Rating: B- seems fair.
Summary: Somewhere between an origin story and “stuff I already knew” about Han Solo.
Well. This exists. I wouldn’t say I had a terrible time watching this, but I wouldn’t say I had a great time either. There are moments I enjoyed and many others that I didn’t. Overall, I’d say I was entertained but I wasn’t nearly as captivated as I should have been or wanted to have been for a Han Solo movie.
The story is a little bit more straightforward than perhaps it should have been. Han (Alden Eldenreich) is already a young adult when we meet him, living as an orphan and scavenger- it’s not so much a coming-of-age tale as it is a series of events that got him from point A to Jabba. All moon-eyed and in love with Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), he vows to escape their life of quasi-child slavery and poverty. When they’re separated, he aims to make his way back to her, enlisting in the Imperial Navy, supposedly getting some pilot training (we don’t see it), before stumbling across Tobias Beckett and his non-Firefly-based crew, who provide not only a means out of the Navy, but possibly pirate training..? No? We don’t see that either? Oh. As you can imagine, he’s reunited with Qi’ra and asked to do one last mission before he’s out. Out of what, you ask? I don’t know. Han spends a lot of time yearning to be free, wanting to spend a honeymoon with Qi’ra, but there’s not much character development. And the sense of theme is… confused to say the least (I’ll just say the twist is presented as if we should be really shocked when it should have evoked a sense of personal betrayal).
I think a lot of people do or are going to love this movie. That’s cool. There are good parts to this- Woody Harrelson in natural form and not a combination of Mal and Wash at all, Donald Glover just has so much swag and the Han/Lando stuff is great, L3 is one of my favorite new droids (would have given my left foot to have L3 played by Daniel Pudi though), Thandie Newton playing Not-Zoe, a train job, some new weaponry we haven’t seen quite yet, and an Aurra Sing reference! That last appearance too- it doesn’t quite save the movie, but it was fun.
For me, this movie is just… kind of there. There’s nothing revolutionary in terms of technique and storytelling. And it’s one of the most… bland, monotonous big-budget movies to look at. We’ve seen a lot better space chases in recent movies. The whole Han thing itself is very vanilla and predictable but not because of good foreshadowing. I get that Han is a very familiar character and we’ve seen different iterations of him (WHATTUP MAL). But listen, had this movie come out pre-The Force Awakens, I might have been pumped to see the Millenium Falcon and Chewie and all those little references, but we are three New Gen Star Wars movies in. Star Wars for the sake of Star Wars just isn’t exciting anymore. After Rogue One was able to successfully kick off some expanded universe stuff, we had a lot of hopes for what A Star Wars Story could deliver. Rehashing and episodic canon subjects shouldn’t really be in this series at all. A Han Solo movie would have been fine, just… maybe with a different label. I think a lot of the movie is fan service points/events, which to some extent works but it just becomes a bit… unsurprising and unexciting. It’s not a total Easter Egg feeling, more like a “Look, this is where he got X!” and “We are referencing this!”
This movie didn’t need so much of the references or events, but poignant scenes where we got to know Han and see his changes. You know. Character development.
To go along with that, I think too much of the emphasis is placed on his feelings for Qi’ra and not so much his idolization of Tobias. Flipping this just a little bit could have done wonders- I wanted to see more of this relationship, as I think it could have provided some deep roots for the future Han we see in the Trilogy. Better yet, Val (Thandie Newton) finds Han’s arrogance somewhat endearing- why not a mother-son-like relationship? I don’t really… understand the need for a love interest. Han was aloof but he didn’t spurn women or turn them away because he had his heart broken. Also, that’s just lazy. We can do a better story than this.
Not to mention Clarke’s Qi’ra gets absolutely nothing to do. She’s raised in the same environment as Han. She should have some sort of capability or knowledge- when Han or company says they need to do something, she’s demoted to the “I’m a woman, I know nothing about ships!” lines and that. Just. GRINDS MY GEARS. “It was a ruse!” some might cry but NAY. He would expect her to know some of this stuff.
I know there were a lot of disagreements and backstage politics, as well as a last minute director replacement (Ron Howard, always dependable and fast), but I have a hard time believing that this is the movie writer Lawrence Kasden envisioned or wanted. I won’t be mad if we don’t get to see another Han Solo movie. I’d rather spend time and credits on other characters.