Walking into the almost empty cinema, I sat down looked around and thought ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this’. Disney had the almost impossible task of writing an origins story for possibly the most iconic character in cinema history. Here are my spoiler-free thoughts on Ron Howard’s endeavour to bring him back to the silver screen.
There is so much that could’ve gone wrong with this film, it had to fit cogently into the already established Star Wars story, and do justice to one of the world’s most beloved characters. With this in mind, it is no surprise that original directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord were replaced by Howard, a long time friend of George Lucas. This set the tone for a very safe, middle of the road origin story. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the last thing Disney wants to do is tarnish Han Solo’s legacy, especially after the (mildly put) mixed reviews of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It follows the same basic plot: the good guy rebels against the bad guy who is actually working for an even badder guy who wears a hooded cloak. Sound familiar?
That said, many parts of this film are well executed, but the standout for me is the composition by John Powell who adapts John Williams’ legendary score. The music adds to every scene and brings a level of excitement to an otherwise relatively average film. The stand out performance is that of Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian. This was an inspired casting choice that was just as perfect on screen as it appeared on paper, it seems that man can do no wrong. He is arrogant, charismatic and steals every scene he’s in. Paul Bettany (Dryden Vos) and Woody Harrelson (Beckett) also give good performances. It appears Bettany is ‘doing a Brolin’ this summer, starring in both Avengers: Infinity War and Solo. He gives an accomplished performance of a fairly standard villain. There was certainly a sense that he could’ve benefitted from more screen time.
“It just fails to capture the essence of Han Solo”
Harrelson, who plays Beckett, Han’s mentor figure gives another classic Woody Harrelson performance full of wit, arrogance and cynicism. The way he acts seems very much like the way Ford’s version of Han behaves always seeming cynical and slightly annoyed at everyone. Indeed, he feels more like Han Solo than Han himself, played by Alden Ehrenreich. Harrison Ford’s boots are big ones to fill and Ehrenreich does a passable job but I feel he was let down by the writing, with seemingly no character development, as he feels unchanged by the end. Nevertheless Ehrenreich excellently captures Solo’s boyish charm; however, the ice-cold demeanour is lost, through no fault of his own. Han Solo is supposed to be the coolest man in the galaxy, but with the dialogue, he comes across annoying instead and is relentlessly optimistic, quite contrary to the character we’ve all grown up with. This is the film’s greatest downfall; it just fails to capture the essence of Han Solo.
The other big issue with the film is the relationship between Han and Kira (Emilia Clark) which serves merely to move the plot along at the expense of authenticity. It feels grossly out of Solo’s character. However, his relationship with Chewbacca is one of the movie’s shining lights, packed with comedy and heart. Furthermore, it has some exciting chase scenes and a thrilling train heist which certainly redeem the film.
There’s not much to be said about this film, it doesn’t push any boundaries, but doesn’t do a whole lot wrong, it is just a fun, albeit forgettable film. But there is an exciting twist at the end that will send fans wild…
Image courtesy of Disney and Lucasfilm.