Jason’s Jottings

by Jason Strangis

Is it possible that ‘The Force’ might be weakening with Star Wars fans?


After the disappointment of “Avengers: Infinity War,” I was hoping for a much better time at the theater when I saw “Solo: A Story Wars Story” on its opening weekend in late May. This new science fiction thriller that tells the origin story of young rebel Han Solo has plenty of fun moments and some good performances, yet overall it’s not the best of the Star Wars movies.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that “Solo” is a bad movie by any means. It’s just not great, either. And therein lies the dilemma for me. Maybe my standards are simply too high, but what I’m really looking for are memorable endings (like “Rogue One”) and twists and turns you don’t expect.

Still, I suppose “Solo” serves its purpose of entertaining audience members who are seeking good old-fashioned escapism. It’s the type of Disney film that people of all ages can enjoy. Yet strangely enough, audiences have not been going out in droves as “Solo” only made barely over $100 million domestically for the opening weekend. This is far below the other latest Star Wars features — “The Last Jedi” and “The Force Awakens.” And it’s well behind “Avengers: Infinity War,” which despite mixed reviews raked in a record-breaking $258 million domestically for its opening weekend.

Maybe there is some truth to the theory of Star Wars fatigue, with a slew of sequels and prequels coming out in just the last few years. So far there have been 10 Star Wars films, including stand-alone stories such as “Rogue One” and “Solo.” Where would I rank “Solo?” Probably not in the top five, but it’s still pretty good on its own merit.

There’s a lot of action in this two-hour plus fantasy epic, yet I still felt there could have been even more weird sci-fi elements added. And it seems to miss the mark on emotional moments, as well.

The pivotal role of a young Han Solo is played Alden Ehrenreich. While he looks very much like a young Harrison Ford, Ehrenreich doesn’t quite fully capture Han’s charisma and rebellious spirit. Han Solo has always been the ultimate anti-hero, and I felt in “Solo” you got to see more of the “good” Han, rather than the one who is struggling to do what’s right and finally become a hero himself.

In the motion picture “Solo,” Star Wars fans finally get to see Han’s historic first meeting with the tall hairy creature named Chewbacca and the unlikely friendship that followed. There’s also the first meeting of Han and a young Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover, filling the boots and wearing the capes of the role made famous by actor Billy Dee Williams in “The Empire Strikes Back”).

What about the coolest spaceship in the galaxy — the Millennium Falcon? Don’t worry, you’ll find out how Solo eventually won his prized possession.

“Don’t trust anyone.” That always seemed to be a theme with Han Solo’s life, and in this early adventure story we get to see the reason for his skeptical attitude. Actually, Han learns that lesson from a rebellious character named Beckett, memorably played by Woody Harrelson (who seems to be typecast into these oddball roles).

Actress Emilia Clarke, who strangely enough resembles Felicity Jones in “Rogue One,” is Han Solo’s love interest. But Clarke’s character, named Qi’ra, might be hiding secrets which spins the story into an interesting development.

Another unique twist is the addition of a female droid named L3-37, who possesses human-like qualities and is really an unexpected pleasant addition to the film. As for the film’s main villain — Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany, who also plays The Vision in the Avengers series) — I felt that this bad guy was a bit of a disappointment. But again, it’s tough to measure up to Darth Vader in his prime when it comes to galactic threats. And, yes, “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) is still the best of all the Star Wars films. Most fans agree with me on this point.

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” was helmed by Ron Howard, a longtime dependable director who always seems to add emotional moments with his grand spectacles. Sadly, though, the ever-important musical score wasn’t composed by the incomparable John Williams (“Jaws,” “E.T.” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” etc.). Instead, getting most of the soundtrack credit is John Powell. But you can’t help but think of John Williams when it comes to the famous Star Wars musical score.

All things considered, I would give “Solo: A Star Wars Story” a grade of B-minus. If you are looking for fun escapism this summer, it will probably be enough of a crowd-pleaser. That is, if you’re expectations aren’t too high like mine seem to be.