“I’ve got a bad feeling about this”. Thus said the legions of Star Wars fans, as the release of Solo: A Stars Wars Story approached, a film covering the earlier exploits of Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich, taking the wheel from Harrison Ford) before the events of the original trilogy. Many were worried by the number of issues during production, such as the change in directors several months into filming, while others wondered whether a Han Solo prequel was even necessary. Their anxieties were partially correct – the film’s a mixed bag, entertaining but clearly flawed.
Ehrenreich captures some of the charm of Harrison Ford’s original portrayal, while being sufficiently original that he can’t be accused of just doing an impersonation. His two major co-stars, Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), both shine in their roles. Chewbacca, a character who has been left with little to do in previous films, is allowed to take some of the spotlight without characters such as Luke and Rey over his shoulder, and thus receives some well-deserved screen time. Glover, meanwhile, is a particular stand-out, wielding a great blend of charisma, ego and fun within the role which ensures that he steals every scene he’s in. If Disney aren’t considering a Lando Calrissian spin-off film starring Glover, they’re missing out.
Yet outside of these three, the rest of the supporting cast is badly underutilised. The villain, Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), receives minimal character development beyond the generic ‘mobster boss’ mould. Solo’s love interest Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) comes across confused, as though the writers weren’t sure what to do with her, and this isn’t helped by Clarke’s mediocre performance. Han’s team also has little to do, which is a shame considering the acting talents on offer from the likes of Woody Harrelson and Thandie Newton.
The structure of the film may have been harmed by the muddled production problems. The pacing of the first third of the adventure is clunky and disjointed. Once the narrative gets going, the threads come together, but until that point viewers may be looking at their watches wondering when the ‘proper’ story is going to begin.
The biggest issue, however, is that it isn’t especially memorable. Throughout the film there is only one moment, towards the very end, that is genuinely surprising (and even then it feels unnecessary, as though Disney threw it in to generate buzz rather than because it added anything to the plot). Otherwise, the film suffers from the issue that all prequels do: restricted by predestination, the narrative plays a low-stakes game and never twists in an unexpected way because it must abide by pre-existing canon.
The film is ultimately an entertaining, but forgettable, piece of cinema. It’s worth seeing for an enjoyable sci-fi experience, but don’t expect Solo: A Star Wars Story to stick with you once the credits roll.
Image: The Movie DB