This month the DVD/Blu-ray edition of the latest of the revival Star Wars films hit the shelves and it gave me chance to give it a long hard look.
Solo like perhaps most of the recent films has its critics but for me, there’s only one major flaw in the story as a whole and that is casting. This was always going to be a problem and the problem is that Alden Eldenriech is not Harrison Ford, not in a month of Sundays and it takes considerable time in the film to accept him as Solo. I do not think however that anyone they picked for the role would have fitted, Solo is Ford and Ford is Solo, the two are indistinguishable. The rest of the casting is good, Donald Glover is excellent as Lando, it is easier to see him become the man we see in Empire Strikes Back and Emilia Clarkes Qi’ra was well played and distinct from other roles. I would have prefered Woody Harrelson’s Beckett role to be played by more of an unknown actor, I think that would have given more depth to the character and made him less predictable.
The most interesting thing about Solo is how refreshing the story was without the Empire or the Rebellion as main players. Yes, they were present and the omnipresent threat of the Empire gives credence to the motives of the Rebellion without dominating the narrative. This was a surprise to me as the Jedi, Rebellion and Empire have always been central to my enjoyment of Star Wars. Perhaps this is why people disliked the film, it is after all your basic heist film with twists, turns, betrayals and actions just set in the Star Wars universe.
As a heist movie, it ticks all the boxes, the assembly of a team, the loss of key crew, a plan looking like its going wrong and then the clever reveal to show the hero knew it all along. This is a standard trope and works in the context it is set, its the universe of Star Wars that drew my interest, the ordinary people, the gangsters, the planets.
Characterisation outside of the lead characters was good, Beckett’s first crew has very little screen time but you very quickly identify with them. In many ways Chewbacca was the anchor of the film, he is the only one we are totally familiar with in a visual sense. He acted as a kind of signpost towards what Solo would become and link the movies together. Their first meeting was interesting I like how they started out as enemies with Chewbacca as the beast slowly regaining his ‘humanity’ once Han was able to talk to him. What was left ambiguous was how Han knew Shriiwook and a direct connection to the Wookies that were rescued on Kessel, this felt like a missed opportunity.
The escape from Kessel, of course, filled the need for ace flying and met the fan service of the single line in the Original film, however, the dash through the maelstrom was somewhat unsatisfying. It helpfully resolved the Falcons dishevelled condition in a New Hope and gave life to the ‘parsecs’ line but the monster however well rendered was weak in narrative terms, an easy story point rather than something that added weight to the moment. For me, the Kessel Run needed to be something other pilots were doing but Han did faster, quicker, better rather than accidentally.
Visually the film is what you would expect from a Star Wars film and was stunning, everything fitted into the universe well and it was nice to see a Vibroblade in life and a mix of new aliens although I still hanker from more of our familiar species such as the Twi’lek, Sullustan or Rodian something the new films seem focused on denying us.
So where do we end up on this analysis? It’s quite simple, Solo is a fun movie. Its a nice divergence from the existing opus of work and stands nicely on its own. Just ignore Max as Han, imagine Ford, ignore the silly reason for Solo’s surname and revel in the action, oh and one more thing, can we have more of L3-37, the stories, underated hero.