Where’s my Star Wars? I haven’t seen a new episode from the franchise in at least 15 minutes. If this goes on any longer I’ll have to start making my own film. After all, I couldn’t do any worse than The Phantom Menace. Right? Ha ha ha!
Fret not. Solo: A Star Wars Story will be with us in about six weeks. The latest trailer for that spin-off has arrived and it has done something to ease nervousness about the project. Like the previous satellite picture – Rogue One – the Han Solo origin story has been unofficially declared a “troubled production”. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the film’s original directors, were sacked deep into shooting and replaced by a man whose official job title really is “Safe Pair of Hands”. Honest. It says that on Ron Howard’s passport.
It is rumoured that Lord and Miller, creators of The Lego Movie, were leaning too much towards comedy. A story in the Hollywood Reporter further claimed that the studio, unhappy with Alden Ehrenreich’s lead performance, had hired an acting coach to help him be more like Harrison Ford (or less like Alden, anyway).
For all that, the new trailer is a lot of fun. Though it obviously looks forward to decades of adventure, it’s not burdened with all the “destiny” stuff that dragged down the later promos for The Last Jedi. There seems some chance that the film will be as undemanding as the cheap series that George Lucas ripped off when making the original Star Wars.
There are some car chases. There are some explosions. Oh look. Everyone’s up a snowy mountain. Where’s Chewbacca? There he is.
We begin with a character who, my hypothetical nerd nephew tells me, is called Qi’Ra. Speaking in the posh vowels of Emilia Clarke – the dragon curator from Game of Thrones – she suggests that young Han is after something. “Is it revenge? Money? Or something else?”
I don’t know. But it causes Han to have a gunfight in the style of a mid-20th century western. We even get that shot of his hand twitching over a ready holster. The more of that the better. Oh, there really is more. Han enters a dodgy bar where things with odd heads are furiously gambling. The trailer is certainly stealing from all the right unpretentious places.
A bit later, Emilia, who still sounds like she’s giving out the laminates at the Henley Regatta, declares that Alden “looks good . . . a bit rough around the edges”. Does he? Ehrenreich is a great actor. He ate the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar alive. But he seems a lot more polished and primped than the young Harrison Ford. You really could believe Ford worked as a carpenter in his quiet periods. Alden looks a little as if he yearns to return to his semiotics thesis at Columbia.
Anyway, it is then clarified that the film has very much the same structure as the perfectly okay Rogue One. It involves “putting together a crew” for a job. Woody Harrelson (always welcome) actually says those words while standing beside some scenery that, disgracefully, doesn’t look as if it could be anywhere near the west of Ireland. No Star Wars Island here (#starwarsisland).
Paul Bettany looks really messed up. Cityscapes are dystopian. Solo gets some smug, hubristic dialogue. “I’m a driver, and I’m a flyer,” he says. “I waited a long time for a shot like this.” This sounds like the sort of chap who, in later years, would describe the Millennium Falcon (which we’ve already seen, by the way) as “the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.” If we’re lucky there’ll be a gag about the fact that a “parsec” is unit of distance, not time.
There are some car chases. There are some explosions. Oh look. Everyone’s up a snowy mountain. Where’s Chewbacca? There he is and Han is already translating his bass howls for perplexed bystanders. It looks as if they’re on the way to meet the legendary Lando Calrissian. Everyone was happy when it was confirmed that Donald Glover was taking that role and the trailer confirms that Lando will be dealing in off-the-peg quips of the will-do-well-enough class. “I heard a story about you, I was wondering if it’s true,” says Solo. “Everything you’ve heard about me is true,” Lando replies. No problem, Ron. The Lucasfilm Dialogue Bot is working just fine.
More cyborgs. More explosions. Woody is back to confirm that we haven’t entirely escaped the destiny stuff. “If you come with us you’re in this life for good,” he says. “Let me give you some advice. Assume everybody will betray you and you will never be disappointed.” Before we move onto further busy conflagration, Alden gets an opportunity to nod towards one of Ford’s most famous lines. “I got a really good feeling about thus,” he quips while flying the Falcon through a green mist. Get it? No? Then why are you reading this? There is other stuff on the internet, you know.
Tie fighters. More deserts. Something that looks like a train. Trains are always good in westerns and pseudo-westerns. I’m told there’s a robotic version of Phoebe Waller-Bridge out of Fleabag in there, but I’m damned if I could make her out. The words “May 25” hurtle towards us.
Once Solo is out of the way, you won’t see another
Star Wars film for at least a year and a half. Enjoy it if you’re able.
Nothing here satisfactorily dismantles the suspicion that Ehrenreich is a bit less Fordy than we might have preferred. But he is gifted at comedy and that is how the film was originally conceived. Can Ron Howard really have turned it into something else so late in the game?
We will know soon enough. Late last week it was confirmed that Solo: A Star Wars Story will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 15th. This sent everyone running to the records. No, it’s not the first time a Star Wars flick has opened there. Revenge of the Sith debuted by the Mediterranean in 2005. The festival and the Star Wars people are doing each other a favour here. After a troubled production period, Disney, master of Lucasfilm, will appreciate the glamorous oomph that a Cannes premiere provides. The festival will be happy. Twelve months after an event that had not a single Hollywood movie in the official selection, they now welcome the biggest beast to the Croisette. We’ll be there. It’ll be fine. It’ll be grand. Trust me.
Once Solo is out of the way, you won’t see another Star Wars film for at least a year and a half. Enjoy it if you’re able.