Solo: A Star Wars Miscasting

soloswat
TIE Swatter

Hey guys,

Solo: A Star Wars Story is not the disaster some media outlets would have you believe. On the contrary, Solo is a good film.  I enjoyed it a lot.  It’s not only a hell of a lot of fun, it’s also a fitting origin story for one of the most beloved space pirates in cinema history.  Its use of clever and extremely subtle easter eggs weaved throughout the film enmeshing it in the fabric of the Star Wars extended universe was…

Solo, at its core, is a story of how Han Solo made the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs.  It also shows how he met Chewbacca and provides backstory on his history with Lando Calrissian.  And all 3 were handled with great care and thought, with many visual flourishes (such as the gif above) and nods to the character as we know him from the original trilogy. Although I will admit I wish they hadn’t softened the character’s edges quite so much.  I suppose one could argue this version of Han Solo has yet to grow into the scoundrel we all know and love.

So why is Solo merely a good film and not a great one?  I would say that it’s because Alden Ehrenreich was miscast as Han Solo.  To paraphrase Han Solo himself, he’s fine.  Everything about him is fine.  Alden Ehrenreich is fine as Han Solo.  But that’s it.  He’s merely serviceable and I don’t mind saying that when you’re casting a younger version of Han Solo, your casting has to be inspired.  It has to be perfect.  You have to make the audience forget that you’re not watching Harrison Ford.  Nothing less will do.  And sadly, Alden Ehrenreich isn’t that.  Okay now, I’m about to get up on my soapbox… so bear with me…

Consider Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  The third entry in the Indiana Jones series opens on a flashback to 1912 as we’re introduced to Henry Jones, Jr. as a teenager.  In this case, River Phoenix plays a young Indiana Jones.  I think most people would agree that River Phoenix, before his untimely death at 23 was a fairly phenomenal actor and inspired casting for the part.  You may remember he had played Harrison Ford’s son 3 years earlier in The Mosquito Coast, a criminally forgotten entry in Ford’s filmography.  Serendipity, it would seem.  Go ahead and watch that opening, I’ll wait.

Done? Okay, good.

From Phoenix’s first shhhh at 30 seconds in, with his eyes darting back and forth, to the way he snatches the snake, to the moment he grabs the other scout’s neckerchief shortly after, culminating with, “I don’t know I’ll think of something” and a smirk, everything about his performance screams Harrison Ford. Without being an impression.  He is Indiana Jones and it’s glorious.  Just watch the way he runs down the side of the cave entrance at 1:38 and tell me he doesn’t look just like Harrison Ford running for the seaplane in the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark, arms flailing, his wobbly knees threatening to dump him on his ass with every step.  Now that is how you play a young Harrison Ford character.  River Phoenix nails it at every turn.  When you’re watching him, you forget that you’re not watching Harrison Ford, but you never stop believing you are watching Indiana Jones. River Phoenix truly was something special. Much like his younger brother.   So if you’re thinking, Yeah but there’s only one River Phoenix, or something to that effect, I would say, YES, of course.  That’s the point.  When you’re casting a young version of a beloved character played previously by Harrison Ford, then you absolutely have to find that 1 in a million actor who can pull it off.  And, apologies to Alden Ehrenreich, but he just ain’t it.  Like I said, he’s fine.

What makes Ehrenreich’s casting even more frustrating is how goddamn perfect Donald Glover is as a young Lando Calrissian.  Jesus Christ, now that is inspired casting.  That is a truly memorable performance. It’s hard to overstate just how good Glover is as Lando. He literally steals every scene he’s in, which makes it all the more tragic the role of Solo didn’t go to someone as dynamic as Glover.  With the right actor as Han Solo, the scenes between he and Calrissian would have been movie magic.  Those scenes would have helped elevate Solo: A Star Wars Story to something special.  As it is, Glover’s performance merely elevated his character.  Disney would be fools not to be fast-tracking a Star Wars Story film centered on Glover as Lando Calrissian.  I’d love to find out how he ended up the administrator of Cloud City, seeing as how according to Lando himself, “Mining colonies are the worst.”

There’s a lot to like about Solo.  Woody Harrelson is reliable as ever.  The heist storyline resonates.  Everything looks great, gritty as Rogue One before it. And what’s a Star Wars movie without a memorable droid, which we get in L3-37. The pieces of a great film are all there, all except one.  The most important one.  Like they say, 90% of directing is casting.

Speaking of directors.  I’m sure you’re aware that Chris Miller and Phil Lord were the original directors hired to make Solo: A Star Wars Story.  They were fired by Lucasfilm and replaced with Ron Howard.  Now, I don’t like Ron Howard.  He’s a middle-of-the-road director who rarely, if ever, takes risks in his filmmaking.  He has a handful of excellent films under his belt.  Parenthood and Apollo 13 come to mind, but one could argue those films were going to be great with any director given how well-written they are. To me, Ron Howard is the guy you put in the baseball game to throw strikes, and let the defense do all the work.  If you have A Beautiful Mind or Cinderella Man on the tip of your tongue as some sort of defense of Ron Howard, just stop.  What a bunch of overrated hokum, both films.  A series of heavy-handed false moments strung together with over-obvious sentiment, hitting the audience over the head with all the subtlety of any given moment in Forrest-fucking-Gump, another movie I hate.  I guess my point is, Ron Howard is exactly the sort of director you bring in to right a listing ship.  When you fire your director(s) and need someone to come in and just not fuck it up, I can think of nobody better than Ron Howard. And while I never thought Chris Miller and Phil Lord were the right guys for the job,

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 6.02.29 PM
Yeah, let’s hire these guys for a Han Solo movie…

I’d be lying if I wasn’t dying to see their Solo film for comparison.  Sort of like the clusterfuck that was the dueling Exorcist prequels.  Sadly they were fired before they completed filming so we’ll never get a Lord & Miller cut of Solo.

My problems with Alden Ehrenreich’s casting are only exacerbated by the fact that we just saw Harrison Ford as Solo in The Force Awakens. Perhaps if Return of the Jedi were the last time we had seen Ford in the role, my point of view would be different.  But I doubt it.

-cohan

p.s. I almost forgot to mention an interesting subplot prevalent throughout Solo, but not really paid off until the end.  Which is, the literal birth of the Rebel Alliance.  That was pretty cool.

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SPOILER ALERT

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p.p.s. I also didn’t mention that big ole bastard of a cameo at the end. After the film was over I said, “Was that Darth Maul? Or was it another member of whatever the hell race he is? And if it is him, what in the hell is going on with this timeline?” A friend of mine filled me in on the continuing story of Darth Maul after Obi-wan cuts him in half at the end of The Phantom Menace. If you watch the animated Clone Wars tv show, you know he survives that bit of bisecting, somehow. And ends up with mechanical legs, which you can apparently see in Solo (I missed it). Don’t know about his dingus.

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