Ever since Walt Disney Studios acquired Lucasfilm, they have successfully rejuvenated the franchise with a trilogy that continues the original story; introducing fans to new characters along with the heroes we grew up with. With that success, the mass media conglomerate decided to fill in some gaps in the galaxy far, far away with Star Wars anthology movies.
While the first, Rogue One, was a positive success among all fans of the franchise, the standalone story about one of the more cantankerous and famous characters of the original trilogy might be considered the Attack of the Clones of this series.
This review will be spoiler-free.
Solo: A Star Wars Story tells the early adventures of Han Solo ( Alden Ehrenreich) as he does whatever he can to survive and escape Corellia. Turning from street thief to smuggler, Han meets a young Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), a mentor in Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). They join together to pull of a heist within the criminal underworld of the galaxy. Unknowingly, this adventure sets the young pilot on a course that will shape him for years to come.
As a Star Wars fan, I always go into their films with a bit more heightened anticipation considering the history of the franchise. However, this time around, I walked in with more level expectations – and I was right to do so. Considering the production issues behind the scenes – which saw directing duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller fired from the film – I wanted to ignore the issues and make my own assumptions. But I just couldn’t let that nagging voice in the back of my head go and the first twenty minutes supported that negativity because it was rough for me to get through. Once we left Solo’s home planet and met some new characters, I felt a little better to allow this space adventure to take me away, but the flight continued to run into turbulence.
Alden Ehrenreich did a decent job as the titular character, not possessing the same swagger and charisma that Harrison Ford had but making the role feel comfortable to him. Not expecting a Ford-esque performance is probably the best way for you to look at Ehrenreich as the double-crossing, no-good swindler. Joonas Suotamo, now fully taking over the Chewbacca role, did a decent job as well and it was good that Chewie actually got to do more in this film than just be the comedic effect in the film. Woody Harrelson’s seasoned smuggler Beckett was a joy to be around, educating Han on how to survive in the underworld. Emilia Clarke’s love interest character, Q’ira, was also decent. The real bright spot of the actors came from Donald Glover’s younger Lando Calrissian. Just like his spark of color in the capes and wardrobe, Lando brightened up the screen with charisma and charm; even sounding similar to Billy Dee Williams’ original interpretation. Once again, a droid was another favorite character of mine with Lando’s first mate, L3, voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
In every respect, Solo is just okay in every respect. It has a standard plot that doesn’t deviate from the norm and doesn’t add anything to the overall Star Wars universe. It only seems to serve as a filler entry into the general saga. Ron Howard, who came in to salvage the film after the dismissal of Lord and Miller, is an earnest director. However, this feeling zaps the energy out of the film when it really needed it. The action isn’t as furious as it could have been; maybe we’ve been spoiled from the previous entries in the recent films. The personalities aren’t as colorful as they should and had the potential to be; the humor doesn’t land as it was intended. Even the cameo that ties everything to the overall universe didn’t help things besides an initial shock.
This might be speculation after two viewings, but Solo might have been better suited for a director or script that was eccentric and took some risks, such as what Marvel Studios did with Thor: Ragnarok. Solo is constructed as an incredibly safe film – it’s afraid to try anything new or worthwhile. This problem is fixable if the script to this prequel took a new look at the characters, exposing their fears, hopes, and dreams that fans might not have known before. This move could have made the characters, especially Han Solo, become more three-dimensional. It maintained the status quo of previous Star Wars films, echoing the prequels – not terrible but not excellent by any stretch.
Overall, Solo isn’t the train wreck that many fans probably wanted it to become, especially those who are still bitter about The Last Jedi. The fear of trying something new or risky, its humor, action set pieces and everything else you could think of comes off as unremarkable. The next Star Wars movie isn’t due out until J.J. Abrams return with Episode XI in December 2019, and the franchise and audience possibly need this break from the galaxy far, far away.
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