Chewbacca, Cinematic Epic, Han Solo, Millennium Falcon, Ron Howard, Solo, Star Wars, They Odyssey
Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan
Alden Ehrenreich: Han Solo
Joonas Suotamo: Chewbacca
Emilia Clarke: Qi’ra (Pronounced “Kira”)
Woody Harrelson: Beckett
Donald Glover: Lando Calrissian
Paul Bettany: Dryden Vos
Solo was supposed to cost a great deal less than the $250 million dollars it eventually cost. Keep in mind that number is probably only the most accurate of a number of reports, and doesn’t include promotion, etc, which may have raised the overall cost to as much as $400 million, but one thing is certain: it cost a ridiculously large sum to make, primarily because the two original directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, had “creative differences” with Lucasfilm and were fired after several months of production. Ron Howard, about as safe a bet as an emergency director as can be imagined, was brought on board, but had to reshoot much of the movie, hence the high production costs. Several weeks into the release, things are not looking good:
Certainly, having to reshoot the film with a new director was a contributing problem. Ron Howard has brilliant films to this credit, but they have been his films. This one is clearly not. It’s not a bad movie, it’s just not what it needed to be when it needed to be. Screening shortly after Avengers: Infinity War, and Deadpool 2, it faced stiff competition. The Last Jedi screened less than a half year ago, and all prior Star Wars movies have been spaced at least a year apart. Rogue One did well, but the timing was better, and it featured new and interesting characters; the character development had somewhere to go, and did.
Lucasfilm and Disney reportedly have as many as nine new Star Wars movies in various stages of pre-production, etc. The lackadaisical response of fans to Solo might cause them to reevaluate that kind of optimism.
Solo is, of course, an origin story, and that too is one of its weaknesses. The Star Wars saga, particularly the original trilogy, were spectacularly successful in large part because they are the movie version of literary epics. They are The Odyssey on the silver screen, and share all of the characteristics that compel us to read, and adapt for the screen, millennia old epics today. All moviegoers know Han Solo and Chewie. Han’s character traits are well known. He’s the loveable rogue, the swaggering, swashbuckling bad boy, good to have in a fight, clever, brave, loyal to his friends, quick on his feet, fallible, soft hearted, but able to do whatever is necessary to win, and always finding a way to triumph for good in the end. He’s Odysseus, Huckleberry Finn, every slightly disrespectable but endearing character Americans love to love. He’s like James Bond: men wish they could be him and women want to be with him.
In essence, Star Wars fans already knew the outcome of any possible character development before the opening sequence. There was no mystery. Han Solo was Han Solo and he was going to be Han Solo at the end of the movie, just younger. Other than introducing a few new characters, many of who end up seriously dead, there is only one character that has a hope of continuing character development in the future: Qi’ra, played winningly by British Actress Emelia Clarke (Don’t you just love that final, British “e”?).
The movie opens on a grim planet where Qi’ra and Han, played by Alden Ehrenreich, are slave labor for a loathsome gangster–plenty of those in the Star Wars universe–doing what such characters do: hustling. Qi’ra is Han’s love interest, and they try to escape the planet. Han makes it, Qi’ra doesn’t, and he swears to come back for her as soon as he can. His never-wavering devotion to her is one of Han’s best qualities.
To escape, he enlists in the Empire’s–they’re around, evil, and wearing the same armor that doesn’t appear to protect them from anything–military, but gets kicked out of flight school because–wait for it–he can’t play by the rules. Fortunately, he learned just enough to be one of the most brilliant, intuitive pilots in the Galaxy.
He meets Chewie–they more or less rescue each other from the clutches of the Empire–and Beckett, played by Woody Harrelson. Beckett is also a hustler, and has a big score in mind. This leads to one of the grand CGI sequences in the movie–there are several–but they ultimately fail–the characters, not the CGI–which introduces them to Vos, played by Paul Bettany. Readers will likely recognize him as Vision from the Avengers universe. In Solo, he’s a menacing thug that employs Beckett. He also employs Qi’ra, and her reunion with Solo is a happy thing, but tinged with mystery.
So off they go on a second quest to make a score that will pay Vos back and keep them alive, which sets up several other grand special effects scenes. Han gets to demonstrate his wit, Qi’ra gets to demonstrate near-Jedi level martial skills, Han meets Lando Calrissian, played well by Donald Glover, wins the Millenium Falcon from him by using his own card tricks against him, and he and Chewie fly off, happily, but without Qi’ra, into space.
There are, of course, sufficient unresolved plot lines to allow a sequel. And that’s where things get interesting. Ehrenreich plays a predictable but endearing Solo; remember we knew what he was going to have to be by the end of the movie. Chewie plays Chewie, one of the Star Wars universe’s more charming characters. And viewers aren’t quite sure what to make of Qi’Ra, who seems a minion of–Darth Maul?!
Production values are first rate. Sets, lighting, costumes, makeup and special effects are all very well done. I found it hard to hear some of the dialogue between individual characters, and there was no particular rhyme or reason to when such problems would occur. Perhaps it is just all those years of shooting and loud music catching up with me, but I had the distinct impression there was more than a little mumbling going on.
Seeing a brand new, sparkling white and clean Millenium Falcon was fun, and the various aliens were very well done, though Star Wars fans tend to take that sort of thing for granted.
It’s difficult to see Howard’s mark on the movie, which is no doubt at least partially true because he had to make do with someone else’s ideas and try to keep as much of the original footage as possible. The pacing is professional, the movie looks convincing, there is at least some of the trademark humor and false bravado one expects from Han Solo, but it’s not unreasonable to assert the movie doesn’t fulfill the expectations of some Star Wars fans.
The Star Wars universe can easily go on without a Solo sequel. There seems little additional information such a movie could provide, and there appears to be no need to provide background for any possible future movie. Unless the movie does a great deal better in American theaters, around the world, and on DVD, there would seem to be little reason for a sequel. The surviving characters could, however, easily appear in other future movies, just not as featured players.
Solo is an entertaining movie, but breaks no real new ground. One can easily wait for the DVD, but I must admit, I’m not feeling compelled to buy it as soon as it comes out. I’ll probably buy one merely to add to my Star Wars collection, but I wouldn’t show it in school to illustrate the quest or the hero. Episode IV does that much better.
This movie would likely be set after Darth Maul loses a fight rather convincingly to Obi-Wan. He somehow survives, but he seems to have lost his Darth card, and is now merely a crime boss. (According to canon, from what I understand.)
I’m not that much of a Star Wars geek.
I haven’t seen the movie, don’t plan to, my son and husband enjoyed it enough I’ve been dodging “Star Wars ships!” made of legos all week, but some of the financial screaming seems… iffy.
For example, Deadpool 2 had a point two percent larger drop in box office take between weekends, but nobody screamed about how horribly it was doing– even though it went down to #2. Solo is still at #1 and they’re poor-mouthing? The launch is in the top 100, and it’s a bust?
It isn’t the movie’s ticket sales and box office position that matter – it’s profit or loss. Remember, all proceeds from ticket sales do not go to the studio. Rule-of-thumb is it takes $2 at the box office to recover $1 in costs – production plus promotion.
Deadpool 2 cost less than half of Solo to make, and had a smaller advertising budget.
Deadpool 2 has already recovered costs, and is generating profits.
Solo is not yet making a profit, and current projections don’t look favorable.
They haven’t used that standard up to now; in fact they declare stuff to have failed when it earned back its budget right off the bat.
Mike McDaniel said:
Good points. Hollywood accounting is notoriously flexible, but the ultimate determiner will be whether a sequel eventually appears. As I noted, it’s not a bad movie by any means, it’s just not an outstanding movie in a genre that continually pushes the boundaries of outstanding.
Leonard Jones said:
There are some kinds of movies that are so damn perfect, any sequel
will be a disappointment. I watched Star Wars 2 and was not impressed!
I watched Star Wars 3 thinking it might be better, but I was wrong. That
was the last one I watched.
The only two sequels I thought were better than the original were Aliens,
and 2010: The Year We Make Contact.
As bad as sequels are, remakes are even worse. This is especially
true of epics like Gone With The Wind and Ben Hur. If anybody even
thinks about a remake of Lawrence Of Arabia, I will pop my cork!
Mike McDaniel said:
Dear Leonard Jones:
Ah! A man of refinement and discernment. I’ve always been fond of 2010 as well. In fact, I show it with 2001 for my 11th grade classes.
Leonard Jones said:
In my mind, 2010 was technically the better film. My mother (the
book whore) gave me 2001 to read when I was a kid. Reading a
book before seeing the movie is always a disappointment. MASH
and 2001 were nowhere near as satisfying as the books. My mother
had me reading at a better than 2nd-grade level before I entered
Kindergarten. I was devouring hundreds of books a year by age14.
I sucked at English and grammar but I was a math, science and
geography geek so please do not grade my posts. I inhaled all of
her hand-me-downs including classic literature, sci-fi, and she also
loved the anti-heroes like Mack Bolan: The Executioner. I even read
some of her tawdry romance novels. She came back from movie
theaters raving about Dirty Harry and Paul Kersey (Death Wish.)
She would have fallen in love with Jack Bauer had she lived a little
Mike McDaniel said:
Dear Leonard Jones:
Mack Bolan: I had them all, but with too much author dilution, the series lost steam.
Was it better than Episode 1?
Mike McDaniel said:
Dear Pie Slapper:
Considering that was the movie that introduced Jar Jar Binks, the average late night two for the price of one plus shipping and handling commercial is superior.
James W Crawford said:
I have to admit that the remakes of I Am Legend and True Grit were in some respects superior to the originals.
I have not bothered to see the last three Star Wars movies.
Leonard Jones said:
The remake of True Grit was much more faithful to the book. I always
thought Am Legend was based on the movie Omega Man, which was
a remake of the Vincent Price classic: The Last Man On Earth. I have
all three in my DVD collection along with the original and remake of True
I had no idea that there was an original I Am Legend that predated the
The Last Man on Earth. I am going to have to add it to my collection!
Thanks for the info!
As far as I know, The Last Man on Earth (1964) was the first movie based on the book I Am Legend published in 1954 by Richard Matheson.
Other versions were The Omega Man (1971), I Am Legend (2007), and I Am Omega (2007) – a movie so bad it was released direct to DVD.