Solo? No No. Duo.

If you have not seen Solo: A Star Wars Story then please stop reading. This is a ‘review’ of Solo and a conversation but don’t blame me if you see something that spoils the movie for you. Especially since I went to all the trouble of putting this big picture here.

Don’t know if it is true or not but there might actually  be a link between Electric Man and this movie. When we were filming we had a need for lots of extras – not Ben Hur exactly but lots for a little indie movie. And amongst those extras we actually had one Lorne MacFadyen as a comic shop customer. We later heard that he actually made it down to the last two in the casting for the part of Han Solo – not sure if it is true or not but it’s a brilliant rumour – and Lorne has certainly moved on from being comic customer No 1.

Unfortunately Lorne didn’t get the role (damn sure we would be shouting louder if he had) but Alden Ehrenreich is more than acceptable.

That’s great Bolt –  but this is supposed to be a review of Solo and not yet another story about you.

Right you are, sorry. Well, first things first – is it any good?

To be honest you won’t be expecting much in the way of enthusiasm from someone who had so much to say about The Last Jedi – and, you would be wrong. I really enjoyed this movie. Because it is hardly a Star Wars movie at all.

Please forgive any errors but I write these things from memory – there are no notes, when I go to the cinema I go as a punter and I judge the films as I would any other film.

Solo plays like a western from the very start. They even tell you in the traditional text legend opener that this is a lawless time and place. But which western? You’d think that with a name like Solo it would be about a lone gunslinger – but it ain’t. This is no High Noon and it isn’t The Good, The Bad and The Ugly either (although they are all present.

Nope. This movie might be called Solo but it isn’t really about a single character and there are very good reasons for that. I’ve seen people wondering why Han Solo isn’t more of a smart arse? Why he isn’t darker?  And the reasons are built in to the original films.

There are certain aspects to the character of Han Solo from those original films that you cannot escape or change in the same way that there are parts of James Bond that you just can’t change. Whenever anyone is handed a James Bond movie to write, or anything that is part of an ongoing series there is a bible for that series. You don’t get to change things just because you want to. I hate to bring it all back to Harrison Ford but Indiana Jones isn’t Indiana Jones unless there is a hat and a whip involved at some point.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Actually Indiana Jones is a very useful example because when they went back to do his origin story in The Last Crusade they did exactly what Solo does. All the little characterising details are introduced and explained. You find out why he hates snakes, you find out where the hat came from and so on. Solo does exactly the same thing. His blaster, how he meets Chewie, how he gets the Falcon… even those little dice that I never liked in the latest main series. Solo does all of that, but with one minor handicap. Han Solo was never meant to be a lead character. He was never designed to carry a film on his own.

Throughout the original series we follow either Luke or the Droids and even when they are not the sole focus of the film Han Solo is never really alone. Leia is there, Chewie is there.

Because Han Solo is a comedy character at his core. The thing about Solo is that they were given a secondary character to work with (albeit a very famous one) and asked to turn him into a leading hero. Do they manage it?

Nearly, very nearly.

Han Solo is cocky and overconfident. He is, mostly, wrong about things  and he cannot be described as lucky. But he is handsome and charming and as Leia says…

That’s his whole character though. He is brave and he is good but he was never the prime mover, never the central hero. There is just too much comedy in him for that. The scriptwriters had to take that character – with all his flaws and his shallowness – and transform him from ‘comedy character in a supporting role’ to ‘leading role’. They had to take this character and make him both familiar and new at the same time. Not an easy task when you think about it.

And for the most part, they have managed it superbly.

The whole film has the same task. Take something old and familiar and make it new (but not too new or the fans will go mental).

See what I mean? And they solved it. There are cantina scenes, there are space chases and there are call backs to the original movie. Is it all highly original? Hell no. Wouldn’t have been allowed because if you change the character or the world too much then we don’t recognise them as the people who turn up at the start of Star Wars. Han Solo can’t be a deep thinking gazillionaire coward in this one and then turn up as the character Harrison Ford plays.

The plot has a MacGuffin after a MacGuffin that is the same thing really and I am not thinking too deeply about it. It works on its own terms and there are the usual ridiculous coincidences that seem to happen in science fiction.

Because why not?

Emilia Clarke we are looking at you here.

The plot is thin and proceeds in a fairly straight line but that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that there are no bloody death stars, or plans for death stars. The empire gets mentioned sure and there are stormtroopers but no one is using the force and there are no lightsabers. This is not about destiny, it’s about (for the most part) money. And that is a good thing. The lower stakes allow us to invest more – to identify.

This is so much of a western they even have a train robbery with its own (forgive the terminology) red indians but they add to that a sassy feminine droid who brings not only humour but also a current attitude to equal rights. The blend is lovely.

I just rolled along with this film. Only vaguely aware of where we were in time. Sure, the maelstrom appeared and the name of the planet told me exactly what was going to happen – but I didn’t care – it was all such fun. Donald Glover does indeed steal the show and we knew what had to happen before the curtain fell. We knew that Han Solo had to end up in the millenium falcon with Chewbacca.

Job done.

Han Solo does not become a solo hero. Because he needs Chewbacca or it doesn’t work. They are a double act.

You can’t have Butch without Sundance.

 

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2 thoughts on “Solo? No No. Duo.

  1. Well if it’s as good as Butch Cassidy then it’ll be a cracking movie…
    See I’m one of those people who doesn’t really get Star Wars; seeing as I’m slightly more emotionally developed than I was in 1977 and prefer my Harrison Ford Blade Running as opposed to Milenium Falconing, but that’s not to stay I dont see the merits in a well made film…but ain’t they milking this cow for all its worth (Can’t wait for the C3PO on a production line film!)

    1. Disney didn’t pay 4 billion dollars to make no films. Will some of them be crap? Absolutely. This one isn’t a butch and sundance but it is entertainment – moreover it is entertainment I like. Space, lasers, heists… all good. Eat the popcorn and tune out for a while. Not everything has to be worthy.

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