Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story (Spoiler-Free)

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Don’t mind me. I’m just ticking all the boxes that SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY covers.

How Han Solo gets his name. Tick.
How Han meets Chewbacca. Tick.
How Han meets Lando Calrissian. Tick.
How Han wins the Millennium Falcon. Tick.
How Han makes the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. Tick.
How Chewbacca gets his nickname. Tick.
How old Chewbacca is. Tick.

STAR WARS fanboys and fangirls might be rubbing their hands with glee with this stand-alone backstory of filmdom’s most famous rogue with a heart but for the rest of us, this is just one very average fan-service movie that will hopefully confirm to the suits at Disney that they need to start looking beyond this far, far away galaxy for some new stories.

SOLO is a STAR WARS story that didn’t need to be told for the simple reason that it was going to be next to impossible to tell well. There was no way that Alden Ehrenreich (HAIL, CAESAR!) would be able to fill Harrison Ford’s shoes. If his characterisation were too close to Ford’s, many would scream “Cheap imitation!” Yet if it went too far astray, no one wouldn’t buy into it. This would be Ehrenreich’s personal Kessel Run and he would have to pull out all the stops to make it a success. To his credit, he did manage to thread that needle but, just like the Millennium Falcon, the actor emerged on the other side a little worse for wear. Yes, Ehrenreich was able to capture some of Solo’s mannerisms but he just doesn’t have Ford’s charisma. The result, unfortunately, is a Han Solo that we don’t really latch onto and fall in love with.

Equally unfortunate is the story of Han’s evolution from being a thieving orphan on the planet Corellia to an interplanetary Robin Hood, which is rather unimaginative and is devoid of any magic and wonder that made the original trilogy so legendary. I won’t get into it because that would be a spoiler but, suffice to say, we’ve seen it all before – and done better. The only exciting scene was the set piece involving a train that Han and his gang rob.

True to all STAR WARS films, SOLO introduces audiences to a bunch of new characters as well as a new droid. Unfortunately, none of the human characters are as interesting to watch as L3-37, a sassy, female-voiced robot that seems to have a thing going on with Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover, THE MARTIAN; SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING). There was talk a few weeks ago that Lando is pansexual but I just figured the writers were jumping on the DEADPOOL bandwagon. Does robot sex count and did we need to know? As for Glover, his task to channel Lando was almost as mammoth as Ehrenreich’s. The fankids are all hailing his performance as a success but it left me underwhelmed. Yes, his Lando is better than Ehrenreich’s Han but that’s a low bar to jump over. We don’t see much of Glover in this film – just a few scenes – so the demands are less. Finnish actor Joonas Suotamo, who plays Chewbacca, fares the best of the three but he has the benefit of already looking the part. He’s also played it twice before – in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, where he was Peter Mayhew’s body double, and again in STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI.

With a budget of US$250 million, SOLO needs to take in twice that amount at the box office to break even. Initial numbers from last weekend’s opening are not great and there is a good chance that the movie won’t turn a profit leaving fans to wonder if there will be more adventures of Han, Chewie and Lando in the future. Fear not, fankids, as it seems they’ll be back on the big screen in some form soon. It was recently announced that LOGAN director James Mangold has been signed to write and direct a Boba Fett film. So much for Disney moving on to other galaxies.

Do not see this film in 3D! Not only is it not worth the added expense, this film is visually very dark. With the 3D glasses on, you’ll be struggling to make out what’s on the screen. A few times I found myself taking the glasses off.

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live in RTHK Radio 4’s studio on Thursday, May 31st at 8:30 am HK time!

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