Our Star Wars: Hi, My Name is Han Soloooooooo

Solo: A Star Wars Story is both not entirely a good movie and precisely the sort of necessary risk that few (if any) Star Wars properties on screens large or small are likely to take. 

Ron Howard’s movie neatly cleaves all four currently released new-regime Star Wars films into two camps — easy nostalgia and challenging the context of what we already accept. Excepting clunky moments regarding namesakes or nicknames and one of the decade’s dumbest who-cares character cameos, Solo falls in the second category.

The film tasks itself with a goal that’s practically Sisyphean in the age of social media: Showcase a character that everyone walking in is certain they know everything about, and about whom they’re largely unwilling to entertain any new or contrary idea. Frankly, there’s a great deal to appreciate about Solo’s willingness to let Alden Ehrenreich do his own thing rather than worry about whether he’s pulling his smirk the same way Harrison Ford would have done it.

Despite a well-chronicled disdain for prequels, this one pencils in finer points to the portraiture of a scruffy-looking nerf herder. So what if Han’s not as interesting as the characters surrounding him? They should be more interesting, as they’re the ones from whom he takes on the lessons in who he becomes. What you know is fine. But isn’t the possibility to learn something more kind of intriguing? It’s a rejoinder to the weighted blanket of nostalgia that Solo lobs with conviction and its fair share of cliffhanger confidence in the train heist and Kessel Run action sequences.

Which is why it has always been weird to me that the braintrust didn’t simply let composer John Powell do all of the film’s music. From the mid-90s meathead majesty of his Face/Off work to his soaring, searing Oscar-nominated How to Train Your Dragon score, Powell has propelled many blockbusters just fine on his own. And yet emeritus composer John Williams was brought in to develop a main theme which Powell then had to incorporate into his own compositions.

Taken in isolation throughout, Powell’s own work is appropriately martial and mysterious — very much of a piece with the recontextualized elements of the film’s narrative. “Train Heist” incorporates incidental echoes of Holst’s The Planets, and “Marauders Arrive” — with war-child chants representing Enfys Nest and the Cloud-Riders — applies world-music momentum to a sweeping Maurice Jarre-ish majesty. 

But it’s a weird back-and-forth between such tones and those Williams provides in “The Adventures of Han” — so blandly named it might have been an abandoned cartoon prequel Disney workshopped 20 years ago.

The bugger of it all isn’t so much that it’s yet another goddamn John Williams theme I can’t get out of my head. It’s the words I’ve assigned to 19 recurrent seconds of the main theme. And how they remind me of the way Solo tried to fight against its best instincts in how the film was marketed.

From the 38-second mark to the 57-second mark of the clip above, the rhythm goes:

Da da da-da-da

Da da da-da-da da daaaaaaaa

But this is all I hear now:

Hi, my name is Han.

Hi, my name is Han Soloooooooo.

Hi, my name is Han.

Hi, my name is Han Soloooooooo.

Hi, my name is Han.

Hi, my name is Han

Soloooooooo, oh oh oh oh

Hi, my name is Han.

Hi, my name is Han Soloooooooo.

Here it is again now that you know those words.

It’s dumb. It’s gibberish. I know. I’m sorry. It’s like the bear on the Toblerone package or the arrow in the FedEx logo. You know it’s there. It lives in your brain now, too. I can only hope you didn’t lose the memory of something important for this.

The weirdest thing: My mind immediately went to these words, too. This wasn’t anything where I thought, “What goofy words could I put to this?” They were there, like sleeper cells in my synapses activated by John Williams’ perfect-fifth voodoo. I think it’s ultimately because they reflect a subconscious simplification in the way Solo was sold after its well-chronicled creative differences leading to the firing of initial directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller: This. This seems familiar to you, right? That’s because this is the guy you already know! There’s nothing upsetting about this guy. Come see this guy.

The words make me laugh because I sing them every time. But they also make me a little bit sad: If we can’t even let composers in a Star Wars movie take their own risks, where does that leave us?



Avatar

An award-winning film critic and features reporter, Nick has professionally written or gabbed about movies for Illinois newspapers, national syndicates, Playboy, The Art Immortal, The Film Yap and Midwest radio stations. He once drummed in a Billy Joel cover band known as Silly Joel and freely presents his Letterboxd page to engage and mock if you wish: https://letterboxd.com/ragekage79/


%d bloggers like this: