Spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story follow.
I’m always interested in the star billing for summer movies, and when I saw the poster for Solo: A Star Wars Story, I knew something was amiss. The most triumphant casting coup of this film was landing white-hot Donald Glover to play Lando Calrissian, the smooth-talking double-crosser made memorable by Billy Dee Williams in the original Star Wars trilogy, yet Glover was fourth-billed on the Solo poster, trailing lead actor Alden Ehrenreich as well as Woody Harrelson and Emilia Clarke. Had Glover’s reps dropped the ball, or did the movie skimp on its most exciting actor?
Having seen Solo, I’m sad to say it’s the latter, and that’s all the more disappointing because Glover is by far the best thing in the film, sidling into his scenes with a mischievous, up-for-anything twinkle. Everybody else talks in exposition and Easter eggs, but Glover’s Lando is more interested in who he can flirt with, whether man or machine. You’re never quite sure what Lando will do or what sort of delicious spin Glover will put on his lines, and with his willingness to never take anything too seriously, Lando is to this film what Han himself was to the original Star Wars trilogy.
So why does the movie barely use him? Lando is introduced awfully late into Solo’s story after several tertiary characters have hogged the spotlight, and when Solo starts to put its characters into position for the final half hour of the film, he vanishes. Quite often, this is a movie that seems to have no idea what to do with its characters: Many of them die or disappear just so something will happen, and hardly any of it has an impact on Han, since he’s just a bystander in a preexisting conflict that involves the characters played by Harrelson, Clarke, and Paul Bettany. Too often, Han is so disconnected from the stakes of this story that instead of watching a Han Solo Star Wars movie, it feels like you’re watching Han Solo watch a Star Wars movie.
Had Lando been more prominent, with a plot built around him and Han, that would have gone a long way toward planting the film in a relationship that moviegoers actually care about. Am I expected to invest myself Han’s too-mysterious romance with Clarke’s character, who is pointedly hoarding her character reveals until the sequel? Is it novel to see Harrelson play another grizzled mentor in a giant franchise after he’s already done that four times for The Hunger Games? If you’re gonna give us shit we’ve seen before, then at least give us the shit we came to see: Han and Lando having space adventures together. Simple! Easy! And beyond Lucasfilm’s grasp, apparently.
But it’s not too late. Glover stayed aboard Solo during those production delays and directorial replacements because he wanted so badly to play this character, and in a world where Black Panther is a billion-dollar grosser (while Solo limped through an underwhelming Memorial Day opening weekend), it would be foolish not to give Glover his own spinoff. Imagine a swaggering Lando adventure, written by Glover and directed by his frequent collaborator Hiro Murai, where he bilks and seduces half the galaxy! Would you rather see that, or a movie about a guy who got knocked in a hole once?