Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

May 25, 2018

Attack of the groans!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 7:12 pm

May 25, 2018

Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Paul Bettany, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo

Director: Ron Howard

I can think of many words to describe the new standalone Han Solo movie, but let’s just go with ‘colossally disappointing’ for now. Set up to reveal how our favorite scoundrel got his name, where he met Chewbacca, and how he came upon the Millennium Falcon, Solo: A Star Wars Story is a busy yet unmistakably underwhelming entry in the beloved sci-fi franchise.

A big part of the problem is the film’s decidedly ‘safe’ approach. Lately blockbusters like Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman, and most recently Avengers: Infinity War benefited greatly from raising the stakes or even just going down a new, unpredictable path. “Solo” is a linear, traditional affair – robust perhaps, but far from daring. Which is especially ironic, given that it’s the origin story of the roguish rebel celebrated for breaking all the rules.

The other hiccup is Alden Ehrenreich, the 28-year-old actor trusted with embodying the young Solo. Ehrenreich dutifully attempts to channel the wry wit and the cocky swagger Harrison Ford brought to the iconic swashbuckling hero, but he comes up short. Han, as immortalized by Ford in four films over nearly 40 years, was arrogant, sardonic, and likeable all at once. Ehrenreich mostly just smirks.

We first meet a young Han on the planet Corelia where he and his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) are tragically separated. Three years later, working for the Empire, he falls in with a tough crew of hustlers led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). A mission goes wrong and they end up indebted to criminal boss Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), even as, along the way, Han makes new acquaintances and reconnects with old contacts.

Densely plotted, by veteran Star Wars screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan, the film ticks every box to include elements from across genres: science-fiction, western, romance, comedy, thriller, buddy movie – you name it! As a result, the film often feels over-packed and overcomplicated. Another problem is how dark the film is…and I mean literally. From an opening speeder chase through a dingy tunnel, to several key moments – including the first time we lay eyes on the Millennium Falcon – much of “Solo” is shot in such low lighting, I found myself wiping my 3D glasses repeatedly to make sure they weren’t covered in a coat of dust.

But to be fair, it’s not like the film gives you no joy at all. The movie finds its sweet spot once Chewbacca is in the picture, and we’re reunited with the Falcon. There’s also genuine pleasure to be had watching Han’s encounters with the slippery Lando Calrissian, played by a terrific Donald Glover. There are more than a few callbacks to the previous films, and expectedly, nostalgia plays a significant role in keeping you invested.

Ron Howard, who replaced original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller several months into the shoot, stages a number of impressive set pieces, with a raid on a speeding train through snowy mountains being the piece de resistance. 

Solo: A Star Wars Story never skimps on spectacle, yet fails to genuinely surprise you with anything bold or original. At 2 hours and 15 minutes it’s a trudge at best, not the exhilarating flight worthy of the best pilot in the galaxy. I’m going with two out of five.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)


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