Solo: A Star Wars Story ★★★

Can we feed Emilia Clarke to the Sarlacc? Even Game of Thrones people are fed up with her. I guess if you want to telegraph to the audience that you shouldn't trust the love interest (but still feel sorry for her), you cast Miss Clarke and wait for her to finish reciting her stilted lines. Fortunately for Ron Howard and our Disney overlords, Solo: A Star Wars Story is B-movie gold, and her crappy performance fits right in with this elaborately pallid tapestry of silliness. As you may have guessed, rumors of production troubles have been confirmed. Howard seems to be good at redacting comedies to make them more generic as the fourth season of Arrested Development proves. It's just too bad that whatever movie he salvaged this from was probably a lot more fun, or at least funny.

With all of that out of the way, I have to say I really think this works for what it is. Of course, I'm speaking relatively here. As a rule, I don't think you could make worse Star Wars films than the prequels, and the two most recent entries in the franchise sure did their damnedest trying to shimmy under that limbo stick. Like a lot of modern sci-fi action schlock, their flaws came from trying to take silly material too seriously while undercutting all drama with cringey quips. Solo, even amidst the haphazard genre mish-mash of sci-fi/heist/war/western, manages to land the tone found at the beginning of Return of the Jedi. Many rag on that film for its odd structure and unfocused tone, and in a sense it was an omen of all the bad movies that would follow. Now, we are taking the bad with the good, and if you can manage to block out the heartless, brainless corporate myopia surrounding the Star Wars cinematic universe, you might have a little fun with this movie.

For one, Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover may not have the best acting chops, but they have charisma. This is inarguably something we haven't seen much of from the majority of actors in the last six films. Also, and this is a big one, there is one plot thread with minimal distractions. Even trying to fit in a "free the droids" subplot and another bad guy organization doesn't derail the basic storyline. This makes whatever plot contrivances seem negligible and allows the action sequences to take center stage. Then you get almost the entire list of fan-service things that Red Letter Media predicted would be in the film, and they weren't too far off with how it all got crammed in. It's everything you would expect, and it's surprisingly painless. What more could you ask for? Lawrence of Tatooine? Hey, there are some alright landscape shots. Granted, they're fairly desaturated, but you take what you can get in your pew-pew space race. It's not politically intriguing, it barely panders to topical culture, and any of the grand ideas that have spoiled the fun in the past few films take a back seat to the myth of a scruffy looking nerf herder. It's almost as if a summer blockbuster wasn't trying to be anything more than a feel good adventure kick.

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