For many Star Wars fans, there is a degree of apprehension about Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018). The second-most recent Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi (2017), received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics, yet still divided the fandom in half—fans either loved it, or absolutely hated it. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has the lowest audience score of any Star Wars film, a 46 per cent approval rate, which jars with the 91 per cent approval rating awarded by critics. By focusing on Han Solo, one of the most iconic and beloved characters in the Star Wars mythos, Solo set the bar high to satisfy fans, and that’s not even accounting for the allegedly-bumpy production. The cast is surprisingly strong, but the film’s plot can drag and underwhelm, making for a relatively bland film. With stakes as high, it comes as quite the surprise that Solo’s biggest flaw is just that it’s boring.
The opening of the film is fast-paced: Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) attempts to escape from the planet Corellia with his love interest Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) in a dynamic starship chase. Unfortunately, while escaping, the two are separated, and Solo must embark on a journey around the galaxy to make his way back to Qi’ra. Along the way, he is taken under the wing of professional thief and mentor Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), befriends the wookie Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and begins his path to becoming one of the most infamous rogues in the galaxy.
One of the highlights of the film is the cast: It’s hard to follow Harrison Ford, but Ehrenreich’s performance is laudable. Ehrenreich captures Ford’s trademark arrogance, but he also reveals a younger, more naive Han Solo, one who could feasibly grow into a hardened smuggler. Suotamo is flawless as Chewbacca, and Donald Glover, playing Lando Calrissian, is equally excellent, encapsulating the charm and slyness of the character. The band of supporting characters, including Harrelson and Clarke, make for a fun production, with Paul Bettany particularly shining as crime lord Dryden Vos.
Unlike the Last Jedi, Solo is a simple movie, and while it contains its fair share of action, it brings little new material to the table. The plot is predictable, and the knowledge that its most important characters—Han, Chewie, and Lando—all appear in later films means that viewers know they will survive, minimizing the threats they face. While there are moments that are genuinely entertaining, the pacing is uneven. Several scenes give the impression that the film is about to end, whereas others drag on.
As with many highly-anticipated series, the over-hyped promotion contributed to the mediocre viewing experience. Solo’s predecessor in the anthology series, Rogue One (2016), was a gripping film that flexed its creative muscles, and featured a cast of never-before-seen characters in the Star Wars universe. In comparison, Solo explores many of the most important stories and questions related to the character of Han Solo, but doesn’t always deliver satisfying resolutions, and the result is underwhelming. Certain scenes that should have felt suspenseful are instead lacklustre, due to the aforementioned knowledge of characters’ futures. The pacing issues result in specific events feeling rushed. Scenes that should be iconic—like when Han and Chewie acquire the Millennium Falcon—feel unfulfilling. The fan-baiting is excessive, and the audience is left feeling inundated with references. The entire experience just feels superfluous.
With Episode 9 scheduled for release in Dec. 2019, as well as another anthology film in the vein of Rogue One and Solo, and two additional trilogies in the works, there is still a lot more Star Wars on the horizon. Although The Last Jedi polarized fans and critics, it was at least an attempt at a new vision for the series. With so many upcoming Star Wars films, fans of the franchise will have to ask themselves if they want future projects to take creative risks, or just deliver more of the same material. However, if Solo is any indication, we may have a slew of subpar Star Wars films in store.