Plot: As a street hustler, Han (Alden Ehrenreich) has some skill, but often finds himself in trouble for trying to cut corners to get ahead. His latest plan was to hide a small amount of valuable hyper fuel, then use it to secure transports off Corellia for not just himself, but his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). But when things go south and only Han is able to escape, he joins the Empire to lay low and plots to eventually return, with enough credits to save her as well. Of course, the rules and regulations of Empire life aren’t easy for him to adapt to, though he does soon fall in with some other roguish types, led by Beckett (Woody Harrelson). At first the group resists his offers to join up, but once he has a massive Wookie named Chewbacca at his side, they take him more seriously and soon, he is on the crew for a huge heist. But when things take some unexpected turns, can Han keep things together and see his plan to completion?
Entertainment Value: This seems like a can’t premise, one of the coolest characters ever is given an origin story and as long as he doesn’t come out looking like a generic, bland good guy, all would be well. The production was troubled and featured a mid-shoot replacement in the director’s chair, not to mention rumors of Alden Ehrenreich being so bad, he needed on set acting lessons. The movie has some impressive visuals and production design elements, but manages to do the impossible and make Han Solo seem like an uncool person. I have no idea why so much of what makes Han so awesome is ignored here in favor of a more generic hero, but that’s the case. Even when Han makes a mostly cool move toward the finale, he turns into an emotional wreck and shows none of the roguish persona we know and love. Aside from the mistreatment of Han, the movie is just one nostalgia play after another, hoping little bursts of the past will distract from a mediocre narrative and weak performances. Solo has some great visuals and atmosphere at times, but shows no respect to the established lore of the characters and is content to be a generic, forgettable sci/fi flick.
If you’ve read my reviews of the Star Wars prequels, you know I considered Hayden Christensen’s performance to be one of the worst ever, but Alden Ehrenreich gives him a run for his money here. Aside from a slight resemblance to Harrison Ford, he brings little to the table here and stumbles over his lines at all times. Han is charisma personified, but Ehrenreich is lifeless and wooden, not even a slight shadow of the charming rogue Ford made iconic. I think the filmmakers could tell he was a drag on the movie, as for a movie called Solo, they managed to surround him with a lot of better performers to keep him in the background when possible. Donald Glover’s sketch comedy show style imitation of Billy Dee Williams isn’t fun to watch, but the rest of the cast is more than solid. Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, and Paul Bettany do their best with less than stimulating material. I wanted to like Solo, but it winds up as a poor man’s blast of ill executed nostalgia and little else.