Much like we did for the Last Jedi, a few of us are going to review Solo: an Unnecessary Star Wars Story, the latest Star Wars anthology film. Not our Solo, he’s totally necessary and we like and tolerate him.
Obviously, some spoilers will happen here.
Ace’s Review and Rankings
I have never been so bored watching a Star Wars movie. That’s one thing I can say the prequels did that this movie didn’t do, which was stir up a reaction. Of course that reaction wasn’t all that positive, but it did something. Solo is like… it’s like that guy that interrupts an engrossing conversation you’re engaged in with some anecdotal story that really doesn’t have anything to do with what you were talking about, and then when he’s finished you turn back to your partner and say, “Anyways, as I was saying…”. It’s kind of like that.
As origin stories go, it really didn’t bring anything new to what we know about Han other than Qi’ra the love interest. And she was pretty inconsequential as it never really feels like their history shapes his personality to what we know about him starting with Episode IV. What we do know about Han is that he was a smuggler, did the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs, has a Wookiee partner named Chewbacca, and flies around in the Falcon which he won from Lando. The filmmakers decided to button up all of those things in a nice little bundle in a series of related events spanning what feels like a few days. Other than showing his humble beginnings and the love interest I mentioned earlier, we learn nothing new.
It just feels like a dad is telling a bedtime story based on loose pieces of information he has and ties it all up to make something sound coherent. And honestly it worked because I was struggling to stay awake during the last half of the movie.
I kind of questioned how engaging an origin story could be way back when the project was first announced. Someone mentioned a heist movie, and I think a movie like that could work if it was done well. A good heist movie I saw recently was Baby Driver and I really enjoyed that. A premise like that could have easily been adapted for Solo. But no, what we end up getting is a series of botched heist jobs that was just so boring to watch (by the way, you wouldn’t be wrong if you though the train scene was very Firefly-esque, but more boring). There was never any sense of danger, or that things were at stake. The characters were mostly forgettable (I challenge you to remember Woody Harrelson’s character’s name without looking it up on Google), and you know by the end that Han, Chewie, and Lando all make it out alive. So where’s the risk? Here’s a clue: there was none. Again, just all so meh and boring.
If you haven’t clued in by now, that’s kind of how I feel about the whole movie actually. And I can’t really pinpoint as to why. Was it the script? Was it the directing? It’s probably a little from column A and a little from column B. Changing directors midway through shooting certainly could not have helped it much. Knowing Phil Lord’s and Christopher Miller’s body of work, I was looking forward to seeing what they can do with Solo. And there is just the briefest flash of their touch on the movie that was left behind early during a scene where Han is trying to smooth talk his way out of a situation. But apparently Star Wars is supposed to be serious business and they were kicked off the project and Ron Howard was brought in.
I didn’t find that bit of news to be all that exciting. All of Ron’s movies are very safe. I don’t find his movies particular entertaining. Apollo 13 and Cinderella Man were particularly notable, and I think I enjoyed them more from the historical perspective as they were inspired by true events. Solo is too in a way, and maybe that’s Ron’s strength as a director, to retell stories that everyone already knows.
I really didn’t like this movie and after having the weekend to digest it, I think I’d place it below the prequels. It really is that boring. While the prequels have issues, there are some watchable moments that make firing it up on the TV worth while. Solo? Not so much.
Nick’s Review and Rankings
I had low expectations for this movie, and in thinking about it, I think I was still actually let down. I felt that it was a movie looking to answer questions that no one really wanted answered: how Han and Chewie met, how he got the Falcon from Lando, and why did he only ever own three outfits?
Based on my experience at the theater, most other people didn’t really care much about hearing those answers either. I saw it at a 7:45 showing at one of the more popular AMC theaters in the area. I bought my tickets on Friday, got great seats, and when the movie actually started the theater was probably less than half full. Not a great sign for a Star Wars movie during a holiday opening weekend.
Here’s the thing about Solo… it’s not a bad movie, but it’s not a good one either. It’s predictable… just paint by the numbers. I realize why there weren’t spoilers filling up my newsfeed… it’s a movie that spoils itself as you’re watching it. From the eyeroll-inducing opening exposition text, to the “monster” that Han gets thrown to being Chewie, to every one of the betrayals we see happen.
Worse than that… it makes the “Star Wars” part of the name pointless. Take away the names and some of the iconic ship designs and you have any number of Sci-Fi movies. Nothing about it fits or gels with the existing movies, TV shows, or stories. I’m not talking about the “canon” stuff, either, just the whole of it felt generic in a way that no other Star Wars thing ever has.
From a technical perspective, it was competent and seemingly directed well. None of the characters were bad, per se, and the acting was fine by everyone, sometimes better than that. Donald Glover continues to be amazing and does a great job as a younger Lando. The stuff between Han and Chewie quite often works well, and Chewie as a whole is great. The rest are fine, but unlike Rogue One, I’m not left wanting to hear more about them.
I actually quite liked the train scene, it was a good heist scene that had a great Sci-Fi bend (though outside of some sound effects and a couple of tiny CGI stormtroopers, nothing Star Wars-y about it). Sadly, I can’t say the same for the Kessel Run, the whole thing that this movie was seemingly constructed around explaining. Sure, they made the distance thing make sense and maybe it will kill that joke off forever, but it was just stupid in the end.
It was an amalgamation of unnecessary stuff to try and ramp up the stakes. Adding the Imperial pilots chasing them, all the rocks that were seemingly floating around and making “space” look like it was tiny (a parsec is actually 3.26 light years, so making it in 12, rounding down, would still make it almost 40 light years distance). I also assume the monster only existed to make Phantom Menace’s underwater section look like hard science. But, ultimately, it was the Maw that really ruined the whole thing for me.
My dismissal of the EU is on record here, but there were some cool things in it, and Disney had been pretty tactical about bringing in some of the good stuff into the canon. The Maw, it was a cluster of black holes that made navigating around them nearly impossible. In this movie we got… some orange thing that was tiny and somehow drawing everything in… except those mountains that were blocking the way out. Interstellar wasn’t a good movie but it gave us an amazing black hole. Solo gave us something just lame… probably the worst Star Wars effect like that ever.
As for what is apparently an obligatory “cameo” now, the reveal of the big boss was just dumb and overdone. They could have left it as just showing us robot legs, for viewers of Clone Wars and Rebels, and then given us a view of the eyes under the hood. But they wen’t farther, and it just became a big bucket of sighs. Qi’ra, despite the unfortunate spelling of her name, was a good character, but that basically sucked any interest from me at seeing where she went after this. We know what happens to her new boss, thanks to Rebels. And what happens is awesome, and the fight and climax of his arc is, quite simply, amazing, and the best thing to come out of a show that was full of great things.
Besides, there remains one definitive Han Solo Origin story.
So how do I rank this thing? That’s kind of the problem. In my mind, it’s the worst Star Wars film by a pretty wide margin, because it’s basically not a Star Wars film. As a film, it’s better than Episode II for quality, and the plot, while predictable, is certainly better than the boredom of Episode I. But if I put the films in the order I enjoy them, I would still go like this:
- Empire Strikes Back
- Return of the Jedi (come at me!)
- Rogue One
- Star Wars
- Last Jedi
- The Force Awakens
- Revenge of the Sith
- The Phantom Menace
- Attack of the Clones
- Solo, a Star Wars Story
The ranking isn’t because of anything canon-related… nothing in the movie was overly offensive in that regard. We got some good fan-service things (like Chewie’s wife showing up for a brief moment), and some terrible ones (the “boss”), but this movie doesn’t give you a reason to go back and watch it again to puzzle out subtle points. It introduced some new characters that were interesting and promptly discarded them… those who last to the end we know, for the most part, what happened. The only one that could be interesting is Enfys Nest, the pirate boss, but her being the genesis of the rebellion doesn’t much sense, given that we know that spark existed since RotS thanks to Rebels. On our scale, I’d call this thing, generously, a two out of five. Unlike the prequels, which have some good things or let me get a Star Wars fix (or better, get my daughter to watch them with me)… I’m not sure if I’ll bother watching this one again.
Ace here. I’m going to have to agree with Nick and give it a 2. I was leaning towards a 1 but it isn’t quite steaming pile that a 1 implies. But is it the worst? Probably.