Solo: A Star Wars Story

Well, the Star Wars movie nobody has asked for has finally arrived. Truth be told, the behind the scene stories of this movie are most likely way more interesting and gripping than the movie itself. There was a lot of drama going on during production. The original directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have been fired from the project just weeks away from completing principal photography, due to creative differences, namely they were not as keen to sticking to the script provided by the studio. A legitimate reason for firing, but very unfortunate in terms of timing. The duo still retained producer credits on the movie. Couple of days later, enters Ron Howard, a veteran of the movie making business and takes over the role of director and the daunting task of steering the project back on course from the detour Lord and Miller have took. As such, he proceeds to reshoot, reportedly, about 80% of the movie.

All the while, the movie’s release date stays the same, which made a lot of people justifiably nervous. Also, Ron Howards extensive reshoots meant that the actors attached to the project had to stay onboard a lot longer than initially planned, which was not an option for everybody. As a result Michael Kenneth Williams is cut from the movie and Paul Bettany is dealt in. As if all this would not be enough, the initial movie posters released by Disney for Solo had to be changed because French artist Hachim Bahous claimed that their design were stolen from a series of album covers he did for Sony Music, back in 2015. And seeing the posters and the album covers next to each other was pretty much all the proof anybody needed to realize, the guy was right. Now, the newest entries of the Star Wars movie family were never without their individual set of controversy, whether it was the critical and fan base response to Ep 7 and 8, or the behind the scene issues concerning Rogue One. But the sheer amount of issues that this movie had to overcome, public or not, had put the head of Lucas Films, Kathleen Kennedy, in a very uncomfortable position. There is a good chance that she might have to step down from her position because of this movie. It all depends on how much of a financial success will Solo be, if at all.

So, after all this hubbub, what is this movie about? Well, we get to learn how Han became Han Solo, how he met Chewbacca, Lando and the Millennium Falcon. It is a pretty much straightforward origin story. There are a couple of new faces as well, such as Qi’ra, played by Emilia Clarke, Tobias Beckett, played by Woody Harrelson, and Dryden Vos, played by Paul Bettany. Now, there are some other bigger names in the cast lists, such as Thandie Newton, or John Favreau, but their characters don’t bring anything to the table as they share the same 3 scenes in the first act and they are pretty much done after that. Emilia Clarke brings a solid performance, but by no means extraordinary. But then again, she isn’t given that much to work with either. She did the job done and without reminding us that she is the mother of dragons. Harrelson was good, but for him a role like this is like a walk in the park, he could do this high on cocaine, and we still would not know it. The only problem I had with his character was the name, Tobias Beckett. For somebody that is a criminal in a galaxy far, far away, a long, long time ago, he has a rather specific, earthly name. Like before the events of this movie, he was pulling jobs with Danny Ocean, or something. A minor detail that just bothers me a little. However, we have to remember. These new characters, they do not really matter. Their sole purpose in “life” is to offer us the excuse to see a movie with Han, Chewie and Lando. And it works. Alden Ehrenreich is a great Han Solo, he channels the same attitude and charisma as Ford did in the original Star Wars movie. But he is a touch softer, more younger and therefor much more naïve than Ford’s character, which is good, because, well, he is young Han Solo here, which is to say that the contrast between Ehrenreich’s and Ford’s character is a pretty good indicator of just how much time is between this movie and the original Star Wars, from a story perspective. Donald Glover steals every scene he is in as Lando Calrissian, and he is every bit a suave as Billy Dee Williams was as Lando in Empire Strikes Back. Both actors manage to impersonate the younger versions of the iconic characters and be respectful to the originals and make the current versions their own at the same time. And then there is Chewbacca. Sadly, Peter Mayhew was no longer able to reprise his iconic role, so here too a younger actor had to step in the form of Joonas Suotamo. The only difference is that Joonas already filled in as Chewbacca in Ep7 and 8 as well, and in Ep7 he was working in tandem with Mayhew. As for Chewie in the movie, he got to do a lot more than usual, and the chemistry between him and Han is great, as it was to be expected. It was rather fun to see this iconic duo getting started, and I do think that the scene that the two meet for the first time was rather clever. And, since this is a SW movie, there has to be a signature droid as well, in our case L3-37. Unfortunately, this is not really the droid that we are looking for. They tried to go on the same route as in Rogue One, where K-2SO had a voice of its own along with an opinion, but here that voice and opinion takes on social justice, namely equal rights for droids. It is easy to see the parallel between the present day social climate and the movie, which I do believe that was not thought through right. On one hand, whenever a science fiction movie ties itself to something specific from its present day, the movie does not age well. The trends and technologies that were “happening” while the movie was made might have a rather short life and then they become strange and obscure when the movie is revisited 10-20 years later. On the other hand, L3-37 is used somewhat as a comic relief, therefor whatever it is standing for also comes through as a joke of some sorts. As such, the struggle for equal rights becomes more of a punch line than an actual issue, which is not an inspired choice.

Sadly, Solo: A Star Wars story is not that well received by the SW fan base. Which is a shame, really, because personally, I think it is a darn good movie. It is not original, it is not epic, it is not what SW is usually about. This is a light, humorous, adventure/heist movie that happens to be in the SW universe. And this is what makes it a perfect science fiction movie. Because good SF is just a good story that could be told in any context/time-period, but for some reason it is told with starships and ray guns. As for this movie in particular, it is the perfect pallet cleanser after the plethora of comic book movies or whatever else this year had to offer so far in cinemas. I haven’t had so much fun at the movies in a long time.

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