Star Wars is a franchise which is hugely popular, commercially and critically. This new leg of the franchise has given us the excellent The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi which were solid additions to the main franchise, as well as the side stories, Rogue One, and now this. Every review under the sun will talk about the well publicised production troubles with original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller being replaced by Oscar winner Ron Howard. The film follows the exploits of young Han Solo on his journey to become the iconic space smuggler we know and love.
This film is an exceptionally mediocre experience. While it isn’t the trainwreck expected and does offer many pleasures, they are few and far between and aren’t quite enough to mask the general sense that the film is inessential. The performances vary from excellent and charismatic to leaden and unsurprising. Alden Ehrenreich is quite good as Han Solo, not doing an impersonation of Harrison Ford whilst capturing the spirit of the character. Woody Harrelson is always great value and is utterly convincing as the man who mentored Solo. He’s the best of the new characters and makes you want to see more. This comes more from Harrelson’s performance rather than the strength of his character.
Emilia Clarke is unremarkable as always, and Thandie Newton is a bland presence in her role. Donald Glover is particularly dull as Lando, smothering his usual charisma with a poor impersonation of Billy Dee Williams. Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge is stuck in a slightly irritating part and never overcomes the often cringe-worthy humour of her social justice warrior robot. Jon Favreau is likeable but underserved and Paul Bettany is incredibly generic as a scarred crime boss.
As is often the case with Star Wars, the characters who don’t speak english are often the most entertaining and this film is no exception. Chewbacca steals the show once again with a charm, likeability and warmth so often lacking in the human characters. He may be a man in a suit, but he will never cease to be loveable.
The film is distinctly lacking in certain other areas as well. The cinematography is appallingly underlit in certain scenes which means you have to squint through murk and shadow to understand what’s going on. It’s quite worrying that a multi-million dollar Disney project is so amateurly shot. I find this difficult to blame on Howard and co as they were not given the time required to properly prep the film and it shows. For those of you who yearn to see Lord and Miller’s cut, I would warn caution. However disappointing Howard’s version is, the small moments of clumsy comedy which appear to be held over from their cut seem to point at a muddled awkward mess.
Overall, Solo is a passable journey to a galaxy far, far away which leaves the memory almost as soon as the credits roll. If The Last Jedi was not reverential enough to Star Wars lore, then Solo might be a refreshingly safe option. However, I found it a distinctly unambitious film with some glaringly disappointing mistakes. Fingers crossed for Episode Nine.