Solo is certainly a Star Wars story. But it feels galaxies away from the Star Wars stories we’ve seen in the past few years. Rogue One was scrappy and quietly epic. A Force Awakens reinvigorated a dormant franchise. The Last Jedi broke the mold. On the other side of a troubled production, Solo emerges a well made, often quite well-acted film, but it lacks the electricity, the character moments, the panache we’ve come to associate with this franchise.
We meet Han before he’s Solo, an embattled youth on an oppressive planet, we find out what launched him into life as an outlaw, and we watch as he meets critical players for the first time. It’s fun, but where it should swell with emotion, it feels rather flat. Perhaps it’s not fair to be disappointed walking out of that, but such was the initial reaction. Some days later, that’s dulled to be replaced by the sense that Solo is perfectly adequate. It’s not great, it’s not bad, it just is — something of the Ant-Man of this universe.
Make no mistake, Alden Ehrenreich is quite good. He doesn’t fall into the trap of trying to be Harrison, rather he builds Han, and the movie’s best moments are the results. Unsurprisingly delightful is Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian and once again a new droid is primed to win hearts in the form of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3-37. Give us a Bonnie and Clyde-style road movie with Lando and L3, and you’ll hear no complaints, Disney (at least not for a wee bit.)
Solo is a perfectly serviceable blockbuster (and an impressive one if you think about the sheer volume of reshoots Ron Howard walked into), there are some inventive action sequences and it all goes oh-so-well with popcorn, but it fades just as quickly as the fabled theatre snack. Certainly, as the lights go it up, it leaves some looming questions about what the creative team has in mind for a next effort (and we can assume there will be one), but the sense of anticipation will need to be earned in the first looks rather than any bait left on the hook here.
Go into Solo in the right frame of mind and you’ll find joy. Go looking for too much and you’ll come up short.