Over forty years ago, George Lucas reluctantly gave the role of Han Solo in Star Wars: A New Hope to Harrison Ford, who was only helping out at a casting. Now, forty years later, another actor steps into Ford’s enormous shadow and takes up the Solo mantle…
The Solo Story
Han Solo was born an urchin on Corellia, around the time that the Phantom Menace happened. He grew up on the streets and his only goal is to survive. When he’s about twenty years old, he steals some valuable coaxium ore to finance his escape with his girlfriend Qi’ra. He manages to flee the planet by enlisting in the army of the recently formed Empire, but he’s forced to leave Qi’ra behind.
After three years in the army, he’s still trying to find his way back to her, stuck fighting on a backwater planet. Then he runs into a smuggler, Tobias Beckett, and manages to talk himself into Beckett’s crew.
The need to fill in some required backstory constrains the story, almost like a straitjacket. I predicted exactly this in 2017, as did a lot of others. It unfortunately means that a lot of the excitement and wonder is gone even before the movie kicks off.
Alden Ehrenreich plays Han Solo, and he has some big shoes to fill. He does his best, but unfortunately for him, the script isn’t that brilliant. Although maybe his big problem is only that he’s not Harrison Ford. He tries to bring the right Swagger and attitude, and he makes it work, but in the end, he just doesn’t feel like the real deal.
Emilia Clarke, who we all know as the white-haired girl from Game of Thrones, plays Qi’ra. She has the same urchin background as Solo, but where Solo’s swagger and luck help him to leave Corellia, Qi’ra gets left behind. She has to use her wiles to get out of a bad situation. In theory, the character is quite interesting, but there are two big problems. One, Clarke is unable to sell the attraction between her and Ehrenreich. And two, the plot is so complicated it drowns out her character arc.
Let’s not forget Tobias Beckett, played by Woody Harrelson. He’s a smuggler who only cares about himself and his lover. Unfortunately, his lover dies, leaving only himself. He’s a foil for Han Solo, a slightly darker mirror reflection. On the surface they appear the same, but when the chips are down Solo chooses to do the right thing where Becket chooses to do the selfish thing.
Of course, this wouldn’t be Solo’s origin story without Lando and Chewie. Honestly, they don’t play a large role in the story. They’re a necessary part, but mostly they are there to set up ways to make Solo shine. Not a bad thing, but maybe they deserved more.
And finally, there’s Dryden Vos, played by Paul Bethany. He’s the bad guy. Sort of. I found him to be a very uninteresting character. He’s the support upon which Qi’ra’s arc rests, but he’s not memorable or scary enough to pull it off. Or maybe he and Clarke just didn’t get the screen time needed to flesh the arc out.
The bottom line
This movie tries to cram in a lot of plot and a lot of fan service, and its constrained by the need to keep continuity with the original Star Wars movies. The result is a thrill ride that overshadows the already far too many spinning plates in the air, and that makes it about as memorable as a fireworks show. Nice to look at, but nothing more.
If you like Star Wars, you’ll want to see this, but if you don’t, go watch something else.