So much anticipation and floundering gossip… and for what?
The buzz surrounding the Han Solo standalone film has faced the full gamut of hopeful speculation to bemused criticism. Innuendo to chew from the rumor mill, spilled forth on the information mesa of internet blogs for Star Wars fans to marinate upon, has caused audiences and fans to hesitate before embracing Ron Howard’s submission to the beloved cinematic epic. From the birth of an iconic friendship between Wookiee and human, to the famous 12-parsec Kessel Run, this film aims to chronicle how the galaxy’s most suave maverick came into his own as a lone wolf with a pet bear. Unfortunately, the film sputters like a Millennium Falcon running on fumes ultimately leaving a quasi-comprehensible blaster burn on the audience’s brain by the end of its 2 hour 15 minute runtime.
Naturally, the buzz surrounding Solo has sent the beehive churning out both honey and vinegar regarding possibilities for Han and Chewey in their younger years. Once upon a time, the quick-witted smuggler was the epitome of a sharp, smooth sailor to audiences thirsty for a renegade living by the seat of his ship. What we receive instead with Alden Ehrenreich’s interpretation of the beloved star-jumping cowboy is a brooding box-headed child searching for his soul on a Wal-Mart graphic tee and speaking out of the side of his mouth. We are delivered the reckless self-absorbed rebel, but what the new film lacks is giving Han any sense of vindication for his destructive acts.
There is a lack of direction with not only the character, but the film’s story bounces around with more senseless ricochet than a blaster bolt in the garbage compactor on the Death Star Detention Level. By the time Lando Calrissian makes his much anticipated appearance there is no urgency to the mission at hand. Donald Glover admittedly holds his own in the iconic role of a cheating gambler with charm for miles; his sly smirk and incredulous eyebrow raising add a dimension to the younger Calrissian we only see hints of in the original trilogy. Glover brings his natural lofty charisma to the role and steals the screen whenever he comes through with his slight-of-hand card tricks and cowl whips. Beyond he and Chewey’s immortalized gurgle-growls, there is enough nostalgic appeal to keep butts in their seats (barely). If you thought he was good in this movie, just wait until you see his hit music video This Is America.
One of the main reasons Star Wars has had such lasting appeal to audiences over the past four decades is their ability to create an immersive world so fantastic yet familiar to our own. We know Kashyyk, Alderaan, Endor, and Hoth; we know their foliage, climates, inhabitants, and where they lie in the battle against the totalitarian Empire. Solo felt like a glitch in the matrix of the Star Wars universe: nothing felt familiar or organic, like medieval knight surfing a 50 foot wave. On an aesthetic level and in concept: rad, suave, badass, cooler than a cucumber if executed properly; ultimately though it is clunky, awkward, unable to find its balance or footing, and eventually finding itself way in over its head and drowning with no life preserver in sight.
Divided We Fall
Due in large part to two writing crews tackling the script, hesitation on how to approach the Kessel Run, and a botched marketing strategy, we can’t help but get the sense that one of the most beloved cinematic characters suffered his due diligence because Disney prioritized their checkbook over compelling story and really profited off the Force. It took everything to not get up and leave during the final 20 minutes of the film, and while the cameo at the end pays off there is still no getting back the other two hours I spent looking for any sense of rationale in the latest Star Wars cinematic experience.