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Han Solo is the least-interesting character in this ‘Star Wars story’

Boring! That was my surprising reaction to the latest Star Wars offshoot, “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”

How this franchise could take everybody’s favorite Star Wars character, Han Solo, and give him a boring origin story is beyond me but there it is. And it’s not just his story that’s dull. His signature smart-aleck wit is also inexplicably missing.

The film may be titled “Solo,” but it feels like an ensemble movie, and oddly, most of the principal characters are more compelling than our eponymous hero.

Thanks to a raft of rumors, first about a troubled shoot (Ron Howard stepped in at the last minute to replace the two directors who had already shot most of the film), and then about emergency acting classes for its young star, many fingers of blame were pointing at Alden Ehrenreich. I suppose it can’t have been easy to try to replace Harrison Ford but I don’t fault Ehrenreich as much as I do the screenwriters. The script simply doesn’t let the new Han Solo shine. He’s got that old Solo cockiness and daredevil impulse, but he’s missing his charisma and charm. And in a movie-plex world of Deadpools, Guardians of the Galaxy, and even the Avengers now, this film’s dearth of comic lines is notable.

Here’s a scene perfectly set up for some clever wordplay: Solo challenging the charming and equally arrogant Lando Calrissian at a gaming table – and this is the best the writers can come up with?

“I heard you won your ship playing cards.”
“Its true. Fastest in the galaxy.”
“But my ship isn’t for everyone. You got what it takes?”
“There’s only one way to find out.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, Han. Slow down. You might want to quit while you’re ahead.”
“You might want to quit while you’re behind.”

“Quit while you’re behind” is a punchline? Maybe the writers should have quit when they were behind and dropped the assignment altogether.

I don’t want to give the impression the movie is a complete bust. The plentiful action scenes are done well-enough to keep you awake.

And there are plenty of little revelatory tidbits for Star Wars fans to relish: So THAT’s how Han got his last name! So THAT’s what the Millenium Falcon originally looked like! So THAT’s how Solo and Chewbacca met! (In fact, my favorite moment in the film is the “meet-cute” scene between Han and Chewy.)

Speaking of Chewbacca, he’s one of the best drawn characters in the film, perhaps because he has the fewest lines.

“Since when do you know how to fly?”
“Meeewa”
“190 years old?”
“Meewa”
“You look great.”

It’s probably not a good sign when Chewbacca is the best thing in a movie purportedly about Han Solo, but he is. But then, Donald Glover’s Lando, and Woody Harrelson’s Beckett, and even Paul Bettany’s villainous Dryden Vos are also better characters than Solo. Only Emilia Clarke, who plays Solo’s love interest Qi’ra, gets as bland a role as Ehrenreich.

Because it’s a Star Wars film, “Solo” will make a fortune at the box office, but it’s projected to be the lowest opening yet for a Disney Star Wars film. Arriving only five months after the success of “The Last Jedi” and just a few weeks after the release of a couple of other tentpole movies (“Infinity War” and “Deapool 2”), that should come as no surprise. And given its ho-hum quality, it’s probably what it deserves.

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