There’s plenty of good to be found in Solo, but there’s also some bad to be discovered. While that’s always going to be true about virtually anything, as it’s all imperfect, it’s the way reviews must be written. Thus, after viewing Solo on Monday, my feeling is best described in the cheesiest way imaginable…
I have a…an ‘aight feeling about this.
Maybe that’s unfair. It’s pretty good. It’s not the best movie ever. Not even close. But I had a lot of fun watching it.
The name of the film is The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but luckily, I’m not writing about the Eastwood flick and I’m also not one to stick to tradition anyway. I’m starting with the bad, which is also the ugly, because it’s the biggest problem with Solo, and it’s the one thing everyone will likely be talking about once they see it.
Alden Ehrenreich is not good.
The reports you read were all true. When you saw stories about acting coaches being brought on set and cast and crew being disappointed and dismayed with the performance, they weren’t exaggerating. He’s a SHADE above Hayden Christensen, because at least on occasion he produces a facial expression that makes you think for a half second he is channeling the bare bones idea of Han Solo.
The problem with Ehrenreich stinking up the joint is…he’s built to be the star, and in fact it’s his character’s origin story. Complicating the matter further is the beloved nature of Han Solo, how important he is to the Star Wars canon, and how wonderful Harrison Ford always was in the role. For as awesomely as Ford performed as Han, Ehrenreich is equally as subpar. It’s almost painful to watch him try to pull off the smuggler turned unlikely hero, and especially in the front half of the film, his dialogue is delivered with far too much enunciation, a plethora of exaggeration, but almost no punctuation.
If you’ve ever watched someone overact badly, especially if you’ve seen it done on stage, you know when it becomes comical. Someone is trying to connote dramatic effect or subtle humor, but the truth is in most cases, it’s the little things that make the grandest differences. Alden Ehrenreich has zero nuance and approaches each of his lines in the same way a boar would approach an expensive catered meal. It’s all the same, and as a result, much of the emotion that needs to exist as this boy encounters challenges and difficulties that force him to become a man in a hurry…falls flat.
Outside of the lead, much of the acting is strong. Donald Glover steals the show as Lando Calrissian, showing enough of Billy Dee without it being a carbon copy. There’s an evolution to that role that has yet to take place, and Glover knows he needs to play Lando as more immature and impulsive than Williams did. Woody Harrelson’s Tobias Beckett is believable, grizzled, and at times sarcastically funny. Emilia Clarke plays Qi’ra well, and is able in some ways to carry a few of her scenes with Ehrenreich, of which there are several that matter. Thandie Newton makes the most of her screen time. Chewbacca, played by Joonas Suotamo, is fantastic and a real highlight of the film. Paul Bettany is very good as well.
Again, generally speaking, the casting isn’t an issue. I had a few people ask me whether it’s possible to watch Clarke and not think of Game of Thrones, and the answer is no. She’s just too tied to that role, and her face immediately reminds you of her Targaryen blood, rather than Qi’ra’s. That said, she’s solid in Solo. But, it’s a HUGE concern when HAN SOLO is the worst character in a film about his origins and early life. The performance is so spotty that it’s almost impossible to even take it seriously, and it absolutely harms the film.
The movie itself is probably about 20 minutes too long and has one too many twists. It’s predictable, but there are a few things that will catch the audience off guard. As an action film, it’s a smashing success. There are multiple sequences that are truly exquisite in pace and intensity, the best of which occurs on a high speed train and features some of the most emotionally resonant portions of the entire movie. The fight scenes and the gun battles and the chase sequences work well, and they’re a blast to watch.
It’s not the deepest script, and boy oh boy are there some cheeseball creative decisions made in this thing. Without giving anything away, a few questions about names and nicknames are addressed in the single most obnoxiously simple ways possible. If you don’t roll your eyes when these things emerge, I’d be immensely surprised, because it’s as if the concepts were determined by pre-adolescent children, rather than talented writers.
Despite Ehrenreich’s struggles and how difficult it is watching him attempt to navigate a character he flat out isn’t equipped to play, I enjoyed Solo. I found it more meaningful than Rogue One, which I continue to believe didn’t need to exist and isn’t required viewing. This is a side story, one no one has to see, but one they should, because Han Solo is so integral to everything else we know and love. We care about him, we want to know more about him, and we want to see what led to the guy we met in A New Hope.
Last year in my Justice League review, I mentioned that DC had made a mistake. Wonder Woman released and was widely praised by both critics and fans alike. It was finally a victory for them. Ride that wave, be careful in the follow-up, and enjoy the momentum of Gal Gadot’s triumph. But before the end of that calendar year, here comes Justice League. It was too soon, and the movie wasn’t good. It killed a lot of what Wonder Woman had built, at least in terms of enthusiasm for the future.
Solo is a cash grab, but isn’t every movie? It doesn’t need to exist either, and we’re definitely reaching a place where Disney and Lucasfilm are putting out too many of these movies, but at least they’re entertaining. Rogue One was unnecessary, but it was pretty good. Solo is also unnecessary, but not to the degree of the last side project, and it’s also pretty good. Neither is a bad movie, but neither is a fantastic movie either. Rogue One at least came out a year after The Force Awakens, but here, Solo arrives a mere six months after The Last Jedi. It’s the Wonder Woman effect all over again, except in this case, the fans weren’t nearly as favorable to Episode VIII.
Provided your expectations in certain areas are measured, you’ll get your money’s worth out of Solo. It’s not spectacular, but it’s still a lot of fun. The action is terrific and many of the characters are great, including a few I didn’t name to protect from ruining the experience for you. But, I can’t go higher than a C+ overall because of the lead performance. If I’m grading on a curve, maybe a B-. If that casting had worked out, it could easily be a B. Don’t walk in expecting to have your mind blown, because that’s not going to happen. Go in thinking you’ll have a good time, because that you assuredly will.
The plot is worthy of an origin story.
If only Alden Ehrenreich were worthy of the character.
I’m @JMartOutkick. I hate snakes.