Disney continue their mission to turn Star Wars from a major cultural event to background noise with this harbinger of the cinematic end-times. It follows self-interested smuggler Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) as we find out how he became the self-interested smuggler we first met in the Mos Eisley cantina.
My expectations for this film we so low (pun intended) that I was surprised to find it’s terrible not just in all the ways I anticipated, but also a few unexpected ones. The first and most fundamental flaw is that Han Solo’s 1977 arc – one of the few actual character arcs of the original trilogy – relies on him starting out as a selfish asshole. Watching a film about a selfish asshole is not interesting because there’s no reason to root for him.
The plot revolves around him leaving his native Corellia to become a pilot. He enlists in the Imperial forces before joining up with a band of outlaws to steal supplies of the highly valuable coaxium for organised crime syndicate Crimson Dawn. Since it’s about him working with one group of criminals to steal something for another group of criminals in exchange for money there’s no reason to invest in what’s going on other than it’s Han Solo.
And here is the film’s second biggest flaw. It’s not Han Solo. Ehrenreich, who was likeable enough in Hail, Ceasar!, is tragically miscast, barely resembling the Han of A New Hope at all. The moments in which he successfully approximates Harrison Ford’s voice are occasional and fleeting, and only serve to emphasise how little like Ford he sounds the rest of the time. But more fundamentally, the biggest grossing actor in history has a natural charm and magnetic charisma it’s impossible to learn, no matter how many on-set acting lessons you receive. He won’t be asked to play a young Indiana Jones any time soon, that’s for sure.
But the questionable casting choices go beyond Ehrenreich, with Paul Bettany making an uncomfortable villain and the dreadful Emilia Clarke of Terminator Genisys struggling to do anything with her empty character. True, the previous ‘non episode’ Star Wars film, Rogue One, suffered from a lack of characters, but managed to be watchable due to being well made and having clearly defined motivations.
Admittedly the actors aren’t given much to work with. Solo is badly written, with a humourless script and unconvincing story, betraying the troubled production that led to the sacking of two directors and extensive re-shoots. The action sequences are loud, long and boring, made tedious by the lack of consequence.
But while it runs through the checklist of ‘things about Han Solo’ to explain, it leaves a lot of unanswered questions too, which will disappoint those of us praying they don’t make a Solo 2. What results is the worst Star Wars film since Attack of the Clones, and the first clear sign that Disney’s Star Wars production line might be due some down time. In short, Solo represents a new low.