First, some background on some apprehensions I carried with me into the theater when I saw “Solo: A Star Wars Story” last night.
My excitement for “Solo” dropped to near zero when Lucasfilm fired directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, two of the weirdest and most inventive filmmakers working today, and brought on Ron Howard, a talented guy without a shred of Lord and Miller’s oddball charm. All of the trailers make it look like Opie gave them just what they wanted, something workmanlike and safe and ordinary, utterly lacking the spark of insanity a Lord and Miller version would have promised.
And now, on to the review:
“Solo” is all right I guess, considering the turmoil that went into making it. It’s a straightforward, utterly predictable heist movie with a charming idea here and there and some nice performances, save for one, which vaults past nice into amazing.
Donald Glover (“Atlanta”) as Lando is absolutely phenomenal. His work transcends impression. He has created a character we can see naturally evolving into the one we know and love while putting his own stamp on it. The movie is at its best every time he is on screen.
As for the rest of it? Meh.
There are some nifty action scenes, some fun stretches, but more often than not the movie feels like it is spinning its wheels, looking for reasons to justify its existence.
Previous spinoff “Rogue One” avoided these issues by giving us something different, exploring the moral gray areas of the rebellion and putting us on the ground with the grunts who’d spent all other movies up to that point in the background. “Solo” has no such aspirations.
There are neat ideas that crop up, like a droid obsessed with social justice for droid-kind. Even that is treated like window dressing for a standard “Ocean’s”-in-space plot disappointingly assembled by writers Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan.
Every odd moment, every weird aside that Lord and Miller might have leaned into feels as though it is given no more than lip service.
It isn’t a bad movie, and even in its current neutered, generic state it is better than any of the flaming, bloated-zeppelin disasters that were the prequels. It is, however, by a country mile the weakest film in the Disney “Star Wars” era, and worse than anything in the original trilogy.
I can’t imagine myself getting too excited for any further adventures of young Han Solo.
Wake me when the Lando movie comes out.