Solo Plays It Safe with an Iconic Character Known for Taking Risks
I often credit the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels for fostering my love of reading at an early age. While not exactly Faulkner-quality prose, the familiar characters allowed me to read narratively complex stories in elementary school. I’ll always be grateful to the EU for opening that door for me, even as I recognized that its end made sense from a logistical perspective as Star Wars looked to the future.
The balance of fan service has been a central pillar of the Disney era. Star Wars movies have never just been movies. These are films that carry deeper meanings to the millions of fans who have obsessed over them for decades. Future Star Wars installments will always be received not just on their own merits, but what fans wanted them to be.
Kylo Ren’s urging to “let the past die” in The Last Jedi carried the sense that it was speaking to the fanbase at large, reminding us all that this is just entertainment. If Solo: A Star Wars Story was viewed solely through the prism of an action movie, the reception would likely be much better. As a movie, it is very entertaining.
As a Star Wars movie, it’s safe. Too safe to star a character who once uttered the phrase, “never tell me the odds.” Han is a bold character. You wouldn’t necessarily pick up on that from Alden Ehrenreich’s performance. Harrison Ford’s presence will always linger no matter what, but Ehrenreich made the mistake of not giving the audience something else to chew on. He does an adequate job with a character where adequate would never be enough.
Donald Glover succeeds where Ehrenreich fails in his portrayal of Lando Calrissian, which keeps the essence of Billy Dee Williams’ iconic performance while adding a new layer to the character. His Lando is an affectionately faithful adaptation of the character that Glover still manages to make his own. I’d be very interested in a spinoff featuring the character, who has more depth than the rest of the cast combined, excluding Joonas Suotamo’s Chewbacca, who continues to excel as the emotional backbone of the franchise.
Solo suffers from too many callbacks, an issue that plagued A Force Awakens, especially in repeat viewings. I’m not sure how many fans really cared to see how Han would make the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs before the film came out, and I’m sure that number is smaller after its release. In this realm, Solo probably suffers from a bit of franchise fatigue, as TFA largely escaped criticism essentially functioning as a remake of A New Hope.
The novelty of new Star Wars movies has certainly worn off. Kylo Ren can tell us to give up the past, but Disney wants to have it both ways by constantly reminding us of earlier, better entries to the series. Solo is not a bad movie, but it exists as part of a franchise that has safe distance from the prequels. Entertaining isn’t going to be enough for plenty of people.
My past Star Wars related articles have grappled with the fandom dilemma. I’ll always see the franchise as that thing I obsessed over as a child. I’ve forged friendships based on a common love of obscure quotes from the original trilogies. I know that this thing belongs to Disney now. I’ll always see Star Wars as more than just a movie franchise, but it is no longer something I obsess about. I let Star Wars go. As a result, I left the theatre satisfied with two hours of an enjoyable narrative.
Solo never wanted to be more than a decent movie. Fans have come to expect something more from Star Wars. In a movie laced with callbacks and references, it’s hard to fault them for not letting go. Disney can tell us to forget the past, but it should take its own advice with future entries.