With a host of Star Wars fans among our writers, it was inevitable that we weren’t going to let Kervyn have all the fun with the latest Star Wars film. However, are we in agreement with Kervyn’s appraisal of the film and its portrayal of our beloved Han Solo or do we have a few reservations of our own? Let’s take a look and find out.
If there were ever any doubts that you couldn’t make a Star Wars film without Jedi and their space magic, then Solo: A Star Wars Story is the movie that puts them to bed. Much like Rogue One before it, from the very beginning Solo breaks with the conventional storytelling mechanisms that have become synonymous with the Star Wars universe and also draws from multiple genres to tread its own path.
War movies, heist capers, and other flavours are all here, but there’s one more prominent influence. Star Wars movies have always felt like big space westerns in concept and while some of the movies have worn this influence stronger than others, this film is dripping in it. It honestly feels like the closest the franchise has ever come to truly achieve that magic.
And it’s not just the geographic settings, the exciting tone, or the expertly set up energetic action set pieces – including train robberies and bar stand-offs – that makes it feel this way, but the very essence of the story and its characters. Westerns have always been about murky morals, where you sometimes want to root for the bad guy or see that big bank robbery pulled off. Those beats can all be found in Solo, and throughout the film’s many plot twists, you find your allegiances with different characters constantly changing.
If you’re not a big fan of westerns though there should be no need to worry. Even though its genre influences are obvious, Solo still has a distinct Star Wars feel and loads of fun and funny moments infused to make it appeal to pretty much everyone.
The big concern I guess for most people when this film was first announced was whether star Alden Ehrenreich could live up to the incredible Harrison Ford’s take on the character. That too is another fear that this move can lay to rest because while he might not be as charismatic as Ford, he certainly gives it an excellent shot and the way he pulls off the many mannerisms of the character is remarkable. It might be two completely different actors from a different era, but it still feels very much like the same Han Solo we’ve grown to love.
And as much as this film is most certainly focused on Ehrenreich’ Solo and his faithful counterpart Chewbacca, the other new characters are all rich in personality all on their own with Woody Harrelson’s Tobias Beckett and Emilia Clarke’ Qi’Ra perhaps the most prominent among them. Much like Ehrenreich has had to act in the shadow of Ford, so too has Donald Glover had to act in the shadow of Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian and even though he perhaps diverges from the character a little more here, he still matches much of the same spirit we would expect of a younger Lando. Perhaps the biggest scene stealer though is Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37, Lando’s droid companion who carries most of the film’s witty dialogue and arguably brings in a fresh political perspective to some of the action as well.
However, Solo is certainly not without its flaws, perhaps the biggest being that it is just trying so hard to establish everything about the character that it does rob some of the mystery and unpredictability that made Han Solo so fun in the first place. And yes, while it is nice to finally get to see that legendary Kessel run pulled off, I’m not sure we needed to know every detail about why Solo is who he is. Thankfully, this is a minor gripe in an otherwise excellent film.
Solo: A Star Wars story may have gone through a fair amount of production issues when original director Phil Lords and Chris Miller were fired when most of the film was already shot, but director Ron Howard shows the professional he is by still making the film feel cohesive. It’s clear that he definitely re-shot most of the scenes because it certainly wears his influence throughout. However credit needs to also be given to writers, Star Wars veteran Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan, whose excellent script provides an entertaining and engaging story while ensuring the film fits into the greater Star Wars narrative and remains consistent to the world and characters everyone already knows.
For me, Star Wars is a franchise that just never seems to disappoint and even though Disney has taken to making these movies far too frequently, it’s still delivering and makes you want to go back into the cinema and see it all over again. I may not have wanted a Han Solo origin movie, but now that I’ve seen one, I wouldn’t mind getting to know some other characters a little better as well if this is what its’ going to look like.
I wanted to like Solo: A Star Wars story more than I did. There are so many fun action beats that had me on the edge of my seat, for the most part, they made up for the completely average plot. The lacklustre story is likewise bolstered by some excellent performances, in particular from Paul Bettany as the moustache-twirlingly villainous Dryden Vos and Donald Glover as an even better version of Lando Calrissian than I could ever have hoped for.
Sadly, the female characters are criminally underutilised, which is par for the course for Star Wars at this point. No point in getting your hopes up that the female characters will share any form of meaningful interaction, never mind actual screen-time. But, to be fair, the main character is, of course, the titular Han Solo. Alden Ehrenreich had some big shoes to fill, and for me, he didn’t quite hit the mark. His attempt at Harrison Ford-esque swagger came across as cockier than anything else, lacking the easy-going charm that Ford brought to the role. And when the main character doesn’t live up to the hype, it makes the sad sidelining of the other characters even more frustrating.
What I find most wearying is the new need to over-explain every aspect of the Star Wars universe. We saw this a lot in Rogue One, and in this tie-in adventure, it’s even more pronounced. At this point, these stand-alone outings are just pieces of lore and intellectual property feebly, and unconvincingly, rearranged into a movie. We don’t need an explanation of everything but Disney is making damn sure we’re going to get one.
Right now, I’m struggling with Star Wars fatigue. There’s no more hype around these films, no more wonder and excitement. Just a vague sense of lassitude. The best I can say about Solo is that it was fine. Just… fine. It’s a series of set-pieces and action scenes interspersed with loads of backstory, and at the end of the day, nothing of real consequence happens. You know it can’t.
For me, as a Star Wars movie, Solo is, well, just alright. Which means by Star Wars standards it’s one of the weaker franchise entries. Solo is still very much watchable – elevated by its high-stakes, race-against-time action scenes, and a movie-stealing, high-quirk Donald Glover – but things feel more perfunctory than exhilarating for the most part.
In fact, Solo doesn’t really allow you to feel anything, because it is so busy over-explaining everything about the title character, from the origin of his name to why he wanted to become a pilot to how he met Chewy, got his signature pistol and ended up captaining the Millennium Falcon. Etc, etc. It’s unnecessary and often clunky. Yet, this exposition is the focus of the movie, and Solo clearly suffers in other aspects because of it. Supporting characters with loads of potential are typically bundled off the screen in minutes, squandering the acting talent bringing them to life. And considering how well the base movie series has been doing with representation, Solo is a real disappointment in terms of the handling of its female characters. It feels like a step back.
Solo has its moments (including a nifty little Willow-esque scene early on), and is well-acted all round (a special nod to Woody Harrelson), but it suffers from a sense of lost potential, and a weirdly muddled tone as it veers between Rogue One and Spaceballs. Basically, it’s a Star Wars movie for you if you ever wanted to see a Space Cthulhu, SJW Droid and Millennium Falcon put through some Fast and the Furious drifting moves. Solo was an unnecessary project to begin with, and ended up fun but substanceless.
Last Updated: May 29, 2018