I don’t know why I didn’t go to see this movie when it was in the theatre. I wanted to. The people I usually go to the movies with all said they wanted to, but we just never could agree on a time. It didn’t seem urgent to us. Maybe it was because we had already been to see several movies just before it was released and seeing films at the cineplex isn’t as cheap as it used to be. For whatever reason I didn’t watch it became available on Netflix just recently. Now I wish I had seen it on the big screen.
I don’t think I’m alone here. According to the numbers at Box Office Mojo, Solo made less than a third of what The Last Jedi did, and less than half of Rogue One. The headlines I would see kept saying it was a disappointment and an under performer. There was no talk about a sequel. The thing is, what I wasn’t reading were complaints. Noone was really saying anything bad about the movie. Rotten Tomatoes has it sitting at 70% fresh. To give you a reference, the first Transformers movie is at only 57%, and each of its four sequels scored even lower. It seems like people just didn’t feel like going to see it in the theatre.
In my case, I think it may have been the marketing. Having seen it now, it is really a heist film, which with a character like Han Solo is exactly what it should be. It’s about criminals, con-men and scoundrels. Schemes and plots. The commercials and trailers never conveyed this though and how you sell a story to the audience has an enormous impact on how they receive it.
As an example, not too long ago I read The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. It was a good book, and had someone simply given it to me and said “Here, I think you will like this”, they would have been right. That’s not what happened though. “It’s like Oceans Eleven in a fantasy setting!” my son told me when he loaned me his copy. It wasn’t. It was about con artists, yes, but that’s about it. The book was not bad, it was actually very good, but I had expectations that did not match my reading experience, and because of that I finished the book disappointed. That may have been the case with Solo. People went in expecting one thing and got something else. They didn’t hate what they got, but the experience left them unenthusiastic.
If the marketing and trailers had played up the crime aspect and billed it more as a Sci-Fi mobster movie, I think it would have attracted more people. Instead they relied on “It’s Han Solo! You love Han Solo! Come see Han Solo! The Millenium Falcon! Chewbaca!” Yeah, I like Han Solo… but Harrison ford is not in it.
I liked this movie. It’s fun, it’s funny, well acted and the pacing is good. With a running time of two hours and fifteen minutes, I never felt bored or looked at a clock. The biggest weak point for me I think is Alden Ehrenreich. Please don’t get me wrong, he is terrific in this movie and this is not a knock on his acting abilities, I just don’t get a Han Solo vibe from him. Maybe Harrison Ford is a really, really tough act to follow, let alone imitate, but it is possible.
River Phoenix did a fantastic job of portraying a younger version of Fords Indiana Jones at the beginning of Last Crusade, despite looking nothing like him. He perfectly captured his speech pattern, physicality and facial mannerisms to make you feel like you were watching a younger version of the same character, and I didn’t get that watching Ehrenreich. Maybe it was a conscious decision by director Ron Howard, maybe he wanted to make the character his own, or maybe I’m just far too used to Harrison Ford, whose Han Solo has been an icon for over forty years.
I did feel like Donald Glover was a young Lando Calrissian though. He perfectly captured Billy Dee Williams charm and suave, adaptive nature. If they don’t do another Solo movie, I would suggest they focus on Donald Glovers Lando. I would love to see a big con movie like The Sting starring his character.
Don’t let my negativity in the previous paragraphs discourage you from watching this movie. It has a great balance between comedy and action and you will like the new characters you are supposed to like, and hate the ones you’re meant to hate. Solo is also visually beautiful, the action scenes are fantastic and the slower emotional beats are just as engaging to watch. Plus it’s a Ron Howard movie. When’s the last time you didn’t enjoy one of his films? I really hope this is not the end of his involvement with the franchise.
I hope it gathers a bigger audience among people watching at home, either streaming or with DVD and Bluray sales. It would be a shame not to see where the story goes, given the tease we get at the end (which I won’t spoil here)