By Jordan Peterson | @thefilmmajor
The most important stories in the life of swashbuckling smuggler Han Solo have already been told. After helping rid the galaxy of the oppressive empire, befriending a space wizard, and marrying a princess, everything else seems pretty forgettable.
Alas, here we are staring down the blaster scope of a Han Solo prequel movie that nobody asked for and one which incurred some serious behind the scenes complications, including the firing of its initial directing duo midway through production before Ron Howard came aboard.
All things considered, Solo: A Star Wars Story holds up pretty well, although I have no doubt that a film based on all the behind the scenes drama would be endlessly more fascinating than the actual film itself.
That’s not to say there’s no fun to be had with Solo: A Star Wars Story because I enjoyed it myself. That said, there is no denying that it is largely a safe film. It just so happens to, much like its titular character, get by more than not on sheer charisma. An unexciting through line of having to pay back a notorious gangster (Paul Bettany is delightfully dull in the role) motivates the mostly middling and often overly long action sequences as well as a mostly archetypal posse of scoundrels.
Woody Harrelson is characteristically charming as the obligatory father figure who inducts the young and impressionable Solo into the devious underworld of scum and villainy. Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) is so overblown as Lando Calrissian that during a somber dramatic beat, I found myself laughing rather than crying.
Alden Ehrenreich is a formidable suitor for the role of Han Solo. He’s handsome and smug yet charming and loyal, as Han should be; however, don’t expect some cheap Harrison Ford impersonation. Ehrenreich breaths his own life into the character with an occasional mannerism or line delivery that is sure to make long-time fanatics smile with nostalgic glee.
Emilia Clarke (of Game of Thrones fame) is equally impressive as Kira, Solo’s first love. She and Ehrenreich are adorable together the way young, bright-eyed lovebirds usually are, which is perfect for where these characters are in their lives. Clarke’s performance in particular is reminiscent of classical Hollywood romances.
As good as Solo and Kira are together, the film rides on the brotherly bond between Han and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). The scene in which they first meet is one of the funniest and most memorable scenes in the film.
The ending, however, left me wanting. ‘Solo’ never commits to being an “origin” story. Han never finishes his metamorphosis into the loner and self-proclaimed bad guy that we meet in A New Hope. I actually chuckled at one point when Han suggested in the film that he was not a good guy. And of a film which never fully commits itself to its purpose, I must ask: What is the point?