Home > Reviews > REVIEW – Solo: A Star Wars Story

REVIEW – Solo: A Star Wars Story

Directed by: Ron Howard
Produced by: Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur, Simon Emanuel
Written by: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan
Edited by: Pietro Scalia
Cinematography by: Bradford Young
Music by: John Powell, John Williams (theme)
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, Erin Kellyman
Year: 2018

 

So… this movie was probably one of the most troubled of the recent Star Wars movies – if not any of them. Infamously dealt a blow when original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired late in production for problems behind the scenes that have still not been made entirely clear, the buzz surrounding Disney’s second “anthology” film began to turn sour in the minds of many fans anticipating its release, with many of them also taking issue with the fact that Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo just wasn’t going to measure up to the iconic performance we got from Harrison Ford – in the original trilogy and then reminding us how great he was just a couple years ago by also returning to the role in The Force Awakens. The hiring of Ron Howard, an overall reliable director with an old school sensibility and even experience working with Lucasfilm in the past (Willow) did seem to lift some spirits, but right up until Solo’s release (and particularly in the wake of the backlash that the ambitious and apparently heretical The Last Jedi received) it seems like everyone – fans both hardcore and casual – were preparing for this one to be a complete disaster.

Not me, though! I thought it looked damn fun. And, you know what? It really is!

Don’t get me wrong – Solo: A Star Wars Story is far from perfect, but given the low expectations that I even found myself succumbing to from time to time, this movie, put into perspective, really is just a good time at the movies that also just so happens to have burdened itself with the Star Wars license and the goal of exploring the early years of one of the property’s more beloved characters. It’s a damn shame that people were seemingly intent on boycotting this based on casting, the idea of its very existence, or based on their desire to allegedly punish Disney for their handling of the franchise, or, you know… whatever other nonsense fans are supposedly coming up with, particularly since many of them are just fine with the messes that are the prequel movies.

Beginning on the planet of Corellia, we are immediately introduced to young Han, a troubled young man who grew up pretty much alone on the streets under the oppressive eye of a crime lord named Lady Proxima. His latest scheme to get himself off planet has gone awry, but his quick thinking actually pays off this time – or at least, it does initially. Han finds himself joining up with the Empire in a desperate act and quickly finds himself employed as a disgruntled soldier sent on what are essentially glorified suicide missions. Once again disillusioned by his unfortunate circumstances, the cocky wannabe pilot bails and falls in line with a group of smugglers working within his ranks and led by the charismatic scoundrel Tobias Beckett who shows Han the ropes. Unfortunately for them, their mission (to steal valuable and highly reactive fuel cells) puts them right in the crosshairs of many a dangerous foe, from other smugglers, the Empire, and, more urgently, an organized crime syndicate called Crimson Dawn.

Solo, at its heart, is basically a heist movie that also happens to show us how the young Han become the man we know, mostly by way of having him partner up with similar people who will ultimately mold him into that scruffy-looking scoundrel we all love. For the most part, the movie succeeds, surrounding Han with colorful and charismatic characters and actors like Beckett (Woody Harrelson, perfect in a long overdue for a Star Wars role), crimelord Dryden Vos (an enthusiastically evil Paul Bettany), Han’s deceptively complex old flame Qi’ra (a very charming Emilia Clarke), and a couple familiar faces who will play a greater role in Han’s future – Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo, taking over the role fulltime here) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover, perfectly cast). I really liked all these characters and the actors in their roles, and while I do have some complaints (Jon Favreau and particularly Thandie Newton’s characters are almost plot contrivances, and I would’ve liked for Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s droid L3-37 to have been given more nuance than just subversively sassy droid-rights activist, though I certainly like that idea in spirit), what’s ultimately most important is how star Alden Ehrenreich fairs as the young Han. And, you know… he’s good. Not great.

 

Poor Ehrenreich was saddled with rumors of an acting coach being brought in to fix his… uh, performance issues, and regardless of whether that may be factually true or not, I can at least say that he’s competent, likable, and definitely comes across as making the title role his own, conveying what theoretically may be a prototypical Han Solo without doing an outright impression of Harrison Ford in the role. He’s not nearly as good as Ewan McGregor was in the prequel trilogies, nor is he as distinct-but-still-just-right as basically the entire cast of the Star Trek alternate universe movies are, but I accepted him, believed his performance, and would quite honestly love to see what he could do in a sequel. Perhaps it wasn’t even necessarily the fact that he was a bad actor (and he’s really not – he’s not bad at all here, and he’s absolutely wonderful in Hail, Ceasar!) as much as he is just an actor who doesn’t excel in an environment where things are going haphazard, and I would love to see his interpretation mature in some hypothetical sequel we tragically probably won’t get.

There’s a lot of great stuff here for fans, too, and most of the backstory stuff works, even when the movie embraces its goofier side. (Ever wonder how Han understands Chewbacca?) Occasionally, the film does go out of its way to put a spotlight on things that you really never really needed to have explained (Ever wonder why Han gave Chewbacca a nickname?…), but it’s easy to just roll your eyes and just move right along with it, and it’s not too long before you’re learning things that longtime fans have always wondered that are pretty much perfectly canonized here. (Ever wondered why Han brags about making the Kessel run in 12 parsecs? And, you know, also what that actually means?) If there’s any huge flaw in the storytelling, it’s that Solo just doesn’t feel like there are many stakes that you can’t have seen coming from a mile away in some form. I’m totally fine with these anthology films not having the same stakes as the mainline episodes, and I’m even fine with Solo having smaller stakes than even the more directly episode-adjacent Rogue One, but I’d like for the stakes to feel at least a bit weightier for the characters than what ultimately turned out here.

So, yeah, the flaws are apparent, and the troubled production definitely had consequences on the final film… and, you know, I had an issue with the overall dimness of most of the lighting, too… but here’s the thing: I still had a damn good time with it, as I said earlier, and its limited stakes do also mean that its potential to piss people off with its flaws are diminished all the more. We’re not talking almost universe-destroying inventions like the concept of midichlorians and revisions to who shot at whom first here, after all. This movie feels like it’s a very small part of a gigantic expanded universe, and that is absolutely fine by me. The more Star Wars is forced to focus on things like Jedi, the Sith, and galaxy-altering conflicts, the more the universe itself is going to feel small and constricted, and I like that Solo manages to feel like Star Wars without ever having to get into depth about those bigger picture issues, even while exploring the past of a familiar and beloved character who will go on to play a huge part in that bigger conflict. It’s not my favorite, nor is it objectively the best, but you know… that’s fine. It even passed my test of enjoyability for my second theatrical viewing! Why get worked up so much about something being “merely” good?

The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 3.5 / 5

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

COMMENT

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: