Solo: A Star Wars Story ★★½

I seem to remember having a very positive attitude towards the idea of being able to watch a new film set in the galaxy far, far away every year, especially when some of them would try and be a bit more adventurous stylistically or when they would offer at least temporary relief from following the Skywalker soap opera. This is one of the reasons why I like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story a lot. It was a bit different, visually distinctive and, while tied very closely to the main narrative core of the preceding films, it was completely tangential.

However, having recently seen Solo: A Star Wars Story, I think I should revise my thinking, or at the very least subject it to a delicate realignment, because for the first time in forever – at least since the Prequel Trilogy was rolling through cinemas - I saw a Star Wars film that didn't really warm the cockles of my heart. In fact, I think I was close to being disappointed with it and that's just not OK.

I don't necessarily think Solo is a bad movie per se; it's for the most part paced well, suspenseful and effective. Unfortunately, just as it was the case with Justice League that came out late last year, I can't see it as any sort of achievement, but an interestingly composed mess. As much as Ron Howard claims to have re-shot the vast majority of footage, the film feels occasionally tonally disjointed, which is something I can only attribute to the fact that it is after all a patchwork of two films made by people with completely different mindsets. As a result, Solo feels more like a Marvel film or the aforementioned Justice League that happened to have been hijacked by Joss Whedon and stuffed with misplaced humour here and there. Also, one particular plot point (that doesn't even serve much purpose to the story at large) brings this film and the entire universe Disney is trying to expand upon onto a similar plane as Marvel productions, which frightened me a little, because it looks to me as though soon enough these movies will also fall victim to excessive plotting, name-checking and tying loose threads instead of telling interesting stories.

However, this is not really why I was so lukewarm towards Solo. I can really look away from allegedly surprising cameos and fixations on props or little elements of environment that I am supposed to recognise or feel familiar with. After all, this universe isn't exactly deep enough to allow a lot of exploration without risking detachment from storylines the audiences should be able to recognise. This is also something Disney would probably see as risky and it would be understandable if one were a bit hesitant before hedging a multimillion dollar investment on a product that doesn't necessarily guarantee a return. Ironically enough, seeing how Solo performed financially, I should expect the producers in charge of making these movies to rethink their strategy of relying solely on familiarity and opening their minds a bit.

Getting back to what I was about to say before I got carried away: my biggest problem with Solo lies in the fact it is not designed to entertain me in any way. Its mission statement is to correct a massive blunder that fans of the series have had a problem with for decades – the Kessel run and the twelve parsecs. Everybody knows that it was a simple mistake where either George Lucas didn't know what he was talking about when he was asking Harrison Ford to recite this line, or that Harrison Ford improvised it on the spot. In fact, having now revisited the original (a review coming soon), I am more inclined to believe it was something Ford just made up as he went along. He went off-script and nobody corrected him. One can clearly see that when he says that line, Mark Hamill and Alec Guinness have rather surprised expressions on their faces and I don't think it has anything to do with the idea of Han Solo showing off his piloting skills, but with the fact the line may not have even been in the original script. (By the way, if anyone has access to the shooting script of Star Wars and can help me clarify that issue, I would be happy to learn the truth). Or perhaps the idea was that Han Solo was simply ignorant himself and didn't know what he was talking about. He was using big words to pull wool over the eyes of an old hermit and a teenage yob who were willing to hand over their money. He was simply conning them.

This is why I could only chuckle at the lengths some people went to in order to make sure this blatant example of not knowing what a parsec is (books, graphic novels and what-not), but now – thanks to Solo - this is now part of the canon. And the only reason it is in the film to begin with is because the original Star Wars is saturated with off-handed comments and name-dropping whose purpose was only to build an implicit world around a simple story and make it easy for the viewer to immerse themselves in this universe.

So, there. Now Han Solo isn't a master bullshitter and a con-man, but a superhero, because the parsec nonsense is now retroactively corrected. Great. Oh, and he shoots first, too. How's that for fan service? Christ on a stick...

Maybe I need to watch this film again once I cool down a bit, because something tells me this review may not be entirely honest. I am even fuming now as I am typing these words and I am more than a few weeks removed... I never thought I would say this because I was genuinely looking forward to Solo, but I think making this film this way was a mistake. And, it turns out, I am not alone in thinking that.

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