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The Good, the Bad and the Fugly 2017
Solo Review

“Let me give you some advice. Assume everyone will betray you. And you will never be disappointed.” – Tobias Beckett

A scene from Solo: A Star Wars Story.

For the first time since 1977, I found myself not particularly looking forward to a Star Wars film.

That’s a sentence I never thought I’d write, but there it is, the blunt truth of the matter.

I hadn’t followed the making of the movie because I didn’t really feel that anybody could fill Harrison Ford’s boots in the role of Han Solo – always my favourite character in the Star Wars universe.  This had been the case since before I even saw the film. Star Wars wasn’t released here in the UK until Christmas 1977. The paperback movie adaptation was available from late September, so I had read it before seeing the film. And to be truthful, reading the book and trying to imagine the various characters wasn’t really working that well for me, I was interested, but not enthralled. When I came to the chapter containing the cantina scene – THAT’S when it all came alive for me.

The second reason is that I really don’t care much for these “origin” type stories where you meet a younger version of an already well-established character. I saw a handful of Young Indiana Jones Chronicles back in the day, and that was enough. You don’t buy into any jeopardy the character finds himself in because you know they made it through to being an adult.

Third – and this is possibly the most controversial. I’m actually afraid of a Star Wars saturation point. Yes, the die-hard Star Wars fan here is actually contemplating that there might be an overload of Star Wars in progress. (The same thing happened with Star Trek in the nineties. I was well used to and content with there being canon Star Trek, 79 episodes with a film every couple of years showing our characters getting older and dealing with their advancing years. Then came seven seasons of Next Generation, plus their films, then seven years of Deep Space Nine, and yet another seven of Voyager, and four of Enterprise before the whole franchise keeled over under its own weight. It’s only now that I’m revisiting those later Trek series since they were first broadcast)

With that last point in mind – I can’t help but think about The Last Jedi.  I still have very mixed feelings about it. I’m not completely happy with it or the direction it took. I re-watched it again a few days ago, and overall, yes, it fits, it answers some of the questions raised in The Force Awakens, albeit glibly but I’m hoping that somehow, someway, Ep IX will validate it, and it all becomes better when we see the whole picture.

And, when you think about it, five months after Jedi, comes the Han Solo movie, with an all new cast. Too soon? I thought so. I had hoped that a Christmas release would give enough of a gap. Especially when news was released about the troubled production of this film, with Ron Howard having to step in at the very last moment and practically refilm the whole thing.

Even when the film was actually released, I wasn’t particularly enthused – not even enough to grab tickets for the midnight premiere. Reaction has been mixed. People I thought would dislike it have loved it. People I thought would love it have been pretty unbridled in their vehemence. One of my friends mentioned that he was done with Star Wars following the film – and he’s been an avid fan since the original trilogy.

So, my attitude going in to see this movie was simply one of “impress me”. And I think that’s a healthy attitude. I would be happy if I liked it, braced for disappointment. The first time I’ve ever gone into a Star Wars movie with anything but bursting enthusiasm and the breathless anticipation of a child. At best then, Solo was met with curiosity. 

It is, as I thought, kind of an origin story. It tracks Han from his days as a minor league street criminal working for a Fagin-like overlord on Corella. But before I had the chance to write the film off as a cash grab thinly disguised as another pointless origin story, I have to admit that the actor playing Han (Alden Ehenreich) gives an incredible performance.  He has taken and adopted all of Ford’s mannerisms and quirks and portrays not Han Solo – but Harrison Ford playing Han Solo. Convincingly so. The easy charm, the self-confident swagger, the smirk, the fleeting look of self-doubt before pulling off a seemingly impossible escape – all done to perfection.

Han has always been a character who promises more than he knows he can deliver, and it’s this trait that leads him to not only learn how to fly, but also to become an ace pilot. He exceeds his own expectations of himself and then tries to bluff that it was easier than it looked.  We also find that another of his character traits is examined here – his unerring ability to convince himself that he’s a thief, a rogue, a pirate and a scoundrel. He has an over romanticised view of himself.  In truth, he’s not the bad guys he so desperately wants to be. He’s the good guy. The hero with a heart of gold that will risk everything, sacrifice everything, to help someone out.  He’s such a lousy criminal because in truth, he’s too noble. Ford delivered this performance perfectly. So does Ehrenreich.

The biggest hurdle over, how does the story deliver?

Again, the script is very strong – though not surprising seeing that Empire writer Laurence Kasdan was involved. But like the previous non-saga film Rogue One, it fits in perfectly, explains a lot and expands the whole Star Wars universe.

There are several interesting cameos and Easter eggs – far more than I was expecting. I was delighted to see a blink and you’ll miss him appearance by Warwick Davies that embed the film firmly in the Star Wars universe.

As far as the dreaded “origin” story is concerned, it succeeds. We follow Han on his first real caper, a breath-taking sequence involving a heist to rob a high-speed monorail, and we meet his first real mentor (Beckett), a man who teaches Han the most important lesson of his life and finally settles why, once and for all, he shot first in the Cantina. We see his first meeting with Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian (A spot on performance by Donald Glover), we get to witness the infamous card game where he won the Millennium Falcon, and the importance of the Sabacc dice that featured prominently in The Last Jedi. So, all of these factor in to make the film truly a valid piece of the jigsaw.

Now, more importantly, we meet Han’s first love Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) in a truly absorbing plot that promises to be expanded in future films. It’s my understanding that Alden Ehrenreich has signed on for another two films. This film leaves some tantalising threads dangling for both Han and Qi’ra that we need to have resolved and will bring Solo’s trilogy even further into the overall saga, especially with one stunning appearance by an established character that almost blew me out of my seat in the final act.

So, far from being the disappointment I was braced for, I was ultimately leaving on a high, having enjoyed a film that wiped out my post Last Jedi Star Wars blues and doubts. It’s a film that has actually made Star Wars exciting and fun again. 

Copyright © 2010 - 2018 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.

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