I’ve watched all the Star Wars films.

Loved all the classic characters, Chewie, Hans, Princess Leia, Yoda even Jabba the Hut evokes some sort of nostalgia. Fast forward to modern times I was excited about John Boyega’s casting as Finn. Yay diversity. Wasn’t too much of a fan of Rogue One but loved Star Wars: The Force Awakens & Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Was I hankering for an origin story about Hans Solo? … Hmm not really. Was I interested to see who would be cast as his black supposedly ex-wife Sana Storros as explained to me by TBB’s resident Sci-Fi buff, Ms. Descant Deb… sure why not?

We reported last year that “Variety revealed Tessa Thompson (Dear White People, Selma, Creed), Naomi Scott (Power Rangers) and Zoë Kravitz (Divergent series, Mad Max: Fury Road) tested in London for the female lead in the as yet-untitled project, fuelling more speculation that we could be about to meet the über cool #SanaStarros!” [1]

Well we didn’t, because they weren’t cast along with the overall production being fraught with turmoil after co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller exited the project after creative differences with producers Kathleen Kennedy (Lucasfilm president) and Allison Shearmur. Luckily enough Oscar-winning director Ron Howard (Splash, Cocoon, Apollo 13, Parenthood, Backdraft, The Da Vinci Code) stepped in and everything was back on track.[2]

We also got British Blacktress Thandie Newton cast as ‘Val’, and current African American actor/creative genius of the moment Donal Glover cast as a young Lando Calrissian (originally played by Billy Dee Williams in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi).

Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover)

Solo: A Star Wars Story as mentioned is the story of space pirate Hans Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) during his younger formative years – Young Han Solo finds adventure when he joins a gang of galactic smugglers – Val (Newton),  Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and Rio Durant (Jon Favreau) and a 196-year-old Wookie named Chewbacca (Joonas Suatomo). Indebted to the gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), the crew devises a daring plan to travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal a batch of valuable coaxium. In need of a fast ship, Solo meets Lando Calrissian (Glover), the suave owner of the perfect vessel for the dangerous mission — the Millennium Falcon. (Solo is also on a mission to find his love Qi’ra -Emilia Clarke).

Is Solo any good? Erm… it’s OK. I’d say it was fair to middling. It’s a decent watch, Ehrenreich gives a decent young Hans Solo, he bears a vague and plausible resemblance to Harrison Ford which helps. We learn how Hans Solo got his name, we get to see how he meets Chewie, how he comes to own his beloved Millennium Falcon and we’re planted the seeds of his rebel character.  There are a few ‘if you know, you know’ references to previous Star Wars films to keep the fanboys and girls happy and smug.

The cast collectively does a great job.  Though I appreciate Glover in most things he does, I wasn’t sure if I believed him as Lando from the trailer, but he definitely played the role well, cool, suave, arrogant and funny without being Glover doing Lando. He’s convincing. Then of course Newton as Val, with her being the first woman of colour in a clear leading role in the franchise, it was great to see her kick arse. However (bruh!?)… and I’ll leave it at that.

Though Solo is watchable, we’ve had 40 years epicness of Star Wars and Solo isn’t quite that. It spends a lot of time ambling along, slightly painting by numbers. Always a love story, always a baddie and a trickster and bit of space fighting, interesting looking aliens and lots of quips. The other big name of the cast Phoebe Waller-Bridge plays L3-37 a feminist robot ‘friend’ of Lando Calrissian, who apparently in this iteration is pansexual. L3-37 plays for laughs, sometimes it works sometimes it’s a bit too modern, this is after all meant to be the backstory of a character we first met in 1976.  Maybe Solo should have been a bit more Ready Player One and leaned more on retro nostalgia, maybe that would have made it pulled it away from blending into the Star Wars wallpaper.

It’s a must watch for fans just so we’re kept abreast of what’s to come, but to a Star Wars newbie, Solo may be a bit of a ‘huh is that it?’. The ending and seeds planted leave room for so much more. I hope that the director of Solo 2, comes with a new vision and style. It kinda needs it.

Special moment…

Newton discussed the importance of her casting at a recent BFI exclusive screening of the film. She mentioned the importance of her Vivienne Westwood dress that she wore in Cannes, which had photographed images of her own collection of black Star Wars action figures incorporated into the designer gown. That she wanted to pay homage, to the actors who had paved the way for her to be cast, also with her children in mind.

Newton had also invited Femi Taylor, a British Nigerian actress who was cast as Jabba the Hutt’s Twi’lek slave dancer Oola in Return of the Jedi (1983) but no one would know because she was painted green. Plot twist, someone on Twitter told Thandie of Taylor’s history and that Taylor had, in fact, portrayed Newton’s mother in Newton’s first ever film which would have been Flirting (1991)! [3]


Solo: A Star Wars Story is in UK Cinemas now

References:

[1]Black Actresses Testing For Lead Role In 2018 Han Solo Movie!

[2]Han Solo Spin-off Directors Quit, The Promised Women Of Colour Disappear & The Daily Express Can’t Tell Glover And Ejiofor Apart!

[3]At exclusive screening of Solo: A Star Wars Story BFI Announces Future Skills trainee programme for Star Wars IX