COMMENT: 'Solo: A Star Wars Story' needs to make up its mind whether it's a homage or new interpretation

Marcus Goh
Contributor
PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures

For many fans, there are two main reasons for watching Solo: A Star Wars Story — a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and a young Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Sure, there are other intriguing characters like Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), and L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), but we all know they can’t have achieved anything incredibly significant since we’ve never heard of them before this film. And given that events in the Star Wars film universe are set in stone, it also means that they couldn’t possibly dramatically affect the outcome of any later movie.

The problem with the film is that the portrayal of the two legacy characters diverge in wildly different directions. You have Ehrenreich, who puts his own spin on Han Solo (who has been played by Harrison Ford in four films), resulting in a younger version of the character who looks and acts nothing like the older one we are all more familiar with.

Ehrenreich lacks that slight drawl Ford used to speak with, and he’s nowhere as smooth or confident (in fact, Ehrenreich looks a little self-aware) as Han Solo. Perhaps it is because this is a younger, more idealistic version of the character, but surely there would be some traits that carry over, right?

PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures

Then you have Glover, who hews so closely to the performance of the first actor who played Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) that you can’t help but feel a strong connection between the pair. Young Lando Calrissian feels very much like an older Lando Calrissian – Glover mimics the way Williams spoke, his hand gestures and even that cheeky eyebrow twitch that always made you think that Lando had something up his sleeve. Lando’s flirtatiousness is also carried across to Solo: A Star Wars Story, although now there’s a retcon (or clarification) that he’s pansexual, which means he could flirt with anyone.

PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures

And that’s where the incongruity comes in. You have two characters who appeared in the original trilogy. But while one behaves just like his older counterpart, the other one acts like a completely different person altogether. This inconsistency is what constantly shakes your suspension of disbelief. Are the characters homages to fan favourites or are they new interpretations? Having one alongside the other makes for such contrasting styles that you’re not sure what reaction the film wants to elicit from you.

PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures

Being a prequel spinoff movie, Solo could not have opted for brand new interpretations of both Han Solo and Lando Calrissian. That would have completely missed the point, since the appeal of this movie hinges strongly on the nostalgia felt for both roguish characters. Without that to anchor the film (and without any major appearances by the Jedi or Sith), it would be no different from any science fiction space opera.

PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures

But to feed the audiences younger versions of the two characters, without adding anything new to the mix, would feel like a rehash of the older films. To some extent, new elements must be added to keep the series (or sideline) fresh, although in this case there may have been too many differences from the original Han Solo.

It’s a tough balancing act for the film. It should have stuck with either a pure homage or a radically new story to maintain consistency, but either approach would have affected the film and franchise detrimentally. Merging the two carries the risk of alienating too many audiences without drawing in an equal number to make them up. Unfortunately, Solo: A Star Wars Story doesn’t quite find the balance between the two approaches.

Perhaps it would have been better to just focus on Han Solo, rather than drawing in a very unnecessary appearance by Lando Calrissian.

Marcus Goh is a television scriptwriter, having written for popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Crimewatch”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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