I don’t think I am ever going to fully buy Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo. There are certain roles that are so iconic, so associated with one actor, that seeing anyone else give it a go feels a bit off. For me, Han Solo is one of those characters. Going into it with that mindset, along with knowing how Ron Howard stepped in and reshot a good chunk of it didn’t do much to add to my excitement. On top of that, the promise of telling a story we didn’t really need told (When Han met Chewie! The Kessel Run! Gambling for the Falcon!), I didn’t have exceedingly high hopes for this latest romp through a galaxy far, far away. So after two hours and change of running around with Han and a cast of other scruffy looking nerf herders, I can honestly say that Solo wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected and actually kind of enjoyable.
The reason Solo is a bit underwhelming is undeniably the script. This greatest hits collection of famous Han Solo moments does not really expand our knowledge of who he is. We do learn a bit about his past, but most of the main events here aren’t anything unexpected. At least there isn’t an appearance from Jabba, though if this series continues, you know it’s coming. As such, most of the film was really lacking in wow moments, we could guess most of the main beats, it was just a matter of getting there.
The dialogue does also leave a lot to be desired in many spots. The humor, for the most part, ranges from flat to cringeworthy. This younger Han isn’t as witty as the one we knew and loved from the originals. There are bits and pieces here and there, so maybe he grows into it. Ehrenreich does nail the signature charm however, and most of his scenes with Chewbacca feel as natural as they did in the original trilogy. The main source of comic relief comes from Lando’s droid, whose rebellious “free the droids!” attitude comes off more hamfisted than inspiring. She’s not the only one trying to yuck it up, but fortunately the other culprit is around long enough to ruin things (uh, spoilers I guess?). This also begs the question, why does one need comic relief in a story about Han? Coupled with Lando, shouldn’t their charm and wit be enough? The first act also plods along, alternating between giving us too much and not enough of certain elements.
But despite the problems with the script, I still generally enjoyed this. Thank Ron Howard for coming in and reworking it. Thank Donald Glover, as his Billy Dee Williams impression is pretty flawless. He is the highlight of any scene that he is in and I would love this portrayal to continue. The main supporting cast does a pretty good job with what they have to work with, and I can honestly say this is the first thing I have enjoyed Emilia Clarke in outside of Game of Thrones.
While the existence of the film itself may be considered fan service, there was thankfully very little of it in the actual execution, something that Rogue One suffered from. Besides, who can’t help but smile when you notice a reference to a shitty Playstation Star Wars fighting game? While some of these characters obviously play a big part in the story we all know, the events here are largely self contained. The characters have arcs, the story gets concluded, and we move on. No galaxies are saved here and that’s more than fine. And they didn’t find a way to shoehorn C3P0 into this one, which is nice.
When one spends the majority of their time after the movie thinking about a the possibilities of short scene at the end, and not about what led up to it, that’s usually a problem. Ditto for when you wouldn’t mind another film following up on characters that aren’t the lead. That’s how I left this film. I didn’t leave wanting more Han, but there was definitely something here I wanted more of. While Solo may be light on the substance, as a breezy, need to beat the heat piece of entertainment, it’s just fine. And besides, nothing in this film does as much damage to Han Solo as this.