Solo (2018)

Han Solo is not a complex character. He's a scoundrel who becomes a hero. We've seen his arc play out. We know who he is. His psychology, his backstory, his hopes, his dreams--they don't require much in the way of elucidation. We don't need his every why or wherefore explained to us. 


But Disney, for some reason, has some splainin' to do. And they're going to do it hard with their newest feature-length fan fiction.

Over the course of the two hour and fifteen minute run time of Solo, viewers will get explained at so aggressively that their eyeballs may roll one full turn, or more, in their sockets. What I mean by that is that their eyeballs, at the start of the film, will be aimed forward--in their customary orientation--and then their eyeballs will rotate a full three hundred and sixty degrees during the film, to then return back to their original forward-facing orientation, almost as if nothing had even transpired. But trust me, something has transpired.

By the end of this film you will know exactly how Chewbacca and Han met for the first time (Chewie was going to eat Han), where Han got his signature weapon (someone threw it to him), how Han acquired the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian (in a card game, exactly as we've been told previously), what exactly occurred during the infamous Kessel Run (too boring to detail here), and most importantly, you will discover how Han his last name (someone gave it to him because he was unaccompanied).

There's a point where "connecting the dots"--something that George Lucas took to new heights (or lows, rather) with his Star Wars prequel trilogy--intersects with "paint by numbers". That intersection occurs in Solo. But it's not so much an intersection as it is a collision. Instead of taking you to new places with the character and his cohort, the film collides with what you already know about him over and over again, and then after it's done doing that, it lets you know that it knows that you know. Every wink, every nod, every little in-joke to the millions of Star Wars fans the world over, stops this film dead in its tracks (and that's when the eye rolling happens too). One sequence in particular, a cameo so baffling in both its execution and its implication for the larger Star Wars mythos, might as well have been replaced with an in-person press conference headed up by Kathleen Kennedy herself.

But when the movie gets out of its own way and allows its characters to breathe, and shoot, and fly, hints of cinematic adventure bloom on the screen. The much televised train robbery sequence is a thrill. Woody Harrelson's Beckett and Phoebe Waller-Bridge's L3-37 are standouts, eclipsed only by Donald Glover's sublime Lando. Even Aiden Ehrenreich, for all his non-Harrison Fordness, occasionally delights as (a sort of faithful version of) the half-witted scruffy-looking nerf herder.

And that brings us to the elephant in the room. Spoiler alert: Harrison Ford does not play Han Solo in this movie. One might think that after tricking a portion of audience members into believing that Peter Cushing was alive that the techs at Disney might try and revive Harrison Ford's younger Han Solo with a eldritch combination of face and performance capture wizardry. But recasting the beloved smuggler was the path they chose to walk down. And in 2018, when Han Solo has become a cinematic archetype donned by performers in not one but two ongoing franchises, it almost seems pointless to have yet another version of the character who is not Harrison Ford.