By Eleanor Ringel Cater
“Sitting in the Millennium Falcon next to a Wookie doesn’t make you Han Solo.”
These are the words — or near enough — of Salon V’s Amy C., one of the best hair stylists in the city, as well as a fine authority on most things movie-ish and all things “Star Wars”-ish.
Turns out, she’s right. Alden Ehrenreich as young Han Solo isn’t the worst thing in “Solo” — not even near — but he simply isn’t, well, young Han Solo. Maybe you need to be born with Harrison Ford’s scowl, his inimitable sardonic-verging-on-sour delivery. Or maybe it’s something in the eyes.
But Ehrenreich, who proved in the Coen Brothers’ “Hail Caesar,” that he’s a gifted actor, never convinces us he’s going to grow up to be Ford.
Jack Black, maybe (check the eyebrows)….
At any rate, he’s the least of “Solo’s” problems. The movie begins badly and gets steadily worse. We’re introduced to Han and his friend-with-potential-benefits, Qi’Ra as they’re plotting how to escape the “Oliver!”-ish larceny ring run by Lady Proxima, a kind of cross between Phyllis Diller and a giant centipede.
He makes it; she doesn’t. But not to worry; she’s played by the Mother of Dragons herself, Emilia Clarke, so she’ll turn up later. To avoid Proxima’s goons, Han enlists in the Empire’s military where he comes across Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and Val (Thandie Newton), a pair of cunning rogues who’re in the middle of a train heist commissioned by vicious intergalactic crime lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).
Like all silken villains with Brit accents, Vos has a whip-smart and beautiful consort who turns out to be…yes!…Qi’Ra (and if this constitutes a major spoiler, then “Solo” may indeed be the film for you). Anyway, because things didn’t go so good on the train job (though the train itself has Theme Park Thrill Ride stamped all over it), Han, Beckett, etc. owe Vos another job, which leads to another action-packed segment, which leads to another… and another…and…
And somewhere in there, Solo hooks up (not carnally, but, you know) with a young Lando Calrissian (a scene-stealing Donald Glover), a shiny Millennium Falcon, a surprisingly vocal (i.e., noisy) Chewbacca, and several other checkpoints in the Han Solo mythos.
Everything about “Solo” seems just plain tired, from Ron Howard’s rudimentary direction to the more-of-the-same/ incessant score to the murky cinematography.
Most troubling of all, perhaps, is the dreary script by Lawrence Kasdan, (the genius who gave us ‘The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Big Chill”) and his son Jonathan. Geez, World War I trench combat straight out of “Paths of Glory?” World War II train action straight out of “The Bridge over the River Kwai?” The surreal, unexpected appearance of a ship straight out of “Lawrence of Arabia?”
To its credit, “Solo” isn’t trying to get away with anything. It’s a conscionable, well-intentioned effort. But there’s nothing at stake here — for the characters or the creative team. With everything else that’s going on in the Disney version of the “Star Wars” gold mine, a “Solo” sequel is probably beside the point.
That said, given that Glover makes off with every scene he’s in (or even near; check the closet-full-of-capes joke), “The Further Adventures of Lando Calrissian” seems a sure bet.