WE DON'T NEED ANOTHER HERO
I am a Star Wars nerd. And I must tell you this:
We do not need another Star Wars spinoff.
We do not need another film filling in the blanks left by the original trilogy.
We do not need to see how Han Solo did the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, or how he won the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian in a hand of Sabacc.
I mean, WHY should we have to see that? Wasn't it much better to let it out there hanging inside our head, leaving it to our imagination?
But no! The Great God Rodent that is Disney requires its regular pound of flesh (ie box-office profits). And lo, here comes another retro-fitted prequel nobody either asked for or really needed. Because it really doesn't tell us anything we didn't know already, or anything that we really needed to know about that lovable rogue Han.
Verily, I would rather we have a new story with new characters set in the same universe, or even another "Episode" in the new series, than a retread of what we already know.
Here I should talk about my late mother. Who was never much of a sci-fi fan to begin with. But she liked Star Wars, because she saw in it more than just a lot of noisy space battles. She recognised the story arcs and the archetypes from the films she grew up with in the Lisbon movie palaces. She loved the interplay between Han and Leia and the wisecracks and the droids. She particularly loved C-3PO and its "oh dear" protests and R2-D2 always ignoring him.
I don't think my mother ever saw Episodes 1-3 but I don't think she would have liked them. I think she would have enjoyed The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Not sure about Rogue One. Solo she would have been curious about it, as I was. After all, Lawrence Kasdan scripting, plus the ever-reliable Woody Harrelson, the oh so perfectly cast Donald Glover, none other than our very own Khaleesi, Emilia Clarke, as the love interest (though I did ask myself, at times, where were the dragons)...
But it turns out that Solo is a completely disposable time-passer. My mother would have enjoyed it, but she wouldn’t have enthused about it. Alden Ehrenreich, a fine actor otherwise, can never conjure Harrison Ford (not that I'm sure anyone could, but those are really shoes you cannot fill). And while I welcome Ron Howard's very old-fashioned, no-nonsense handling, there's no personality there, just a jobbing director doing the studio's bidding after the original choices, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, were fired near the end of principal photography (the word is Mr. Howard reshot a lot of material).
You know, so many of the films we look at classics these days went through convoluted productions as well. After all, Casablanca was a director and a cast doing the studio's bidding, and not even a first-choice cast at that.
But Mr. Howard is not Michael Curtiz, and Solo is not Casablanca. Oh, it's perfectly competent, yes, but completely unmemorable. There are a few films vying for attention inside it: a space western, which is probably what Mr. Kasdan wanted it to be; a Mission: Impossible-like heist movie, with a femme that may not be fatale but is certainly dangereuse; a Mad Max-type desert revolution, even a robot revolution led by L3-37, the one character that should have had more screen time (my mother would have loved it); there's a replay/recycling of other original-trilogy moments... and the one film we get is, as A. O. Scott puts it in the NYT, "a filmed Wikipedia page". Or a season-starting TV series recap to set the tone for Episodes 4-6.
But I've had enough of recaps, or serialized storytelling in the big screen hooking you up for the next instalment. Everybody knows that if Solo hits big there will be more spin-off films. Everybody knows that Disney is not looking at Star Wars as an event - like Episodes 1 through 7 were - but as an endlessly scalable franchise with no end in sight. The next Marvel Cinematic Universe. But Star Wars is a universe from which we only had news every now and then. And now we're on the fourth film in three years, after Disney rebooted the franchise in Christmas 2015 with The Force Awakens, and on the second spin-off prequel to Episode 4 after the equally unnecessary Rogue One.
I am a Star Wars nerd and I say: enough.
Let us have one Episode every two or three years. That'll be more than enough, if they can keep the magic going. I don't care about the bottom line: I care about good storytelling and thrilling filmmaking, not about blanks-filling, designed-by-committee, focus-group-tested industrial product.
I care about Star Wars because it opened my imagination. I don't much care about Solo because it never really lives up to the expectations my imagination created, and because it doesn't really leave anything for you to build on top of it.
We do not need another Star Wars spinoff.