Movie Review: “Solo” – Who Needs The Force?

Written by Jeremiah Greville May 30, 2018

Solo

Wow, it finally happened! A Star Wars movie under-performed at the box office. Look to the heavens — it might start snowing or raining cats and dogs. Star Wars has been considered an ‘evergreen’ media property for decades. The toys, the books, the video games, and especially the movies have been immune to failure, even when critically-reviled. People just love Star Wars. But then along came Solo, the second non-saga film to be released since Disney bought the property for $4 Billion in 2012. Plagued with behind-the-scenes drama and rumoured to be over-budget, Solo stoked fears well before release. And now, out in theatres, those fears have been realized. Leave it to a scruffy-looking nerf-herder to play with our hopes.

When big summer releases come out, rival studios plan ahead. Release dates are often shifted to give at least two weeks between tentpole films. Most of the time this is good business practice, as large releases often attract audiences long past opening weekends. But this means that the movies released in the weeks in between tentpole films are almost always smaller scale, and smaller earning. When a tentpole film underperforms at the box office, it affects everything. Solo’s low numbers will hurt the entire industry — especially theatres. Hopefully it will make the larger studios reconsider their tentpole strategy, and increase production of more mid-sized features. Never tell me the odds…but still, I have a bad feeling about those chances. Solo‘s box office will most likely only affect future Star Wars marketing. Disney didn’t spend billions on the franchise not to make it all back and then some.

“Sorry I punched you in the face.”

But that’s just the set up — here’s the punchline: Solo isn’t half-bad. It’s not the best Star Wars film around, but it’s perfectly entertaining and zips along without too much fuss. Solo stars Alden Ehrenreich as a young Han Solo on a quest to buy a ship. He’s joined by Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra, a childhood friend,and Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett, his criminal mentor. Paul Bettany chews the scenery as the movie’s villain, Dryden Vos. But by now you may of heard of another guy named Donald Glover. He absolutely steals the show as a young Lando Calrissian. There’s more to tell, of course, but those are the basics. There won’t be any spoilers in this review, but don’t be too worried — Solo isn’t a spoiler-heavy film. It’s light and breezy and fast-paced, but sometimes too much for it’s own good.

Solo

Alden Ehrenreich was great in 2016’s Hail, Caesar! and seemed like a solid choice to fill Harrison Ford’s iconic boots. But those boots are iconic for a reason, and the first trailer for Solo suspiciously limited his presence. Luckily, he’s pretty good in the role. He’s the roguish every-man the movie needs, and his performance is buoyed by brash, youthful confidence. But he’s not exactly the Han Solo you’ll recognize. His tone is softer, and his voice is less resonant. At times in the movie, this is played up as a strength. Ehrenreich’s Solo is still unsure, and on his way to becoming Ford’s classic cynic. But because Solo is less a character film than an action film, not enough time is spent to fully develop this idea. Ehrenreich’s Solo is trying very hard. Ford’s Solo was effortless.

“We’ve already got the pilot.”

But that’s where Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian comes in. Everything you’ve heard about his performance is true, and unlike Ehrenreich, Glover does seem as effortless in the roll as Billy Dee Williams once did. Glover’s Lando is smooth and charming, but cowardly and vulnerable at times. He’s a wonderful character that really does deserve a film of his own. Woody Harrelson is predictably great as Tobias Becket, but there’s much worth saying beyond that. Paul Bettany plays up the charming duplicity of Dryden without becoming a full caricature, but doesn’t get enough screen time to really enjoy his role. Emilia Clarke, however, acquits herself quite nicely as Qi’ra, even if the script doesn’t give her that much to work with. Solo, however, does seem to hint at furthering Qi’ra’s story. Hopefully we’ll see her and Lando return in a future film.

Solo

Solo is a Star Wars western, through and through. You’ll see the Star Wars versions of car chases, train heists, slave miners, and high-stakes poker games, along with the standard blaster fights and spaceship escapes. Solo isn’t ever overly sentimental or self-serious, but loses a lot with its brisk pacing. While there’s plenty of humour, it almost all falls short. You can see the jokes coming, and wave to them as they pass without a laugh. It’s not that the jokes in Solo are bad, but that the timing and delivery is completely glossed over. This is probably the biggest casualty of the director switch to Ron Howard, from Phil Lord & Christopher Miller. However, unlike Rogue One, Solo feels like the same film throughout. There’s no sense of competing visions or narratives, and you can’t see the seams or cracks where two versions were sewed together.

“You want to live, Sparky?”

And finally, Solo is almost completely — thankfully–devoid of the Force. Solo proves that it’s ultimately not necessary for the Star Wars films to rely on the Force as a concept — or even allude to it. Even though Solo has under-performed at the box office, it’s shown Disney that they can open up the Star Wars universe to new storytelling ideas. Rogue One was a war movie, and Solo is their western. The Star Wars anthologies can be so much more than the main series, if given the chance. But first they’ll have to win over audiences. It’s unclear at this point if Solo will ever do that, but if you’re interested in the character or the universe, you can do worse for a summer action film. The Force isn’t with Solo, but who needs it anyway?

My Rating: 7/10

Solo Poster

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About Jeremiah Greville

Jeremiah Greville is a pretty rad beard that's attached itself to a human face. The beard likes movies, television, comic books, and gentle finger rubs. The human likes pizza and sleep. When they work together, they write reviews. Hope you enjoy them!

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