HE reminder: Solo pops in two days. The second half is okay but don’t expect too much. I never felt turned on or lifted up or caught up in the flow of the thing, and I’m saying this as someone who half-enjoyed The Force Awakens, felt mildly engaged by Rogue One and was half-taken by portions of The Last Jedi. I just couldn’t respond any more. I couldn’t take the plunge.
Alden Ehrenreich does a relatively decent job of pretending to be a youngish, much shorter Han, and if you want to go along with this charade, be my guest. But there’s no eluding the fact he’s nowhere close to being a chip off the old block. There’s a moment when Ehrenreich, listing his strategic attributes to Woody Harrelson, says “I’m a driver”…and I almost said out loud, “Yeah, of a fucking Prius!”
I felt hugely bored and irritated during the first hour, which is all about adrenalizing the ADD crowd with the usual Star Wars distractions — Han-in-big-trouble, Han-escapes-trouble, Han drives like a bat outta hell, the usual derring-do, high-speed chases, pulse-weapon battles, skin-of-their-teeth escapes…wow, wow, wow, wow…nothing.
Solo finally shifts into gear with the arrival of Donald Glover‘s Lando Calrissian and the Millennium Falcon, and especially when the Kessel Run smuggle plan kicks in and yaddah-yaddah. But Han doesn’t get behind the controls of the Falcon until the 90-minute mark. And then the film keeps going for another 40 minutes — it should have ended at the two-hour mark already. Plus I honestly lost patience with Harrelson and Emilia Clarke’s characters pulling last-minute, character-shifting switcheroos. Plus the big poker game in which Han wins the Falcon happens at the very end, almost as an afterthought.
For the 37th time, in order of preference:
1. The Empire Strikes Back (’80). Far and away the most handsomely captured Star Wars film (the dp was Peter Suschitzky) until The Last Jedi (shot by Steve Yedlin) came along. The darkest and finest Star Wars flick because it’s essentially a noir, and because the story points are all about losing, which is totally against the formulaic grain of all fantasy and superhero flicks. Lose, bruise, run for your life. The heroes get chased, kicked around, outflanked, betrayed, ambushed and barely survive. Luke convulsed by self-doubt, losing his right hand in a light-saber battle, horrified by a revelation about his lineage. Han being captured, tortured and put into carbon freeze. Guts but no glory, wounds, pain, “there’ll be another time.”
2. Star Wars (’77) is entirely satisfying for what it is and occasionally quite special, but why is it I haven’t re-watched it in several years? Because it’s nowhere near as good as Empire and I just can’t seem to find the time. Everything else is somewhat flawed, flawed, extremely flawed, occasionally irritating, profoundly irritating, dismissable, spotty or otherwise problematic:
3. Rogue One.
4. Revenge of the Sith.
5. Return of the Jedi.
6. The Last Jedi.
7. The Force Awakens.
8. Attack of the Clones.
9. The Phantom Menace.