Solo: A Star Wars Story
Ron Howard, director
Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, scriptwriters
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich (Han Solo), Woody Harrelson (Tobias Beckett), Emilia Clarke (Qi’ra), Donald Glover (Lando Calrissian), Thandie Newton (Val), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (L3-37, Lando’s companion), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Paul Bettany (Dryden)
When Star Wars burst on the screen exactly 41 years ago, May 25, 1977, not only did the blockbuster sci-fi era begin, but so did the career of Harrison Ford. As Han Solo, the rouge pilot with a mysterious past and a space gorilla named Chewbacca as his best friend, Ford arrived with a swagger that captured fans around the world as well as Princess Leia. When Ford followed up his success as Solo with a superb portrayal of another iconic adventure hero, Indiana Jones, he rocketed to stardom.
More than four decades later, followers of Star Wars know the fate of Ford’s Han Solo but they’re presumably still interested in finding out about his youth. The problem, of course, is who to cast to play a part so well established by Ford. Sadly, the producers—mainly Kathleen Kennedy—got it wrong.
Alden Ehrenreich’s charisma, or lack of it, is more reminiscent of Rock Hudson and his cohort of good looking bland stars like John Gavin and Tab Hunter, than the young, exciting Ford. Rumor has it that one of the reasons Ron Howard replaced the original Solo directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller was that he might be able to liven up Ehrenreich’s performance. And it may have worked up to a point: Ehrenreich seems to have a cocky smile on his face in almost every scene. Too bad there’s no variety in his performance.
Still, Solo isn’t half bad, which is a tribute to the rest of the cast and the screenwriting prowess of the Kasdan family. Emilia Clarke, no stranger to the world of fantasy and adventure thanks to her role as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, is sensational as Qi’ra, Solo’s first girlfriend who plays the nicely ambiguous role of a potential villain—or romantic partner. Woody Harrelson trots out his usual partially humorous, partially scary persona as Tobias Beckett, who is Solo’s mentor into the world of interstellar criminality but is also a figure who can’t be trusted. And Donald Glover is brilliant as Lando, a card shark and smuggler, who dominates every scene he’s in. Disney could do worse than make a film starring him as Lando.
Lawrence Kasdan, who started his career as the scriptwriter of The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark, combined with his son Jonathan on the scenario, which is reasonably interesting.
Will Solo be a hit? I think it will do fairly well but won’t be a blockbuster success. For that, you need the right leading man or woman.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
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