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‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ (review by Stefan Blitz)

Produced by Kathleen Kennedy,
Allison Shearmur, Simon Emanuel
Screenplay by Jonathan Kasdan
and Lawrence Kasdan
Based on Characters by George Lucas
Directed by Ron Howard
Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson,
Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton,
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo,
Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, Linda Hunt

 

One of pop culture’s greatest tropes are the characters with a mysterious past. We often know little about them, so their actions, good or bad, truly help define the character.

In May 1977, we were first introduced to Han Solo in George Lucas’ Star Wars.  Sitting in a dark corner of a Mos Eisley cantina, the roguish smuggler, is content to avoid both the Intergalactic Empire and the bounty hunters looking to bring him to a local gangster for a payday of their own.

With his Wookiee companion, Chewbacca approaching him with a client looking to hire his ship, we learn that Han Solo only cares about two things: Han Solo and a payday.

But, as it turns out Solo is more complicated than that.

Looks are deceiving. He joins the Rebel Alliance and finds a home and a purpose.

And it was good.

Until in 1999 when Star Wars creator George Lucas released the first part of his prequel trilogy, Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Over the course of these three films, Lucas stripped away the previously mysterious pasts of several of pop culture’s most  enigmatic characters including Darth Vader and Boba Fett.

With the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012, we’ve seen President Kathleen Kennedy strip the carcass’ of the franchise into nothing than an abused cash cow, oversaturating the once beloved IPs into a constant stream of product.

Solo: A Star Wars Story, is another example of Kennedy’s insecurity on display. After firing the originally hired directors of Chris Miller and Phil Lord, Kennedy brought in the always reliable but not very interesting Ron Howard to remake most of the already shot film.

Which wouldn’t be so bad if this was the first instance of meddling over the repeated stock explanation of “creative differences.”

2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was considered to be a bit of a disaster with director Gareth Edwards being forced aside in post and replaced with Tony Gilroy who both rewrote and directed parts of the film. A dire situation which Gilroy commented,”all you could do was improve their position.”

And Episode IX writer/director Colin Trevorrow was fired before Episode VIII: The Last Jedi hit theaters.

So what does this mean for Solo?

Despite a significant amount of controversy regarding Alden Ehrenreich’s casting as the title character, it’s easily safe to say he delivers. As a matter of fact, the entire cast knocked it out of the park with both Joonas Suotamo and Donald Glover as Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian adding fresh takes to the roles previously established by Peter Mayhew and Billy Dee Williams.

The rest of the ensemble is great; Woody Harrelson as Solo’s mentor, Beckett; Thandie Newton and a CGI character voiced by Jon Favreau as Beckett’s crew, Emilia Clarke as Solo’s childhood friend, Qi’ra, Paul Bethany as gangster Dryden Vos and finally Phoebe Walker Bridge as Lando’s droid, L3-37.

The film takes all of the tidbits of Star Wars trivia and rumor regarding Han and Chewie’s backstories and uses them to establish a narrative that reveals Han’s origins, his friendships with Lando and Chewbacca, the Kessel Run, the Sabacc card game where Han wins the Millennium Falcon.

But somehow, it just isn’t very interesting.

Keep in mind, it’s not a bad film. There are some sequences I generally liked, but the overall execution isn’t particularly engaging. The action sequences are well executed, but the script is so full of clichés that whatever twists and turns the script takes, you’ve already seen them coming as soon as the “set up” is established.

That being said, it’s my favorite Star Wars film since the original trilogy.  But that isn’t saying much.  Whereas the prequels were fairly unwatchable and the newer films not particularly interesting, Solo’s best moments, like the original trilogy are when it plays like a Saturday morning serial.

For escapism and the perfect venue to sit with a soda and a popcorn, Solo, “may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts.”

 

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