One, in that it does a slightly better job of creating a clear narrative framework for its characters - whether those characters move and grow organically within that framework is another question.

As our leading man, Alden Ehrenreich jostles. He constantly feels like a kid trying to do a Harrison Ford impression. He is supposed to be smart and pragmatic, but Ehrenreich just comes off as arrogant and over-compensating. This would be fine if his low-point was a humbling ordeal that forced him to starting thinking rather than relying on luck and bluster, but that moment never really comes. I never really got the sense that he was learning anything, and I never really felt like the movie was about what it wanted to be about i.e. Han learning not to trust anyone. I am not really sure exactly what he learned at the end of this movie - he has a completely un-earned 'Road to Damascus' moment where he decides to do something good for a band of 'proto-rebels'. I don't know why.

The whole arc of Han's character in Star Wars was that he was a cynic who grew to believe in something. This creates a problem for the makers of Solo, since they can't push for a similar epiphany, yet do not want to make Han a straight-up criminal. They try to have it both ways, with Han helping the rebels against the villains, but refusing to join them after the battle is done. I was left confused because the movie gave me no strong sense of Han's motivations to either join the rebels or go it alone.  

I really hope that this movie puts paid to the idea of Emilia Clarke as a movie star - she is not bad as Solo's first love, but the character - in both writing and performance - never feels fleshed out. The character is not that interesting, and Clarke's performance lacks anything that could flesh out the character emotionally. As far as Han's trajectory goes, this character is supposed to be a big deal. By the end of the movie I could not care less.

Every piece of this movie feels like an idea retro-fitted to make sense as a box on the 'Han Solo origin story' checklist. You can figure out who each character is, and what their point in the story is fairly quickly. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but the script does not do a good job of making these characters feel more than archetypes that shove Han toward his 'destiny' (did we really need to know how he got his gun?).

As I said at the outset, the movie is not terrible. There are some things I liked.

The way Chewie and Han meet for the first time is cool. And the way Han ultimately wins the Falcon is good. I just wish the movie around it felt more organic.

Thandie Newton, who is scientifically incapable of not being great, is onscreen for minutes and together with Harrelson packs more history and charisma than all of the main couple's scenes in the rest of the movie. I would have taken a whole movie with her and Harrelson committing heists on military convoys.

The movie is at its best when it is not worried about the origin story angle. The most obvious example of this is L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), Lando's radical droid co-pilot, packs more laughs and flat-out weird ideas than anything else in the rest of the movie. When she turns up and starts talking about equal rights for machines, or how Lando has a crush on her, it brings home how horribly un-funny the movie is - whenever L3 is onscreen, it's like an oasis in the desert.

The movie is not terrible, but ultimately it fails the test of most prequels. It is locked into an endpoint that dictates every move it can make, and Solo fails to live up to its name by striking out in a new direction. It's entertaining in places, and broadly watchable overall, but its most defining characteristic is how forgettable it ultimately is. And that is kind of depressing.

It will be interesting to see how this movie performs. After the internet-stoked reaction to The Last Jedi, which dared to push the franchise in a new direction, it would be a shame if Solo's focus on nostalgia becomes the template for the franchise going forward.


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