Let’s face it, nobody asked for this film. In fact, once it was announced, many were avidly against it. A film about a character whose backstory we liked to be a mystery, featuring someone playing Han Solo other than Harrison Ford? You’re crazy. They seemed to misinterpret our love for Harrison Ford as Han Solo (basically one and the same anyway) to be a yearning for more of his story—which I guess was an understandable move—but the backlash has been astounding. I feel so sorry for lead actor Alden Ehrenreich. He’s been placed in a relatively lose-lose situation, with the option of either portraying a paler imitation of Harrison Ford’s rendition, or completely re-creating it—both of which are destined to go down badly.
I have never been so on the fence about a film before; I have been tossing and turning over whether or not I liked it, and by how much. What I know is that it definitely wasn’t as good as it should have been.
For a Star Wars film, this one’s pretty average; that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film, it just means our expectations for a Star Wars spin-off weren’t really met. But Star Wars doesn’t do average. Star Wars does spectacular. We hold them to high standards and when they don’t deliver, it’s sad and frustrating. It was an entertaining, albeit slightly depressing, adventure-self-discovery film. In fact, I don’t know if they would have ever been able to deliver on the promise of a good Solo spin-off … but I’ll get into that in a minute.
I’m happy to admit I liked some of the main aspects of the film—the arduous experiences Han Solo endures at the beginning make sense, and are interesting to watch. We look on as he enlists to fight for the Order (also known as the Empire, or the “bad guys”) and gradually works his way towards going back to Corellia for his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). He’s cocky and arrogant, with just enough skill to back it up, and his first meeting with Chewie is pretty dark and unexpected. I enjoyed watching these parts of his gritty beginning, which make up the renowned gun-for-hire, space cowboy, Han Solo. After all, he’s not supposed to be the fully-formed and charismatic, no-bullshit Solo we know and love. This is Han coming one step closer to becoming the version we’re used to; although I’m not sure if that’s enough reason for me to love the character portrayed, especially since Donald Glover’s Lando was so spectacularly Lando. If only we had a younger clone of Harrison Ford … sigh.
Surprisingly, Han Solo was often the least interesting guy in the room, which is not something I’m used to. He is constantly surrounded by a star-studded cast of, frankly, more intriguing and morally ambiguous characters, such as Beckett (Woody Harrelson), Qi’ra, and of course, Lando. Lando’s robotic companion, however, is a new and very memorable edition to the team.
L3-37 is the droid everyone’s been talking about. Self-modified and intuitive, she comes with a big message and an even bigger personality. For starters, she’s very feminine, designed with high “hips” and a very noticeable swagger that made her role in the film crystal clear—she’s there to provide a touch of the feminist agenda. Throughout the film she fights for equal rights for drones—and at times I liked it, and at other times I was like, I know what you’re doing Star Wars, you’re trying to appeal to us through your promotion of equal rights. But, really, it often feels kind of slapped in there. I’m not going to lie, I liked the character’s sass and her wonderful equality agenda, but I wish it had felt a little more natural in the film, instead of feeling as though they were putting L3 in just to prove Star Wars is “up-to-date” and “with it” … although I did love the robot rebellion she sparks.
And as “with it” as Star Wars would like to portray themselves, the phrase I heard thrown around the cinema was “checklist”. Everyone seemed to think that too much of the film was tied up as a list of items Solo needed to acquire before the end credits. He learns to fly; he gets his gun; oh look, he’s met Chewie; and yep, he’s got his ship. Han Solo’s adventures all rolled up into a neat little grocery list, that is quite often uncreatively ticked off; but once he does, the second half of the film upgrades to more of a show. I mean, I can always get behind some good heist scenes and Mexican-stand offs with the audience guessing who’s gonna backstab who first. And it is interesting to see Han Solo evolve from a rather optimistic battler to an even more world-weary guy who will shoot first, and ask for forgiveness later. They even threw in “I’ve got a good feeling about this”; a nice twist on his familiar, “bad feeling” phrase, which says a lot about how the character evolves.
Han’s girlfriend is also an interesting enigma. When the pair get separated in the beginning and reconnect later she is constantly reminding us that she’s done a lot of bad things. As a result, there’s this continuous questioning of whether or not they’ll be able to be together, despite what she’s gone through. Surely Han has committed unspeakable things too? I mean, he was a fighter for the First Order. I was drawn in again and again by this question of whether she was “too far gone” in this dark world of crime lords and gangs (which truly glistens on the surface but rots underneath) to ever be with him again. I mean, I’d like to learn more about where her story takes her; but don’t take that as a desire for another spin-off film. Sometimes it’s nice to not know all the answers, Star Wars.
And don’t even get me started on the possibility, or as some are saying, the inevitability of a Solo sequel. WE DO NOT NEED A SOLO SEQUEL. If they couldn’t nail it the first-time ‘round, they really don’t need another one. This was a nice experiment, but it didn’t quite lift off. And I don’t really know if it ever could. Because so many of us were unimpressed with the idea of a Solo film without Harrison Ford, that gave answers to questions nobody asked or even wanted to hear, so they had to bring it. They had to pull out all the stops to impress us. To prove that this was a good idea and to justify its existence as something other than another franchise piece to capitalise on our love of Star Wars—that, unfortunately for some, is beginning to spread real thin. They need to tread carefully from now on; which probably means no Solo sequel.
All in all, I enjoyed some aspects of the film. I liked the banter, I loved Glover as Lando, and I enjoyed watching the will-they-won’t-they relationship between Solo and Qi’ra develop. And if a pair of ex-street-fighters making out amongst Lando’s exuberant cape collection isn’t enough to make you want to see this film, then I don’t know what to tell you.
But I realised at the end that I never really felt I was watching Han Solo. I was watching another character in the universe, and he was a fine guy, but he certainly wasn’t Han Solo. This is probably going to spark a #notmysolo outbreak, like the #notmyluke after The Last Jedi. Then again, maybe we shouldn’t be so harsh. They tried something and it didn’t quite work; despite this, it was an entertaining film. But hey, I’ll let you be the judge of that.
‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is out in cinemas May 24.