What ‘s wrong with the Star Wars brand now that it inspired awe and huge fandoms in the past but can now simply muster an “okay” reaction? What does it say about Solo: A Star Wars Story when directly after watching the movie, I felt like the Star Wars spin-offs should probably stop. “Star Wars fatigue” hasn’t set in yet but if Solo is any indication, that will be the case sooner than later. I really wanted to feel the excitement I felt watching Star Wars as a kid, but all I felt watching Solo was… meh.

Synopsis

Solo: A Star Wars Story is the second installment of the Star Wars spin-off movies after 2016’s Rogue One to be released under the “A Star Wars Story” banner. So far both have been prequels. While Rogue One was essentially a direct prequel to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Solo is an origin story of sorts for the iconic Han Solo character. The premise of Solo is basically how Han met Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian, as well as how he came to possess the Millenium Falcon. It’s also the story of how Han Solo becomes the legendary smuggler and outlaw he’s known to be in the original Star Wars trilogy.

Is Alden Ehrenreich a worthy Han Solo?

Even when Solo was initially announced, people have already derided the choice of casting actor Alden Ehrenreich as the young Han Solo. I’m here to say that although I went into the movie expecting the worst, it was better than I expected. Alden actually does a decent job of portraying a younger, more idealistic Han Solo, which then develops throughout the movie into the Han Solo we know and love from the original trilogy.

He even nailed some of the mannerisms from Harrison Ford’s iconic portrayal of Han Solo. However, the charisma we’ve come to expect from Han isn’t present in Solo, as some of the lines and jokes delivered by Alden fall flat when we know that Harrison Ford could have pulled those off in his sleep. However, all of that could be forgiven if observed in the context of an inexperienced Han Solo, who is only just about to come into his own as a character.

What about the supporting cast?

As for the rest of the cast, Donald Glover and Woody Harrelson are definite highlights of Solo. Their charisma and sheer likability carry their performances as the young Lando Calrissian and Han Solo’s mentor/partner in crime Tobias Beckett, respectively. The supporting cast did great with strong performances all around.

We had Alan Tudyk as K-2SO as the main droid in Rogue One and now we have the similarly excellent Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37, Lando’s companion droid who is also an SJW who fights for equal rights. The writers are surely having a blast writing all these quirky droids now that they have the creative freedom to write about droids who aren’t C3-PO. The other characters aren’t as well-defined, especially Emilia Clarke’s Qi’Ra and Paul Bettany’s role as the crime lord Dryden Vos.

An Empty and Disappointing Plot

The plot of Solo: A Star Wars Story is the most disappointing aspect of the movie. While Rogue One added much to Star Wars lore by explaining how the Death Star plans were retrieved and the reason behind its seemingly ridiculous design flaw, Solo contributes almost nothing. Yes, it shows us how Han met Chewbacca and Lando, as well as how he obtained the Millennium Falcon. It’s insignificant as a Star Wars movie but works if seen simply as a Han Solo origin story, which is totally what it is and presumably what the filmmakers were aiming for. What has Solo accomplished other than merely showing us what we already know? That’s been a problem for prequels in other franchises as well, and Solo is not exempt.

Solo is a fun movie, filled with action. However, when the movie can’t even justify its reason for existing in the Star Wars franchise as a whole, that’s all there is to it. I’m not asking for a movie which exists simply to tease future movies (like what Marvel Studios is doing), but Solo needs something more to make it stand out. The entire second act is supposed to show viewers how Solo completed the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, as he famously said in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. It pains me to tell you that long-time Star Wars fans will surely be disappointed with the whole sequence. Now we have this mundane action setpiece to picture every time we rewatch A New Hope and Han mentions the Kessel Run line again.

Looks Like A Star Wars Movie, Doesn’t Feel Like One

Don’t get me wrong. Solo looks good, just like every Star Wars movie before it. It maintains the quality of the cinematography and set design. Another positive point for the movie comes from its use of practical effects, which is certainly a welcome and appreciated effort in today’s cinematic landscape where every movie just relies on CGI. Speaking of the CGI, it’s great too, which is not surprising.

However, the fact remains that none of the visuals really pop out and made me stare in awe like I’m a little kid again. All of the previous Star Wars movies had that, Solo, unfortunately, does not. Even seeing the Millennium Falcon again didn’t inspire any feelings of nostalgia for me, when it clearly should. I don’t expect Death Stars or vast space battles but there should have been more epic moments. It’s a Star Wars movie, for pete’s sake.

The Force Awakens Again… Not.

One of the few saving graces in Solo is the unexpected cameo by an iconic Star Wars character. I won’t spoil it but it’ll be a shocker, albeit confusing for those who don’t follow both The Clone Wars and Rebels animated series. It’s good to see Star Wars still being able to provide a second or two of awe and disbelief, although that isn’t such a good thing considering what happened with The Last Jedi. That movie was hollow, filled with surprises and revelations that make no sense in terms of franchise continuity. Thank the Force Solo doesn’t attempt to do so much of the very same thing.

If this is what future Star Wars spin-offs will be like, it will be difficult for fans to sustain any anticipation for future movies in the franchise. Considering how divided audiences were over the Last Jedi, it looks like all the excitement and surrounding Star Wars return to the big screen generated by The Force Awakens only THREE years ago has all but disappeared. It took Star Wars 10 years for a return to the big screen, but it looks like it might take less than half that amount of time for it to get buried again.

Pros

  • Alden makes a better than expected, decent Han Solo
  • Great supporting cast carrying the movie
  • Totally unexpected cameo by iconic Star Wars character

Cons

  • Doesn’t add anything to the Star Wars lore/mythos as a whole, unlike Rogue One
  • No sense of purpose or justification for its existence
  • A Star Wars movie shouldn’t make you feel meh
  • Looks like a Star Wars movie but doesn’t feel like one

FINAL SCORE: 50/100

Solo: A Star Wars Story opens in Malaysian cinemas on 24th May 2018. We caught the movie on IMAX via press screening, courtesy of The Walt Disney Company (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd.

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