You could call me something of an apologist for the recent run of Star Wars movies. The Force Awakens did a great job of introducing a slate of new, likable characters that made phasing out the Luke/Leia/Han trio an attractive, exciting prospect. Rogue One made us feel the idea of rebellion/war in a way these movies always danced around. The Last Jedi took some big swings and pushed the franchise forward in a reckless, exciting way. But this one? This one lands with the grace of a turd in a punchbowl. I mean, you could probably still drink the punch and it would taste about the same, but would you really want to?
Solo is basically a Marvel movie: a mindless action romp built around recognizable characters with copious pandering fan service and no true stakes. It’s so immediately forgettable that in four years, we won’t talk about or really recall that they ever did a Han Solo movie.
Full disclosure; not only is Han Solo my favorite Star Wars character (and, for better or worse, one of my real-life role models), he’s one of my top three favorite fictional characters of all time (the other two being Calvin and Hobbes, if you’re curious). In the original 1977 script, Han Solo probably stood out as a cool, edgy dude, but this movie makes me appreciate Harrison Ford in a way that I never have before. His machismo, magnetism, charisma, and star power really cannot be duplicated, matched, or mimicked. He has an indefinable quality that makes you want to be him. That’s the core appeal of the Han Solo character (and to an equivalent extent, Indiana Jones). We know Alden Ehrenreich is a good actor from Hail, Caesar!, but he’s given an impossible task. No one can embody Han Solo but Harrison Ford, because Han Solo basically is Harrison Ford, a once-in-a-generation movie icon with an effortless, intrinsic charisma. As a human being, you either have that or you don’t. And, if you have that, you have it in your own unique way.
Chris Pine gets this right with his characterization of Kirk in Star Trek. In a certain light, you can see how Pine’s Kirk could eventually become Shatner’s Kirk, but Pine makes the character his own and imbues the role with his own unique, undeniable charisma. Ehrenreich focuses more on faithful mimicry. Really, he’s not Han Solo. He’s what most of us would look like if we literally tried to act and talk like Han Solo.
The script doesn’t do Ehrenreich any favors. At the beginning of the movie, Han Solo is already the Han Solo we meet in A New Hope. Really, this makes everything that follows pointless (and it doesn’t allow him to put his own stamp on anything). The movie could have presented him with a different characterization; perhaps he could have started as a naive, idealistic youth who gets betrayed, thereby becoming the hardened, selfish mercenary we meet in A New Hope. Or he could have been a hardened criminal, drawn incrementally closer to doing good by some external event. Instead, he’s the same devilish dude attracted to money but who ultimately does the right thing. The movie does nothing with the Han Solo character and does not explain where he comes from or how he comes to be. Instead, it just shows us how he got things: a ship, a gun, a wookie. That’s pointless nerd shit and does not a movie make.
Speaking of pointless nerd shit… what is Darth Maul doing in this movie? Firstly, his whole appearance is out of character. He has more dialog in thirty seconds than in the entirety of Episode I. The Darth Maul we know does not act like this stupid CG hologram. Second, this really screws up the Star Wars timeline in a jarring way. If Darth Maul is still alive, that means Han Solo is at least 15 years older than Darth Vader (which would, in turn, make him at least 30 years older than Luke and Leia). Uh… no? Ugh, I’m going to write this off as nerdy fan service and forget it happened.
EDIT (6-1-18): It occurs to me, in hindsight, that the Empire exists in this movie. Thus, it definitively happens after Episode I and not before. That means that Darth Maul came back to life. This explanation is, somehow—astoundingly—even dumber than the one I initially believed.
I do like certain elements of this movie. Some of the supporting turns work. Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover, and Chewbacca all deliver (somehow making Han one of the least interesting characters in his own movie). Glover shines in particular. His Lando feels less like the fully-formed Episode V Lando than a young dude trying on Lando’s capes and larger-than-life persona for the first time to see how well they fit. Lando also benefits from the intrinsic charisma Glover himself used to become a beloved, multimedia star.