In the ever-expanding universe of Star Wars, there are many new stories to be told, but Disney and fellow producers continue to run towards the past. Unable to follow their own themes in “letting the past die,” Star Wars is a universe that remains to be investigated, but in a way that is more familiar than distinct. Another chapter in this ongoing prelude to the original trilogy is focused on one of the galaxies most brash heroes in Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich).
Exploring the iconic outlaws upbringing with a few adventures such as his first meeting with the infamous Wookie Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and the story behind his sensational 12 parsecs run in the Millenium Falcon. His first meeting with the captivating Lando (Donald Glover) and the small stories behind the golden dice and the blaster pistol are the highlights of the one hundred and thirty-five minute series of space adventures starring Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich). These things are those nostalgic connections in between our story which focuses on Han (Alden Ehrenreich). We meet him as a young man in the midst of escaping from slavery. He’s not alone though, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) is the woman who's here to assist him along this journey.
In the midst of their escape, they are separated, leaving Han (Alden Ehrenreich) to join the Empire fleet. Unable to follow commands though, he is kicked out of the flight academy for “having a mind of his own” as Han (Alden Ehrenreich) argues. Sent down to the grunts of the Galactic ranks, Han (Alden Ehrenreich) becomes one of those men that questions every order, and only follows his own commands. One of these ideas leads him to join a ragtag group of criminals who are there in hiding to steal a ship, one that leads Han (Alden Ehrenreich) to an introduction of an underworld in which he learns the new laws of the land that he now resides in.
Joining a team of smugglers, thieves, and killers so that he can smuggle, thieve and kill his way back to Corellia to save the woman he loves, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), from a life of slavery. But all of this is a small series of moments leading us to our next folktaled story, which is sort of the problem with “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” It's like that little kid attempting to become something of his own by copying everyone else. He’s adorable to watch because he doesn’t know any better, but you realize the lack of success he’s likely to achieve. “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is that kid, in the sense that it never stands on its own two feet, but rather the legs that allowed the original trilogy to stand head and shoulders over the rest.
It’s a story that has very little attached to it other than the behind the scenes stories of the iconic tales that Han (Alden Ehrenreich), himself, has told us about for years. Co-written by the legendary Lawrence Kasdan (“Raiders of the Lost Ark” & “The Empire Strikes Back”) and his son Jonathan Kasdan (“The First Time”), “Solo: A Star Wars Story” has enough memorable moments within it to become something worth watching. Whether it's the back stories behind character relationships or the witnessing of stories we’ve heard mentioned in by our favorite outlaw time and time before, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” tells those stories with charm and dignity and even tosses in a surprise or two.
Yet, I find myself searching for things that make this movie stand on its own two feet, and nothing plants that claim on to this story. It’s a series of adventures with Han (Alden Ehrenreich), and never an experience that feels distinct or unique. When those stories do appear, they’re given little oomph to them, including Han (Alden Ehrenreich) himself.
Alden Ehrenreich already had his hands tied behind his back, following up the iconic Harrison Ford is a tough hill to overcome, but mimicking the character instead of making it your own, might as well as placed a CGI rendered Harrison Ford in his place. Alden tries as hard as he can to make this character his own though, providing a performance that has an essence of charm to it that gives the story much more than it gives him. Giving that oomph of charisma that the screenplay lacks, Alden has his fair share of moments that allow him to call himself young Han Solo.
I have to say “young” Han Solo because none of the stories add anything to Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich). We see the brash and charming character we’ve all seen before, but we never learned what made him that way, nor do we see the tiny intricacies that make Han (Alden Ehrenreich) feel different. We don’t see that frustrated arrogance in which he’s constantly infuriated when someone doesn’t know how to do something that seems simple to him, “that’s not how the force works.” We don’t see more of the man behind the facade; we get the manifestation of the legend, which feels cheap, corporately made, and lacking a human touch.
Someone that has maybe too much of human touch is Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) whose enchanting appeal is dialed to an eleven by Donald Glover. You feel that constant impression of sleekness and captivation, and he’s also given some backstory to his character. We see a Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) that has retired young and become tied down to being a sportsman, betting away his life savings, but always staying a step or two ahead of everyone’s game. His co-pilot, L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) almost steals the show like that of K-2SO from “Rogue One.” Her humor is the best moments of the film as it plays on the idea of android liberation from indentured slavery, but it's placed in a way that feels more like a someone screaming for attention in a way that is played for a great swell of comedy. (There is a lot of slavery in Star Wars by the way)
Emilia Clarke (Queen Daenerys Targaryen) shares some of the most intimate of scenes with Alden, but they fall into the distance more often than they should. She delivers a superb performance, but her character is never given that time to stand out. She could be that tool that pries open Han (Alden Ehrenreich) for the audience, but she carries him to his next adventure more often than not. Woody Harrelson is satisfying, and Chewy (Joonas Suotamo) is handled remarkably, but this screenplay seems to be missing a lot of vibrancy and specialty, much like the visuals of Ron Howard’s direction.
He provides a toned down image of the Star Wars universe. Following in the footsteps of the visual language set by “Rogue One” in which grey turns to black, and the skies seem to be cloudy at all times. It’s a bleaker color pallet than we’re accustomed too and one that can become a bit difficult to adjust your eyes to. Specifically, the battle scenes of Han’s (Alden Ehrenreich) days as a ground soldier, the darkness of the screen makes it difficult to follow the action. When those bright red laser beams arrive, it’s almost disorienting because it's a spark of vibrant color firing into a screen of overcast framing. When that glow of Star Wars finally appears, the action scenes can be something to behold, and those special moments that we’ve heard so much of are handled with a degree of respect that can bring a smile to the best of Star Wars fans.
Those smiles may wear thing though, as “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is a movie that changed its filmmakers in mid-production, and it's noticeable. It feels like a tone that is far too bland at times, but also distant from an emotional anchor to bring it back down from the galaxy that lies far far away from us. It’s not Alden’s depiction or John Powell’s adaptation of John Williams’ mythical score that explains that lack of Star Wars juice to be found in “Solo: A Star Wars Story” though, it's that vacuum of emotion. Nothing is tethering this film down to earth, or to us.
It’s far away from us, it's almost see-through, and it's a film that satisfies the general audience more than those who have stuck along for the ride. It favors the masses instead of those who have spent their time reading the canon of Star Wars, but for those of us who’ve debated and grown up with this universe, it becomes far too strenuous to see the forest through the trees. I hope this isn’t your first Star Wars movie, because there is so much more magic to be found in the galaxy from a long time ago than just this nostalgic driven adventure.