So I finally got around to watching last year’s Star Wars story Solo starring Alden Ehrenreich in the title role, with Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, and Donald Glover. To be honest, I’ve been avoiding it.
Actually, last February, when I wrote my commentary Jason Reitman and the new Ghostbusters: Respecting the Fans isn’t Misogynistic, I made the mistake of calling out critics of Reitman by tagging them on twitter. I also mentioned that I’d not only avoided the 2016 Ghostbusters remake, but had also never seen Solo for similar reasons.
I was immediately attacked, but fortunately being “small fry” on social media, the twitteratti just as quickly lost interest in me.
However, some of what they said stuck with me including how I probably shouldn’t judge a movie I’ve never seen. I’m still avoiding the Ghostbusters remake, but when I saw that Solo was available as a DVD at my local public library, I figured it wouldn’t cost me anything (except 135 minutes of my life) to watch it.
Okay, recap for those few of you who don’t know. Solo is a “Star Wars” (I put that in quotes for a reason) movie about the life of young Han Solo. In the movie, we learn where Han grew up, that he had a love interest (Qi’ra played by Emilia Clarke), how he escaped a life of poverty and servitude, learned to be a pilot, thief, and smuggler under the tutelage of Beckett played by Woody Harrelson (my favorite character in the movie), how he met Chewbacca (played by Joonas Suotamo) and how he won the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian (played by the always delightful Donald Glover).
I realized I was bored at exactly three minutes and thirty-six seconds into my viewing, and that was during an action sequence.
No, it wasn’t a horrible movie, but it certainly wasn’t Star Wars.
Actually, I felt kind of sorry for Ehrenreich. He basically had the job of portraying Han like a young Harrison Ford. He didn’t even come close, and that was the real tragedy.
It was like the whole J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot. Chris Pine was cast in the role of a young Jim Kirk, but even though it was supposed to be an alternate timeline resulting in perhaps some changes in personality, there was nothing “William Shatner” about him. In fact, compared to Shatner’s original portrayal of Kirk, Pine’s version came off as an immature whiner (I say that declaring that I loved Pine’s role as Steve Trevor in the 2017 film “Wonder Woman”).
The absolute key to making or breaking Solo was how the lead character was portrayed. To be fair, Ehrenreich had really big boots to fill, and it was sort of a setup to put him in that position. He had to either nail the role or crash and burn.
Alas, although he was a convincing good guy, he wasn’t Solo.
As far as an action-adventure “space western” goes, it was an okay story. It kept my interest for a little over two hours, but it isn’t something I’ll watch again and again. I also have to be fair and mention that I went into the movie not entirely unbiased. I knew it had been panned by the fans and Disney changed a lot of its plans about other, similar Star Wars films based on that.
Still, several people whose opinions I respect said it was a pretty good film and I ought to give it a chance.
Disney should have avoided this one like a proverbial plague.
Oh, every modern film and television show these days has to have a social justice commentary, an obvious one. It’s like a law in Hollywood or something.
Anyway, Lando’s droid L3-37, voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, was an exceedingly cranky and annoying machine, always complaining about not having equality with humans. However, unlike most movies, there was kind of a point, since she “liberated” all the droids in the bad guy’s lair which did actually advance the plot. Most times, such commentaries could be taken out of the work and the story wouldn’t be affected.
I get it. Science Fiction has long been a voice in calling out the social ills of today by placing them in the future or on another planet, but it only works if the audience accepts that voice without realizing they’re being lectured to. Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek television show made social commentaries all the time, but they were done well enough that the entertainment value and the quality of storytelling wasn’t diminished.
In current movies including Solo, all the audience can do is either roll their eyes or grin and bear it.
According to Wikipedia:
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, Solo has an approval rating of 70% based on 442 reviews, with an average rating of 6.39/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “A flawed yet fun and fast-paced space adventure, Solo: A Star Wars Story should satisfy newcomers to the saga as well as longtime fans who check their expectations at the theater door.” On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 62 out of 100, based on reviews from 54 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews”. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “A−” on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it an 89% overall positive score and a 73% “definite recommend”.
I don’t think I’d rate it that high overall, but then again, I have very specific biases about what is and isn’t “Star Wars.”
More from Wikipedia:
Dani Di Placido for Forbes wrote “[Han Solo] is a dashing rogue, a scoundrel with a twinkle in his eye, but so what? Characters like him are cheap and plentiful. It was the formidable charisma of Harrison Ford that turned him into a pop culture juggernaut. Recasting him is akin to recasting Indiana Jones – it’s a cinematic cardinal sin”
That I can agree with.
So now I can say that I’ve seen “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” I wanted to be wrong. I wanted to like it. I really did. Maybe I’m just too old or inflexible to accept the reimaging of the Star Wars franchise by the mouse. Or maybe the mouse just doesn’t get it.