3 out of 5
Directed by: Ron Howard
I do get what Lucasfilm / Disney was going for with their ‘Star Wars Story’ offshoot films, and though I’m not all about dat Star Wars, Solo makes me a little bummed that its ‘financial failure’ – sure, a boxoffice of almost 400 million, but these are expensive films to make – meant the cancellation of that venture in favor of (presumably) the main storyline flicks. Given that the template for their concluding Skywalker trilogy of SW movies was undoubtedly the fanservice-driven pokes and prod of the Marvel Cinematic U, the pitch for Rogue One and Solo was to be this universe’s version of Marvel’s B-tier Antmans, Dr. Stranges, and etc. The difference being that Star Wars doesn’t have the exact same modern day roster of characters and tales from which to draw; it has a huge extended library of novels and comics that’ve been non-canonized to allow for that kind of exploration, but we’re still beholden to huge, set-in-stone plot processes of the main movies, meaning our B-tier has to head back into the past; prequel territory. Rogue One approached this by filling in some good backstory with new (I think) characters; Solo has a bit more difficult of an undertaking in that it’s focused on a character with whom even a casual SW viewer is going to be familiar: Han Solo. Yes, Han has stories from his past that would be fun to see / hear – the Kessel run; how he met Lando; both covered in Solo: A Star Wars Story – but he’s also on a particular character course, and of a particular ‘rogue’ personality type, that prevents much ability for any prequel to do much beyond, like, have some fun.
And so that’s what writers Lawrence and Johnathan Kasdan and director Ron Howard have done: they’ve created a fun movie. All of the preceding Star Wars films to this point require a certain amount of commitment. The first couple films have a sense of majesty to them that asks of your immersion; the Lucas-directed prequels are slogs; and the current crop of flicks are filled with enough bombast or plotty weight to encourage a viewer’s attentiveness. Solo? Nah, Solo is all popcorn; it sidles with a smirk into its action and one-liners; it moves with confidence through its thrills of space runs and escape sequences. It is wholly predictable, down to every single line: every punchline, every pause for a sight gag, every action beat. But it’s the kind of predictability borne of confident filmmaking. I was able to look away while watching Solo, check my mail, then look back and not have missed a thing, really, but still feel fully entertained by it. And that is rather in-line with several of Marvel’s B-tiers, so I think the goal was achieved, and if Lucasfilms / Disney can figure out a cheaper way to offer up the same experience again, I’d be game.