THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****
There used to be a time that we would salivate for anything STAR WARS. Between 1983 and the release of THE PHANTOM MENACE thirteen years later, we were starved for tales in a galaxy far, far away. Now, people actually are complaining that we have gotten four films in four years. Personally, I have enjoyed each of the films released since THE FORCE AWAKENS but for very different reasons. Just like you, I am able to critique and nitpick the things about each film that bother me and daydream about what I would have rather seen had I been the one making the decisions. Despite all that, I am not in control of the finished product that hits theaters and neither are you. So, we can choose to hate a film and never watch it again or we can just have fun with it. Luckily, SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is a hell of a lot of fun.
Forgetting all the strife behind the scenes, SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is far from perfect but it is still highly enjoyable for many reasons. I have heard complaints ranging from calling the film a studio-controlled mess to a masturbatory cobbling together of fan fiction. To be honest, it is both. The firing of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller definitely undermined the intended tone and style of the film and the choices to include Teras Kasi and Darth Maul are blatant attempts to court the die hard fans of the Expanded/Legends canon, but it is no different than the buckets of easter eggs Marvel tosses into each and every film they release. The difference with SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is so much more works than doesn’t. From the set design to the Original Trilogy callbacks, Ron Howard‘s movie is a rip-roaring adventure that doesn’t need to be a cinematic masterpiece to be a good time.
First off, it was going to be impossible for anyone to replace Harrison Ford. We knew that from the outset. Even if they had gone with someone as recognizable as Chris Pratt, audiences would have spent the entire running time tearing apart any dissimilarities between the two performances. We don’t ever do that with James Bond films, so why are we doing that with Han Solo? I applaud the fact that Alden Ehrenreich just has fun with the part. He includes the requisite mannerisms to reflect Ford’s tenure as the iconic smuggler, but he overall makes the role his own. He is cocky, immature, and inexperienced; all three characteristics of someone before they have settled into who they are as a person. We knew hardly anything about Han Solo before A NEW HOPE and this film begins to paint the picture of the man as a boy. Sure, it may have been unfair for Lucasfilm to assume a trilogy based on this story, but I left the film wanting to know more about every character and some even more than Han himself. Does that mean the title character is overshadowed? Not in the least. It means the roster is packed to the brim.
Secondly, there is no need for every STAR WARS film to top what came before it. The unrealistic expectations of franchise fans is that the ante is perpetually upped, the bar exponentially raised, and any other cliche term you want to assign. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were an unproven commodity as directors of a live action blockbuster whereas Ron Howard was not. I would have loved to see what Lord and Miller had up their sleeves, especially if it went against the tried and true formula of STAR WARS. I also never anticipated that Ron Howard would do anything but a serviceable job with a film already deep in development. But, compared to the work Joss Whedon did with JUSTICE LEAGUE, Ron Howard deserves a trophy for how this film ended up. It looks like STAR WARS and maintains the gritty tone that ROGUE ONE brought to the universe, but SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is endearingly positive. Sure, a bunch of characters die, but there is an ever present feeling of hope through it all.
SOLO: A STAR WARS story has been trashed for focusing too much on taking moments, lines of dialogue, and even some of Han’s physical belongings and making them too focal in this film. You may not care about his gold dice or his blaster or even if the iconic “I know” line was a callback to something else, but none of these references is handled poorly. Sure, you may roll your eyes a bit when Han says he has a good feeling about this, but every reference in this film is executed infinitely better than the Special Edition change that made Han shoot first. That may be a low bar for comparison, but it is an adept one. Ehrenreich’s Solo is still not the man we saw debut in 1977 but this film is not the equivalent of BATMAN BEGINS, either. SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is not designed to be an all encompassing origin movie but the start of an origin story.
To say that SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is lacking the gravitas that turned Han Solo into a fan favorite character is ridiculous. Penned by Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, two writers who know Han better than anyone, That is further amplified by the reintroduction of Lando Calirssian, played to perfection by Donald Glover. There is also the surprisingly good turns from both Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson along with the twist reveal that Darth Maul survived his supposed death in THE PHANTOM MENACE. Everything about this film is what fans loved about the decades worth of Star Wars novels and comic books we devoured over the years. Plus, we get to see it realized not just with our imaginations but on the big screen. From Bradford Young’s cinematography to John Powell’s score, SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is everything we love about George Lucas‘ saga.
Whether you are a STAR WARS fan four decades in to your love affair with the Rebels and Empire or a younger fan introduced during the Disney era, there is so much to love in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY. From great character design to even more brilliantly executed practical effects, the pros far outweigh the cons with this production. It would be a shame not to get a chance to revisit these characters further than this single film as the ending just finds them coming into their own. The potential for further adventures of Han, Chewbacca, Lando, and Qira are limitless and that is what makes STAR WARS so good. With the growing pains out of the way, a sequel to SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY could be one of the best films in the entire franchise. Already, SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is one of the best entries in the saga since the original trilogy.
Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you’d care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!