Solo: A Star Wars Story ★★★

"I've got a really good feeling about this." - Han Solo

Well Han, I wouldn't call it "really good". More like "relatively decent".

So, my feelings about this movie during its production went from excitement to anger to anxiety. First, I was excited to see Phil Lord and Chris Miller handle a Star Wars vehicle. They seemed to be great matches for an adventure lead by everyone's favorite intergalactic smuggler. Then came anger when the pair were laid off because of the dreaded "creative differences". Their replacement was announced as Ron Howard, and while he's a fine director in his own right, he didn't seem as though he'd bring any personal passion or unique vision to the table. Finally came the anxiety. Mixes of production troubles, actors needing acting coaches, a stunning lack of promotion, and finally mixed responses at its premiere.

After this roller coaster of emotions towards this movie, how was it? Put simply, pretty much what I was expecting. A serviceable film. Competent, but not standing out in any sort of way. It has its moments and its highlights and I didn't directly dislike much of anything. But, um, well, let me say this. I don't think I've yawned this much in a blockbuster in a while. Throughout the first half, I must have yawned upwards of fifteen to twenty times. (I yawned again just typing this.) The first half of the film isn't boring per se, but it's just so dull and predictable and not that great to look at. Okay, let me slow down here.

My biggest concerns for the film were with Alden Ehrenreich as Han. He was the saving grace in Hail, Caesar! and I was happy to see him leading a major film like this, yet I felt as though his known clumsy demeanor wasn't a good match for the type of charisma needed to play Solo. Luckily, Alden's performance landed on the positive side. I enjoyed him and he did a good job with the character. He has his Ford-esque moments but brings enough to the table that's his own. Donald Glover brings on the swagger (and heavy pansexuality) as Lando. I didn't like him as much as I thought I would, my main complaint towards his performance surprisingly being that it felt as though he was sticking too much to a Billy Dee Williams impression. Nevertheless, I'd love to see both actors come back as these characters in future films, which seems to be the intention. Unfortunately, all of the new characters are average at best. From Beckett to Qi'ra to Val to Vos to Rio. Everyone felt flat as a pancake and the performances followed suit. As for L3-37? As a famous man once sang, "The less we say about it, the better". (Oh, and Chewie was serviceable. The same grunty and lovable Wookie we've always known. Him and Alden have good chemistry. Never thought I'd say there's a Star Wars film where our duo share a shower together.)

The cinematography and visuals range from stylistic to piss-poor. Some sequences have the type of aesthetic where you may as well have smothered mud over the lenses. This is a rather ugly film at some points. A film featuring these types of characters should have dynamic lighting and visual schemes that burst right through the screen. What happened here? (The visuals do improve in the second half, the last two planets in the film having good looks.) The camerawork does have a few noticeably cool swoops and movements, as well as some well-framed static shots. Yet even then, nothing really captured the true visual wonder that should come from a Star Wars film. A bummer, really. (I'll also briefly mention the music. It's okay. Like all of the Disney Star Wars films so far, the best musical moments have come from the rehashes of the earlier scores. I did however enjoy the one track that features a choir.)

As I think I've made clear thus far, the writing isn't doing this film many favors. Simplistic as can be, which is disappointing. Lawrence Kasdan has had a damn good track record and I was rather pumped to see him work on a screenplay with his son. I figured that would be a cool collaboration and result in something special coming to the universe. I figured wrong. This often comes off as a stereotypical film being made for no artistic reason. This isn't exactly a story that needed to be told, yet that doesn't excuse it from not being entertaining. Motivations are slim and twists are seen visible from a mile away. It's like looking at the basis of something good, yet the basis alone. Almost like a first draft being adapted in a way. (Some lines are flat-out laughable in the worst kind of way. Don't get me started on most of L3's dialogue or how Han got his last name.) I don't get the Kasdans getting their panties in a twist about Lord and Miller not sticking to the script when the writing really doesn't seem all that impressive. (I should also mention that I did not laugh once during this movie. May have chuckled once or twice, smiled a handful of times, but never laughed. Sigh.)

Alright, let's get this a little more positive. My favorite part of the film lies in the lengthy but engaging "Kessel Run" sequence. I have to admit that this was a pretty cool moment, not just in this film but in general. Sure, the entire basis of this event is based on a throwaway line from A New Hope, but it's clear that the filmmakers had fun with this and knew it was the right idea to make this the crux of the film. The surrounding environments, situations, and interactions were all well-executed and came off as intense as an event where you know the heroes will succeed can be. It was simple and honest fun. This, as well as the final showdowns in the film were good moments. I liked that this is the first Star Wars film where the final act isn't this momentous and absurdly grandiose stand-off between good and evil. It feels smaller and personal, which was a step in the right direction for this story.

Getting down to it, I can't say Solo: A Star Wars Story wasted my time. The first half ain't that great and the visuals and writing could use some upgrades, yet I was at least somewhat entertained enough to feel at least partially fulfilled by the time the credits rolled. That may come off as backhanded to the film, but I think that's what I'm trying to convey. This is a serviceable film. Structured to be average. Hell, I'll admit it. I liked this more than The Last Jedi. Even though I'm giving both films the same rating, there isn't much here that I wholeheartedly dislike and think was a directly stupid decision. It's fine. The movie is fine. Go if you want to. If you skip it, that's okay too. Disney, keep the movies coming, but just try to step up the game a little, okay? Thanks, Mickey.


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