I wonder how people would have taken to Solo if it wasn’t a Star Wars story? What if Disney decided to, instead of make a prequel that focused on Han Solo and his earliest adventures, film a story about a similiarly rogue-ish person who happens across a band of thieves and then he sets out on an adventure set in a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Kind of like what Seth Macfarlane did with The Orville; he made something that was like Star Trek but it wasn’t Star Trek. Fans of Star Trek, particularly The Next Generation series, love The Orvile and I wonder if Star Wars fans would have been more forgiving of the blunders Solo: A Star Wars Story made.
Wondering about it is neither here nor there because there’s no way to figure out what would’ve been the outcome. I can only judge Solo based on its own merits as something that takes place within the Star Wars universe. What I can say about the film is that it’s just average. It’s not terrible as the hardcore Star Wars fanbase makes it out to be but it certainly isn’t all that great as what we expect from the beloved franchise.
Since the movie has been out and I’m guessing the people that had planned to see it have seen it already and the fans that have planned to boycott it because of their reasons (ie., Disney is destroying Star Wars, it can’t be good because of all the production troubles, Kathleen Kennedy who runs LucasFilm doesn’t know what to do with Star Wars, etc.), I decided to make this a SPOILER FILLED review. It doesn’t make sense to not reveal some of the plot points anymore because it has been out for a while now. Anyway, on with the SPOILER FILLED review!
Solo takes places sometime before Epiosde III and Episode IV. A cocky and optimistic young man who dreams of getting his own ship and become known as the best pilot in all the galaxy and get rich in the process. He runs across a group of thieves who give him his big break and this is the start of the journey of the man who will become known as Han Solo.
If you think it’s strange to call Han Solo “optimistic,” it kind of is, especially if you’re grown up watching Harrison Ford portray the same character for years and years. That’s apparently he was before he got the positivity beat out of him after years and years of smuggling and rogue-ish adventures. It did take some getting used to but, by the middle of Solo: A Star Wars Story, I grew to accept it.
Alden Ehrenreich got the monumental task of playing Han Solo and I know it must’ve been tough filling in the boots of the character from Harrison Ford. Ehrenreich does manage to capture some of Ford’s mannerisms and even a little bit of his charm. He does this while adding a few stylistic decisions to make the character his own as well. It’s the latter part that did take me aback, but, like I said, I got used to it and even appreciated in some level.
While Alden Ehrenreich’s performance in the titular role is good, it’s Donald Glover’s take on Lando Calrissian that steals the show. Glover does a pitch perfect impression of Billy Dee Williams playing Lando in Solo. So much so that it’s uncanny! While it took me a while to get accustomed to this younger version of Han Solo, I immediately glomed onto Glover’s version of Lando.
The rest of the actors perform their roles adequately. Woody Harrelson’s Beckett, a con man who decides to take a chance on Solo, does well and his chemistry with Ehrenreich is great. The only problem is that it seems he’s just rehashing his role of Haymitch Abernathy from the Hunger Games series. It’s just too similar. Paul Bettany, who plays as Dryden Vos looks like he’s having a little too much fun in the role as a mob boss who hires Beckett and Han to pull off a heist. I also liked the chemistry between the new guy who plays Chewbacca and Han here, which is an important factor in a film that’s supposed to focus on Han Solo’s earlier adventures. The weakest performance comes from Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra, Han’s love interest. Her acting is incredibly wooden and uninspired. She doesn’t have any chemistry with any of the actors, especially with Ehrenreich. Compound this with the fact that she’s supposed to be a main player in the story, you get a character that severely drags the movie down.
The way the story is told comes off rather clumsy as well. I already expected Solo: A Star Wars Story to have a lot of winks and nods to fans regarding the character and the Star Wars universe in general. Unfortunately, they do them without any hint of subtlety and it comes off as forced!
Did you know that Han’s last name is Solo because, when he registered to be an Imperial soldier, he was alone? Or did you know that Han calls Chewbacca “Chewie” because he thought his name was too long? These examples are just a few of the ham-fisted ways they explained these “origins.” It’s like the filmmakers forgot that the art of movie making is about “showing” and not “telling.” When they do the “telling” part when trying to explain stuff, like Han shooting an escaping Beckett before the latter can draw his firearm, harkening back to the entire “Han shot first” controversy, it works! But they just try to hit us over the head with them at times.
When it comes to the way the overall story is told, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the middle portion of Solo. The train heist, while coming of as nonsensical for the most part, was exciting and rather creative, even if it is just a train heist set in space. I also liked their entire adventure on the mining planet of Kessel and their subsequent hasty escape, which is the origin of Han Solo’s bold claim of making the Kessel Run “in less than 12 parsecs.” The beginning and ending portions, though? Ugh!
The entire starting moments of the film, which is set on Han’s home planet of Corellia, just came off as incredibly dumb. I already mentioned the poor chemistry between Qi’ra and Han here and that was a huge part of why the first few scenes sucked. But the start of the film also has Han escaping an insect crime lord by fleeing on a stolen landspeeder and into an Imperial port wasn’t all that great as well. Even Han enlisting into the Imperial Army and serving under them for three whole years didn’t make sense for the character. It’s only after Han meets Chewbacca and hooks up with Beckett’s crew when the film starts getting good.
In fact, while watching the train scene and the Kessel adventure, I thought I was going to leave the theater thinking this was a great adventure. They had to spoil it by revealing that Enfys Nest and the Cloud Raiders, the group of marauders that foiled the train heist, are good guys! They have been trying to stop the crime families and the Empire from getting more power. Oh, and they were going to use the stolen fuel they got from Han to build “a rebellion?” Here, let me shove it down your throat that, apparently, Han was the reason why there is a rebellion in the first place!
But the worst thing about the ending were the hints that there were going to be a sequel! Qi’ra managed to kill Vos in a showdown. She then uses a communication device to talk to Vos’ boss: Darth Maul! Did it really have to be Darth Maul? It does explain why Qi’ra is a master of Teras Kasi, a deadly martial art, if she trained under Darth Maul, but why pick Darth Maul? It doesn’t make sense! I guess they’ll try to explain how the Sith Lord survived getting sliced in half and is now the leader of a crime syndicate in the future… but this was totally unnecessary to the film! They should have just concentrated on making one good film first before planning out a sequel!
It’s hard to give a strong recommendation for Solo: A Star Wars Story. It’s not that it’s a bad film as there are some parts that I really enjoyed. It’s just that it has a lot of dumb and terrible moments as well. The biggest issue I have would be the ending left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. I would say give it a watch if you’re not a hardcore Star Wars fan or you’re okay with films that love explaining things to viewers without feeling like your intelligence is being insulted. Or, if you can imagine that it’s not a Star Wars story and its own standalone adventure. Maybe that’ll work as well. Otherwise, you may as well wait for it to show up on late night cable or skip it altogether. Like its namesake, Solo is a film you can leave alone.
Have you seen Solo: A Star Wars Story? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!