Arts movie review

Beauty is only skin deep in ‘Solo’

‘Solo’ is beautifully shot, but disappoints by offering nothing beneath the surface.

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L3-L7 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich), and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) hurtle through space in the familiar cockpit of the Millenium Falcon
Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Solo: A Star Wars Story
Directed by Ron Howard
Written by Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan
Starring  Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton
Rated PG-13
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The new Star Wars films have, by and large, offered justification for their existence. The Force Awakens established a new lore, with both its strengths and weaknesses due to its similarity to A New Hope. The Last Jedi took Star Wars convention and turned it on its head while at the same time examining questions of purpose, doubt, and pain. Rogue One, personally my favorite of the new batch of movies, examined sacrifice and fighting for what you believe in, even in the face of futility.

I'm sorry to inform you that not only does Solo fail to justify its existence, it actively asserts reason after reason against its existence.

Telling Han Solo’s story was always going to be a tricky endeavor. In some ways, Han’s mysterious backstory was what made him interesting to us — we didn't need to know every detail; we just knew he was roguish, a masterful pilot, and at some point found himself with the Millennium Falcon and a wookie as his companion. We knew about the Kessel Run.

Solo feels its role is to answer all of these questions, along with questions we never asked. These answers are, by and large, disappointing. The dramatic beats are predictable; the deaths are unmotivated and feel either cheap or disinteresting. Either we don't care about the characters enough, or the deaths are out of narrative convenience.

Solo is not without its joys. As many other critics have noted, Donald Glover makes a wonderful  Lando in one of the film’s few convincing performances. The most egregiously bad character is L3, Lando's droid companion. The acting is fine, but the character’s sole purpose in the movie is to mock feminism and other social justice movements, which actively detracts from the movie as a whole.

The one truly great thing about Solo is its cinematography. The shots are often wide, sweeping, and immaculately staged. The effects are gorgeous, and one scene in particular involving Marauders standing opposite the protagonists could be a painting. Bradford Young, the cinematographer, deserves acclaim for his work here, following after the beautiful Arrival. It is reminiscent, in some ways, of the cinematography of Rogue One, probably somewhat due to the same camera type being used on both. Solo is stunning, and that I will not argue against.

The problem is that aesthetics and nostalgia are all that Solo has. It has no message. It has dull plotting. Its characters are poorly written and given little to work with. Rather than standing alone, Solo’s only merit is that it’s yet another Star Wars flick, and it hopes that's enough for you.

Is Solo worth seeing? Maybe. If you're a Star Wars completionist, I'm sure you’ll find something to like. The fights and the chases are fun, occasionally. But Solo is just not a good movie. It’s mediocre at best and squanders any potential it may have had. It is, in my opinion, not worth wasting your money or time on (at nearly 2.5 hours, this film feels twice as long). Solo is a disappointment whose pleasures are few and far between. It is a truly bad Star Wars movie, but, more than that, it's also just a truly bad movie overall.