So, today took a turn for the interesting and fun for me. I picked up a family of four on Lyft at Tinseltown at 930am. And as we went to their destination (DFW airport), I asked what movie they saw, thinking it oddly early for a movie but supposing perhaps the theater had changed its hours for summer. “We wanted to see SOLO, but there aren’t any lockers for our backpacks and the theater won’t just let us take them in.” Ouch. That sucks. So I asked what time they depart. “6pm.” WHAT!? So I say, “You know, if you’ll buy my ticket, you can keep your bags in my car, and I’ll bring you back here after.” The youngest son to his mom: “Mom, don’t even think about it!” But she and her husband had already decided. So I saw SOLO today, with popcorn and orange Fanta. And four fantastic strangers who were loads of fun.
Here’s the part that hurts. The theater, as far as I could tell, was otherwise empty. Here’s the other part that hurts. The movie was fine…for a space action flick. The entire cast was great, with one exception. Alden Ehrenreich. Title character. Bad acting? No. He played the part. He had a solid characterization. But he wasn’t Han Solo.
He wasn’t even Han Solo before Han Solo became Han Solo. He had a moment or two. And the story had moments we as Star Wars fans always wondered about, but somehow the payoff hit along the lines of, “Oh, that’s all it was?” rather than, “Yes!!! That’s perfect!!!” And I also have a particular bias. The books. The Star Wars Cannon Disney flushed away (books published before 2014, branded “Legends” if you see them new on the shelf these days). There’s at least one Han Solo trilogy among the books that takes place before Star Wars: A New Hope. And having now seen SOLO, I have to say I much rather would have seen the books adapted. Because the books do cover the moments we’ve always wanted to see, and in the written version, the payoff is exactly perfect.
Don’t get me wrong. SOLO was a fun movie. The cast overall did well. Alden Ehrenreich wasn’t bad, he just wasn’t Han. Why is this movie failing at the box office? Because the audience can see in the trailers and commercials what is plainly obvious in the film: Alden Ehrenreich just isn’t Han Solo. Good actor? Yes. Han Solo? No. Now, let’s talk specifics. Meaning #Spoilers. Sabacc. It is a long known fact among Star Wars fans (or at least the reading demographic of Star Wars fans) that Sabacc (the legendary card game that decided the ownership of the Millennium Falcon) is a game played with an electronic field that shifts the values of the card-chips at random and that card values can be locked in to retain their value.
But the “sabacc” presented in SOLO was played with…paper cards. Just like the game Disney is marketing to all the kids right now. Paper cards. Space Blackjack, my friends. Nothing more. “That’s it?” What’s the big deal with Han? Let me set it up this way. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the late River Phoenix matched Harrison Ford’s Jones in mannerisms and inflections, as well as in comedic timing (“Everybody’s lost but me.”). We knew, as an audience, that that Boy Scout would later grow to be Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr., because everything the Boy Scout did connected energetically to what we already knew of the character. Ehrenreich’s Solo has none of this going for him. He’s wearing the blaster and gun belt and walks in the company of a Wookiee, but he doesn’t believe it himself that he’s Han Solo. He carries himself as if he’s waiting for the audience to approve. The Falcon. You might have noticed her nose job. It’s an escape pod. Which is fine, because once jettisoned, we get to see her signature shape again. But…she was too new at first. Way too new. SJW. Dear Mouse, it’s Star Wars. Not Social Justice Wars. Not First World Problem Wars. Star. Wars.
You want it to be relevant? Then get back to writing intergalactic tales of good vs evil. Quit invading a potentially poignant moral tale with your petty quarrels. The audience took a break from social media to do something that wasn’t social media, meaning, they paid their hard-earned cash to watch a movie. To be entertained. Not to be preached at through a veil of Star Wars imagery. Star Wars pioneered diversity. Go back and actually watch the original trilogy. No need to preach to the choir on that point. So, stop it.
Harrelson’s Beckett and Clarke’s Qi’ra were great and enigmatic. If they weren’t loosely adjacent to characters in the original Cannon, I’d have loved them all the more. Glover’s Calrissian was spot on. He is to The Empire Strikes Back what Rogue One’s Vader ending is to A New Hope. Paul Bettany was gold as always. Warwick Davis had a cameo. Chewbacca. Chewie is Chewie. Kessel Run. Not bad. Just…again, different from the way the books tell it.
Bottom line: Fun movie, might have worked as an in-betweener adventure had they left out the moments we all wanted to see. Final thought: If you want the story of Han Solo before Star Wars: A New Hope, read it. The Han Solo Trilogy by A.C. Crispin.
May The Force Be With You.