Solo: Should Alden Ehrenreich Redefine Or Imitate Han Solo?

The Podcast

In the latest edition of Los Fanboys, Jammer and David delve into the world of Star Wars on two fronts. The first has to do with all things Solo: A Star Wars Story. We discuss the two recently-released teasers, and also debate what type of Han Solo is really best from the film.

Big news dropped regarding Star Wars earlier today, and that had to do with Game of Thrones creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff making a series of Star Wars films.

After that, we give our reactions to the Super Bowl trailers, and finally go into the upcoming Super Mario Bros. movie from Nintendo and Illumination entertainment.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What Kind Of Performance Do You Want From Han Solo? Impression or original?


00:00:00 – Han Solo — Do we want an impression or new take?
00:24:40 – Solo: A Star Wars Story teaser reactions.
00:33:20 – Game of Thrones creators making new Star Wars films.
00:43:10 – Box office reactions.
00:49:20 – Super Bowl trailers: Jurassic World 2, Red Sparrow, Skyscraper, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Avengers: Infinity War.
01:02:08 – Super Mario Bros. movie coming from Nintendo and Illumination Entertainment.

The Editorial

What do fans want or expect when a revered movie character is reinterpreted by a new actor? There are two ways this can go: imitate the original or redefine the role (each option presents different sets of problems). This is a crucial decision that can make or break a film. Solo: A Star Wars Story is facing this very dilemma, and fans will soon be voting at the box office.

There are few movie characters as treasured and beloved as Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, whom we first met way back in 1977. When Lucasfilm announced Solo, an anthology film detailing the character’s origin, fans were incredibly apprehensive about who would play the part. For months, the Internet went wild with speculation while Disney auditioned over 2,500 actors for the part, according to CoS.

Related – Solo: A Star Wars Story Footage Shown, First Impression Is Positive

Everyone from Miles Teller to Dave Franco to Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and even Chandler Riggs was considered before Alden Ehrenreich was ultimately chosen. Ehrenreich is a versatile young actor, but he was on few people’s radar. Fans had no idea what to expect. Well, we do now. This weekend we got back-to-back releases of a Solo teaser and trailer… and fans weren’t exactly digging his performance.

Ehrenreich is receiving substantial criticism for his interpretation of Han Solo. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of material to go on — just a few seconds of narration and dialog. But one thing stands out: this is not Ford’s rogue scoundrel, at least, not exactly. Ehrenreich is doing something a little different; he’s giving the character an edge mixed with vulnerability, along with the character’s trademark cockiness. A lot of fans hate it. It’s not the Solo they remember from the original Star Wars films.

Is that fair? No. Fandom wants what it wants.

Here’s the major issue: Ford is a distinctive actor, and he’s been a Hollywood staple for over 40 years. Who in their right mind would attempt to imitate that?

Han Solo isn’t the first iconic movie character to be reinterpreted by another actor. For sake of argument, let’s compare and contrast James Bond against Ben Kenobi. Rather disparate parts, right? Both characters have been played by different actors using different approaches. You could argue that Batman and Superman are also good examples, but I like the juxtaposition of Bond and Kenobi better for this discussion.

Seven actors have played James Bond, and no two are alike. The list includes Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton, and Daniel Craig — each actor brought a different style, voice, and physicality to the role. Few would mistake Connery’s Bond for Brosnan’s or Craig’s, and yet audiences have embraced this character across all of his various iterations.

The distinction here is that James Bond movies are more or less anthologies with only the slimmest of connective tissue. Bond movies don’t have nearly the same kind of continuity as Star Wars, which might influence how fans respond to new actors tackling the part.

Ben Kenobi is a bit different scenario from Bond. He’s only been played twice to-date: Alec Guinness was the original, and Ewan McGregor played him in the Star Wars prequels. McGregor, unlike the actors who played Bond, chose to imitate Guinness’ voice and mannerisms. It was a spot-on impression of the actor who played the part, as much as the way the actor played the role. It worked, in large part because McGregor is a really good actor, and also because he was playing a much younger version of the character in the prequels.

Additionally, Guinness was never a major star in America; certainly not at the level of Harrison Ford. So, McGregor probably had a lot more latitude to effect his impression, and fans were more forgiving.

And yet, I loved McGregor’s work in the prequels. My inner child wanted a young Ben Kenobi who reminded me of the old Ben Kenobi, and McGregor delivered. Irrational or not, that’s what I wanted and expected as a fan.

Obviously, Solo and Ford are much different prospects from Kenobi and Guinness. McGregor had only one film and a couple cameos to reference (most Americans know Guinness from The Bridge Over the River Kwai, and not much else, despite his long film career). Ehrenreich has to contend with 40 years of Han Solo in the  movies, video games, books, and other media, plus Ford’s immense body of work. Everyone in America knows who Solo and Ford are, and that’s a problem for a young actor trying to establish himself in this role.

The other problem is, Ehrenreich is playing a 20-ish Solo, but Ford was only 30-ish in Star Wars: A New Hope. It’s weird that these are supposed to be the same characters when they really don’t look or sound alike at all.

But I still want Ehrenreich to remind me of Ford’s Solo. I don’t want a new Han Solo. It’s not fair to Ehrenreich, I know, but the feeling is strong.

I’m a Star Wars fan before I’m a movie fan, so I want the imitation. (Nostalgia is a powerful motivator — just ask Netflix!) I suspect fans would not have minded if McGregor went his own way with Kenobi, much like Brosnan or Craig did with Bond. But there was something fun and engaging about McGregor’s homage to Guinness — it didn’t distract or annoy me, largely because McGregor did such a great job with it (a weak imitation would have yanked me out of the film).

So, while everyone is bashing Ehrenreich for going his own way with Solo, consider how impossible it would have been for him to pull off a satisfactory impression of Ford. Now I’m arguing with myself; my heart and my head want different things, and I suspect I’m not alone.

We’re also soon reaching the end of the line for other actor-defined roles too. Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, and Ford’s Indiana Jones — and you know Hollywood wants to keep these cash machines running. Wait until Fox (or Disney) attempts to re-cast Professor X and Logan/Wolverine (and that day is coming, count on it).

I feel for Alden Ehrenreich, he’s in a no-win scenario. I salute him for making a bold choice with his version of Han Solo, even though I want him to give me Harrison Ford. Which way would you go?

Where do you stand on Alden Ehrenreich’s performance in the Solo: A Star Wars Story trailer? Let us know in the comments down below!

Solo: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on May 25, 2018.

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SOURCE: Star Wars, CoS , THR

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David Kozlowski

David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.

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