“Solo” is a film on an island.
As much as the tag line “A Star Wars Story” entices audiences to imagine what hijinks a young Harrison Ford might have gotten into, what appears on screen is yet another completely average origin story reminiscent of a Marvel movie.
Sure, there are plenty of familiar faces and the Millennial Falcon soars through space, but a bonafide, genuine “Star Wars” movie this is not.
“Solo” waffles between action-adventure, heist flick, war epic and western seemingly at random, none of which have the space opera cinematic style audiences have come to expect from “A Star Wars Story.”
This latest adventure finds a young Han Solo on the run from smugglers and deserting the Empire’s army to team with fan favorites Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian on a heist for a rare fuel supply.
Cast with the near impossible task of filling Harrison Ford’s shoes, “Hail, Caesar!” star Alden Ehrenreich flashes signs of potential as Han, though it’s easy to long for another actor with a tad bit more swagger and charisma.
Ehrenreich isn’t bad in the role, but there’s nothing in his performance that captivates or draws audiences in like a true titular character should.
Scrutinizing Ehrenreich for being less than ideal for the part is difficult, yet understandable when both Chris Pine and Chris Pratt are giving superior performances with essentially Han Solo caricatures in the “Star Trek” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchises respectively.
“Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke also gives a solid, yet limited effort as Solo’s love interest Qi’ra, but for as rocksteady as her performance might be, it still feels as if Clarke is holding something back for future films.
Both Ehrenreich and Clarke are signed on for at least two more “Star Wars” appearances and their character arcs reflect the slow development multiple film projects implies.
If Ehrenreich represents a single or perhaps even a double as Han Solo, then “Atlanta” star Donald Glover is nothing short of an absolute home run in a riveting performance as Lando Calrissian.
Glover takes the role made famous by Billy Dee Williams in the original trilogy and embodies every slight grin, eye twinkle and sexual charisma down to the core.
His cadence, affect and accent are so on point for most of the film that it’s difficult to not imagine the lines are being dubbed over by Williams himself.
It’s readily apparent that Glover, who idolized Williams’ Calrissian as a child, took every care to be as precise as possible to embody the original character while simultaneously giving added depth.
Glover’s performance is the most believable and authentic in the film by an incredibly wide margin and it’s without question that a spinoff movie with Glover at the lead is a matter of when and not if it happens.
Woody Harrelson is up to his usual tricks in a steady, albeit take-it-or-leave-it turn as Solo’s mentor Tobias Beckett and Paul Bettany is fine as the film’s requisite villain Dryden Vos.
But from top to bottom, there’s a general unevenness to “Solo” that the film just can’t seem to get away from.
This is likely due to the significant disconnect in the direction with veteran actor/director Ron Howard taking the helm from “The Lego Movie” filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who were fired halfway through making the film.
The directors are inextricably linked with “Solo” constantly feeling tugged one way or another like a child with divorcing parents amid a custody battle.
No matter how great Glover is in the film or how gorgeous a particular shot from Oscar nominated cinematographer Bradford Young is, there’s a profound tension and unease to the whole film grounded in the first 30 minutes that never really goes away.
Disney has backed the Star Wars franchise into a corner, sacrificing must see spectacle for increased frequency in a quantity over quality quest for cash Mel Brooks foretold in his satirical, yet prescient “Spaceballs.”
As such, “Solo” feels more like a placeholder for a better movie yet to come or certainly at least one that makes better use of the new characters introduced and iconic ones slogging through yet another space heist film.
It’s okay if a movie opts for storytelling over character development, but only if the plot truly deserves it.
“Solo” has a large scale episodic television feel to it, which would work in any other franchise but “Star Wars.”
Forty-plus years of cinema have built the expectation that films branded with a “Star Wars” tag are supposed to feel epic and iconic. “Solo” is neither.
It’s too early to tell whether or not “Solo” is redeemable because there are far too many questions about where the inevitable future films are headed. How Disney moves forward with young Han, Chewbacca, and to a certain extent, Lando will redefine whether or not this “Star Wars Story” is a means to a satisfying end or simply unfulfilled potential.
At the end of the day, “Solo” is a pretty good, completely fine movie. Not bad, not great, just watchable.
That just doesn’t feel like “Star Wars,” does it?