SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY Review

By Victoria Alexander, Film Critic

The director(s) left Han in the background. The iconic Solo deserved a better origin story. A seasoned actor would have demanded more presence and not a hobbled, wimpy love story. A typical Ron Howard movie lacking passion.

Director Ron Howard is hailed as one of Hollywood’s safest, “get the job done”  directors. What is on the page gets filmed in a timely manner: The budget doesn’t get bloated with $20,000 worth of custom cigars, the maybe orgies never get blind itemed, and everything goes smoothly. Passion, sex and eroticism are not Howard’s milieu. If you are not already a star, you cannot count on Howard to make you one.

If you are a hot super hero sex god looking for dramatic legitimacy via director Ron Howard, you’ve been warned.

Alden Ehrenreich, you need better management. First, if I were to see SOLO again, how many times would I count you being called “kid”? Or being placed in the background in group shots? Letting Woody Harrelson dominate every scene he is in shows off his 30 years in movies. He knows where the camera is. He knows how to play a scene so his best “take” is the one used. In SOLO, he even wears the most outer clothes, so he fills up the screen. Do you really think Harrelson just put on the costume the wardrobe department gave him? You need me on your next film. These tiny things are what I would notice. I would also demand you get more chiseled close-ups. You got skinny for this role, so why not show off? I would watch for any scene-stealing maneuvers from veterans. I’d make sure the editor picked the scenes that favored you.

I am not a STAR WARS ultra-maniacal fan, but I do have a vivid memory of the iconic character of Han Solo, from back in the day. Whoever takes the credit, be it Jonathan Kasdan and his father, Lawrence Kasdan, or any of the others who toyed with the screenplay, SOLO delivers an origin story that denies its main character will develop into the harden, self-interest underground rogue, Han Solo.

As an aside, children of A & B-list actors and actresses always seem to be following in the family’s business, but screenwriters? Is screenwriting a STAR WARS movie now the family business to be passed on?

It is being reported by Variety that 85% of the previous directors’ work, that is Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s rumored Ace Ventura comedic filming, had to be reshot, even second unit material! So the second unit’s crew were also playing fast and loose with the hallowed written page. Howard’s four-month shoot entitled him to have the sole director credit. I am sure that Howard had absolutely no intention of coming in and cleaning up someone else’s mess without getting that credit. Would the president of Lucasfilm suggest otherwise?

It will take Han Solo ten more years to come into his original STAR WARS persona. In SOLO he is a teen thief (aka, a smuggler) with a big crush on a “way too savvy” partner-girlfriend, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). Trying to flee from their muddy home planet of Corellia, they steal a valuable item. Making it to a transit point, Han slips through airport security but Qi’ra gets caught.

Han’s sidekick Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) is his real constant love interest – they shower together – and yes, we see how Han was initially hoodwinked by the most dandy-dressed Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Han’s naiveté sat down at the gambling table before he did.

Finally, we see what happened to primal survivor Qi’ra. Yes, the girl did show potential and landed squarely in the cat-bird’s seat – that is, as top lieutenant to an explosive, dolled-up, dancing villain, Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). Is it more than a working relationship? Unfortunately, the timing is rather bad, what with Qi’ra sporting Dryden’s logo as a tattoo indicating her place in Vos’s empire eerily similar to the recently revealed branding of the Nxivm cult’s sex slaves.

This truly being an Empire far, far away dealing with beings of all kinds, why is a romance between Calrissian and his tough-talking droid, L3-37 (Phoebe-Waller Bridge), so implausible? I say, why not? Droids are thinking, feeling metal beings! They can always adopt.

Fitting neatly into the canon is the spitting-new Millennium Falcon. All the original set pieces are in place. Han’s ruthless bravado, so cleverly created by Harrison Ford, still does not match up as SOLO closes. Han is left abandoned by love and hasn’t yet an inkling, not even a passing thought, to realize the man he would become.

If Howard had to throw out 85% of the stuff formerly shot, then someone offered up the SNOWPIERCER landscape as a quick fix and to appropriate the train sequence that opened CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011). Though I recall that the stunning train sequence from CASINO ROYALE (2006) may have been the first time a hero jumped on top of a high-speed moving train.

Hollywood loves Academy Award-winning filmmaker and great guy Ron Howard but his last few films have been box office disappointments. IN THE HEART OF THE SEA (2011) starring hot, hot Chris Hemsworth, was rumored to have negatively harmed Hemsworth “quote.” Thank God for Thor! And did anyone remember seeing INFERNO (2016)? Howard delivered exactly what LucasFilm and Disney Studios wanted: A safe, middle of the road, plotless and inoffensive origin movie.

It was so glaring to me that happy-go-lucky Alden Ehrenreich needed a strong director who was there solely to bring him to movie star status. There were vast departments of technicians that did the heavy SF scenes. For Ehrenreich, being a background player in his own origin story is not his fault. Let’s throw some shade at the film’s editor, Pietro Scalia. There wasn’t any footage where Aldren showed off a devilish magnetism and testosterone-rich charm?

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/.

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at victoria.alexander.lv@gmail.com.

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