‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’
“George Lucas destroyed my childhood.” If you’ve never heard that particular complaint, then you’ve wisely stayed out of the whiniest corners of the internet. Good for you. Unfortunately, in this day and age where any troll is able to slavishly monitor the progress of production of any film he or she likes, fans have begun to think that simply because they like a thing, they can demand some measure of creative control. A movie that this squalling minority doesn’t like becomes a crusade, something to destroy at all costs because, what right does it have to exist? And a critic that defames a property they love receives the same treatment. Sometimes their critiques are valid – the “Star Wars” prequels are not good movies, no matter how much I wanted them to be. Sometimes their critiques are overblown misogynist or racist rants – see #Gamergate or the “controversy” over the latest “Ghostbusters” movie. The effect online criticism has had has been two-fold. One, more people have access to read and participate in conversations about film than ever before. That’s got to be good, right? On the other hand, that conversation is often sucked into a bottomless pit of illogical anger and vitriol. There was a time when we would watch Siskel and Ebert disagree about a movie and think it was kind of fun when it got heated. Today, Siskel would pan “The Avengers,” and Ebert would tweet out a threat to murder his entire family. It’s frankly gotten depressing. My wife tells me to just quit reading it all, and I do try, but I love to talk about the movies. That’s why I do this. But it hits particularly hard when I go to a movie like this week’s “Solo,” a popcorn, roller-coaster ride of light summer fun that is currently receiving it’s share of hate from a group of irate fans who think “Star Wars” belongs to them alone.
None of this is to say that “Solo” is actually a great film. It’s not. It’s got loads of problems, and the complaint that it has no need to exist is perfectly valid. I would counter, however, that no movie has any real need to exist, but I digress. If you’ve missed the ads, “Solo” tells the tale of young Han Solo as he makes his way from the dirty streets of Corellia to the Imperial Army, to eventually teaming up with Chewbacca and acquiring the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian. Do we need any of this to know the character of Han Solo better? Not really. Solo arrives fully formed in “Star Wars.” He’s well-written in that he’s an archetype – there’s nothing so surprising about him that it would require any particular event to explain him – he’s a smuggler who’s lived a smuggler’s life. That’s good enough. Alden Ehrenreich, the relative new-comer who takes on the Solo mantle does a fine job in what is pretty much a no-win situation. He’s not doing a Harrison Ford impression, but manages to exude a rakish charm. Also along for the ride are Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton and Paul Bettany, as well as the voices of Jon Favreau and Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a particularly nuanced droid. The one actor who is getting pretty much universal acclaim is Donald Glover as Lando. Glover does a good job, but the raves he’s getting are kind of annoying because it feels like he’s the only casting choice the “fans” approved of ahead of time.
Unnecessary as it is, “Solo” is a lot of fun. The action set-pieces are pretty cool and the film remains upbeat, interesting, and surprising. Unlike “Rogue One,” which was grim and gritty, and ultimately a little boring, “Solo” reminds me of the fun that was the original “Star Wars.” It also has the feel of a good western, which is definitely the intent. Much of the controversy surrounding this film stemmed from the fact that original directors, the wunderkind duo of Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the driving force behind the success of “The Lego Movie” and “21 Jump Street” were unceremoniously fired very close to the end of principal photography. No one knows exactly what the issue was but Disney is a very producer-driven studio and I’d guess Lord and Miller didn’t want to follow orders. Whatever the reason, Ron Howard was brought in to finish the film and ended up almost completely redoing it. Howard isn’t a particularly stylistic director, but he’s the definition of “solid,” and “Solo” proves that.
I guess the takeaway from all this is that if you want light adventurous fun, go see “Solo.” If you’re disturbed by the existence of the film and are furious about it, don’t. It won’t change your life either way but if there are fewer angry people on the internet, that’s good for all of us. Grade: B+
“Solo” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action.
Chris Jenness is an art teacher, freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.