‘I’m going to be a pilot. The best in the galaxy.’
Few big budget films in recent years have been judged so harshly prior to release due to behind-the-scenes on-goings. With a late in the game substitution (The Lego Movie‘s Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were replaced by Ron Howard with mere weeks left of shooting) and endless gossip about lead Alden Ehrenreich’s performance along with a May release date (with The Force Awakens, Rogue One and The Last Jedi each having dominated their respective Christmas release dates) – well, it didn’t look good.
Such low expectations may just serve the film well. With great expectations comes great pressure. For some films great expectations pays off (a la Infinity War). For other movies it destroys them (insert example of your own choice here). Thankfully Solo surpasses most expectations as it’s not that bad. It’s pretty alright.
The film is pleasingly coherent for one that had such a tumultuous production. There’s a clear tone and mood throughout, which isn’t usual when such a key shift in figurehead occurs. Ehrenreich is excellent, defying the gossips and naysayers wrong by providing us with a performance that captures the essence of a young Harrison Ford. Donald Glover is a fantastic scenestealer as a young Lando – he’s so good that the outcry for a solo Lando movie will be all the louder. Emilia Clarke is not bad as the mysterious woman from Han’s past. Woody Harrelson plays type and that’s more fine. Paul Bettany is an excellent villian, a real treat to watch. Phoebe Waller Bridge is entertaining as the droid who’s more than a droid.
The components are all there and the script serviceably connects them altogether. The problem is just that, it’s all pretty serviceable and rather lightweight. The film doesn’t expose an important part of back story or make us survey events in a different light like Rogue One did. Nor does it rip up the rule book last The Last Jedi. Releasing Solo less than six months after later film seems like an odd choice for that reason by not only risking a degree of Star Wars fatigue, it also makes the differences between them all the more distinct. The story within Solo is light and pretty by-the-numbers. It’s a fast-ish space adventure that is popcorn entertainment rather than anything with depth. Whilst the cast are all charming the story is predictable and the script has just a few too many jokes that don’t land.
It’s not an essential addition to the franchise. Aside from one Easter Egg the film doesn’t have all that much that links it up to the other films. Whilst we do some semblance of back story about our favorite space pirate we don’t fully see what forms him, he starts Solo pretty much fully formed as the charmer and chancer we love/hate – which is something of a problem in terms of narrative and storytelling. It’s not a hero’s journey with a call to action that leads to character development. We don’t see what makes him. We don’t see him grow as such. We just get a slice of what happens before we first met him. And, for some fans, that will be more than enough.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is in UK cinemas now.