Solo is a fun and entertaining film that tells a story that didn’t need to be told.
Solo is the logical epitome of the film industry of today – a movie designed to garner views and attention though sheer audience pandering. Studio executives must have thought: who doesn’t want a film about the greatest silver screen space smuggler of all time? Unfortunately for them, it seems like, a surprising number of people.
To be fair, Star Wars has never been high art, but it told a story that was good, a Campellian arc for the post-Vietnam War world. The prequels too, for all their faults, had a place in the Star Wars mythos, deepening and revealing the context of the original films that had only been hinted at and speculated on in accessory books and games. Even Rogue One had an important story to tell of the heroism of the everyman and their role in securing the Death Star plans.
Solo, on the other hand, doesn’t have a story that it needs to tell, as opposed to a set of checkboxes to tick – the landmarks of the life and times of Han Solo. The film doesn’t really tell us what we don’t already know about the man – that he grew up on Corellia, was a great pilot, rescued Chewbacca from the Imperials, became a smuggler. It is an exercise in visualising all the offhand references made throughout the Star Wars saga – how he won the Millennium Falcon from Lando and did the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.
To be clear – this isn’t a problem – films can be enjoyed for the spectacle and fan-service they provide. But generally, it would be nice if films comprised more than just those superficial parts – if they had a cohesive and compelling narrative tree upon which to drape these accoutrements.
But Solo isn’t quite like that. It doesn’t add value to our idea of Han. It’s just an echo, an acting out, of who he was in the original films, except younger. It doesn’t help that Alden Ehrenreich, who is doubtless doing the best he can, just doesn’t have that Harrison Ford swagger. And while there is that whole thing about his love interest Qi’Ra and how never to trust anyone, that isn’t really who Han is by the time of the OT. So that’s really a kind of dead end in narrative terms.
There are also a bunch of continuity annoyances that diverge from my headcanon of Han Solo and the Star Wars universe in general. First, Corellia was talked about as some kind of cesspool planet, when it was a major Core world and important shipyard. Han’s rescue of Chewbacca was also less compelling than it could have been – in the EU, he was expelled from the Imperial Academy for freeing him, which speaks of a greater nobility than what was in the film. Finally, his Solo moniker had grander origins in the EU than what it was made out to be in the film – essentially a bastard name conferred by a punny Imperial officer.
I still enjoyed Solo for what it was – an action film of spectacle and some light pathos, expanding upon the Disney Star Wars universe. But beyond that, it doesn’t really have much to go for it. And I was constantly struck with the impression that it was rather ghoulish for Disney to have killed off the character in a sequel film for narrative effect and come back to do a prequel that was in many respects narratively inconsequential.
I give this film: 3.5 out of 5 dice