Film Review of “Solo, A Star Wars Story” (2018)

solo

Promotional image for the 2018 movie “Solo, A Star Wars Story”

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.

I did.

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.

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7 thoughts on “Film Review of “Solo, A Star Wars Story” (2018)

  1. Ive been avoiding this film as well and still have not seen it. Based on your review and many others i’ve read i dont think it’s for me, and yet im a huge Star Wars fan.

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  2. I found it to be entertaining. Not the best SW but also not the worst (by a long shot), more like mind-candy. Filled in a few gaps, gave a few chuckles, (and a few eye rolls) and then, like cotton candy, gone and mostly forgotten.

    *’I have very specific biases about what is and isn’t “Star Wars.”*
    (chuckle) Sounds like me and Star Trek.

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  3. You stated, above: ……………..

    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.

    …….
    (I added the boldface.)

    I wonder what Bill Barr’s father was trying to advance (or at least pine wistful about) with his novel involving sex slaves in space. Maybe something along the lines of pitying elite men for not being allowed to have slaves or permitted sexual carte blanche [perhaps he was on a cutting edge that led to encel thought, or perhaps he was holding on to perceived “losses” of liberties that had been taken for granted in prior generations]. (I haven’t read the book.) He hired (and was friends with) Jeffrey Epstein, who had no degree, for a trusted position at a private school. Epstein is now infamous [while disturbingly also passed away under legal supervision] for a widespread operation of sex slaves, molestation, and so on.

    https://hillreporter.com/the-ties-that-bind-jeffrey-epstein-william-barr-donald-trump-34107

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/grondamorin.com/2019/07/09/story-of-ag-barrs-dad-as-headmaster-who-ran-school-with-discipline-and-authoritarian-rule/amp/

    The following (below) came from your commenting under your topic of “One More Commentary on the Dragon Awards” (directly adjacent to this current topic that I’m posting under); I was surprised to see that you mentioned Barr — right after I had thought to comment on current events and science fiction writers:

    … On twitter, the only people I call out by tagging are certain politicians, and I know they won’t be responding to anything that isn’t from a “blue checkmark.” Actually, Representative Steve Cohen did block me (which I didn’t see coming) because I criticized him eating KFC chicken as a way to mock Barr. More specifically, I said he looked like he had a “fast food body,” which I’m sure he didn’t appreciate.

    ….

    So, I’ll end with an identity in that regard.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=steve+cohen+congress&rlz=1CDGOYI_enUS745US751&oq=steve+cohen&aqs=chrome.3.69i57j0l3.13275j0j4&hl=en-US&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8
    Stephen Ira Cohen is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative from Tennessee’s 9th congressional district, since 2007. He is a member of the Democratic Party. The district includes the western three-fourths of Memphis. Cohen is Tennessee’s first Jewish congressman. ……….

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    • I wasn’t actually going to mention this, but yes, I did call out the apparent necessity in modern television shows and movies to make over social justice commentaries. However, this apparently isn’t enough. I came across a recent article called Convenient Seasons and Why the MCU Doesn’t Get Props for LGBTQ “Diversity” that pretty much disassembled anything Marvel Studios thought it had ever done to advance heroic LGBTQ+ characters and people of color. I’m not saying that at least some of the people called out in the bulleted list don’t have issues, but it’s as if in order to be creative anymore, at least in a major way, you have to be pretty darn squeaky clean. At what point can a person be imperfect and still have it be okay to direct, act in, or otherwise be involved in a superhero movie or science fiction project?

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  4. Looks like you really wanted to share that even though you weren’t “actually going to” — not clear why it was a response to what I said. Responding, nevertheless, after reading the article, it doesn’t appear anyone is stopping Marvel from making their movies… so, I think it’s mistaken to go so far as to fear or insinuate a person can’t “be involved in a superhero movie or science fiction project without being squeaky clean.” And the author of the article, bottom line, doesn’t want somebody claiming a character is the first when the character is not the first.

    Back to the movie this thread is based on, I always have mixed feelings about personifying or anthropomorphizing AI. Artificial Intelligence just is not in fact human. I know there are people who get way worked up about that, favoring machines. I state my point of view in my day-to-day “real life” as well as online; doesn’t seem to have any effect on what makes it into the movies. Oh, well. I suspend belief and often enjoy movies like that anyway. But, returning to Bill Barr and his covering for people in the actual world, I couldn’t enjoy wishing for dystopian nightmares.

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