Solo: A Star Wars Story

Friday, 5 October 2018

There are stories that yearn to be told. There are stories that get told as pot-boilers. Then there are stories that leave you wondering, “Why are you telling me this?” and whether you’ll get the last two hours of your life back Sadly, ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ falls into that last category.

There is always a problem with prequels. It’s hard to maintain tension in an action-adventure story when pretty much everyone in the world knows that the central character gets out alive. In this film you can add another two characters who feature in this film alongside the title character. Ron Howard - a skilled and experienced director - had his work cut out for him here. Sadly I think that the challenge overwhelmed him.

This isn’t a terrible movie. It isn’t an awful movie. No. It’s worse than that. It’s a boring movie. I rented it on iTunes for £4.49 because I like Star Wars movies. They are meant to be entertaining. This movie isn’t and I regret paying this tiny proportion of my wage for it. 

OK. Engage teacher mode. Be positive. What’s good about ‘Solo’? Like all Star Wars movies the cinematography is gorgeous, settings are well realised, special effects are brilliant. Kudos to all the folk who were involved in any of that stuff. Kudos too to Emilia Fox who plays the role of the young Han Solo’s love who is turned - with paralysing predictability - to the the Dark side. (Seriously? You didn’t see that coming?) The only problem is their scenes together fail to communicate any spark of relationship at all. If we were looking for chemistry I’m afraid we’re deep into inert gas territory here

Aside from that the acting performances in this film are somewhere between adequate and dreadful. Genuinely, one of the most engaging performances comes from a droid called L3. Alden Ehrenreich has clearly studied Harrison Ford’s portrayal of the Han Solo character and captures his arrogance and confidence, but very little else. Childish Gambino’s portrayal of a younger Lando Calrissian is adequate. He says his lines and does his best to portray a character but, truth to tell, I’ve seen better in amateur theatre. Then again, these are young, relatively inexperienced actors. The same cannot be said of Woody Harrelson, who seems to have phoned in his performance.

So, I fear, did Ron Howard. Sure, he was given a script which is plotting by numbers and lines that would still be too embarrassing to say even with a skinful of whiskey. Sure, too, he is burdened now by a whole generation of previous films and expectations. Still, ‘workmanlike’ is the most charitable word that can be applied to the direction here. The problem for most of this film is one of pace. It is uniform. Tediously and unremittingly uniform. No sense of excitement is ever really generated. No sense that things are moving too quickly fo the characters to deal with them is generated - that’s rather important in and action-adventure film.

Disney bought the Star Wars franchise. With it they bought a problem. George Lucas conceived Star Wars as a nine-film arc rather than a franchise. Disney wants a franchise that extends the Star Wars universe beyond that arc. That’s possible. But it may well mean leaving the iconic characters of the franchise they bought behind. That, I suppose, is why this film is no more than briefly entertaining. It’s lazy. Take a franchise you’ve bought and tell “off-arc” stories about popular characters within that franchise. There is absolutely nothing new here - least of all imagination. Everything we needed to know about Han Solo we learned in the first three films. This film added nothing. That may well be the worst thing that can be said of a film.