Solo: A Star Wars Story
Is “Solo: A Star Wars Story” the greatest Star Wars film in the franchise? No. Does it justify its existence? No. Is it even a great film in general? No. However, is it any fun despite its constant production issues behind the scenes? Definitely, and I think that’s what matters.
Set well-before the events of 1977’s “A New Hope,” the film follows a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) who joins a rag tag group of scoundrels, led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) to perform a job for a powerful gangster (Paul Bettany). Along the way, he joins forces with longtime love interest Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), the immensely loyal Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and fellow scoundrel Lando Calrissian. Along the way, we get to understand how Han Solo got his name.
The film never completely gets to the point where its existence is justified. For the most part, rather than learn how Han Solo became the man he is in “A New Hope,” we learn how he got the parts that make him iconic, whether it’s his blaster, Chewbacca, the Millennium Falcon, etc. In essence, we don’t really get to the heart and soul of what makes Han Solo such a beloved character. But it should also be noted that there are definitely moments in the film where some intriguing tie-ins into canon are present that’ll surely please any Star Wars fan.
It should also be noted that these criticisms don’t necessarily mean the Han Solo we got from Alden Ehrenreich was disappointing. If anything, the Han Solo we got in the film was delightfully charismatic, electric, likeable, and charming, with Alden Ehrenreich making the role his own and standing out from Harrison Ford’s incarnation. While many of us feared he would simply imitate Harrison Ford, he overcame that doubtful attitude and had the spirit of Han Solo throughout the film.
What elevated his character even more was what might be the best part of the entire film, and that would be his relationship with Chewbacca. I really enjoyed how they both actually first met, in that it made sense and gave you a base line for how their relationship progresses. Their banter with one another is very reminiscent of the banter we know and love from the original trilogy. What also makes this one of the better aspects of the film is how Chewbacca is utilized more as a supporting character to Han Solo rather than simply his sidekick or assistant, which is really refreshing, especially when you take into consideration how Chewbacca has his own motives for doing the job.
While Chewbacca is the standout supporting character in the film, most of the other characters do deserve some credit as well. While not a standout character, Emilia Clarke does a good job with her role of Qi’ra as far as performance goes as well as her chemistry with Alden Ehrenreich’s Han Solo, which does work exceptionally well throughout the film. As far as other standout characters, though, Donald Glover deserves much of the praise towards the film with his almost pitch-perfect interpretation of Lando Calrissian. He’s got the swagger, charm, wit, style, and stride that make Lando such a beloved fan-favorite. His relationship with Alden Ehrenreich is also noteworthy and is also reminiscent of the original trilogy.
As far as the other characters go, though, there isn’t enough in them to make them standout whatsoever. Even though Woody Harrelson does a good job with what he’s given, his character isn’t very interesting nor impressive, which is a disappointment because I’m a huge fan of Woody Harrelson. Paul Bettany, like Harrelson, gives a really good performance as the gangster Dryden Vos, but is rather uninteresting and is your typical one-note villain. Phoebe Waller-Bridge does get a few moments to exceedingly shine as the independent, pro-droid rights droid L3-37, but there are also times where she becomes too much and even a few times acts more like an imitation of K-2SO from “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” if anything else.
For the most part, the primary characters are the ones who hold this film together and make it as fun as it is. But some credit should also be given the action set pieces because for the most part, they are actually very riveting and well-choreographed. Ranging from close quarter combat to full-out shootouts, the film in many areas feels very much like a Western of sorts, with one of the best shots even depicting Han Solo with his hand over his blaster in a sort of high-noonish setting. The film also provides the audience with some engaging chase sequences that also play into the scoundrel-esque personality of Han Solo, whether in space or in the slums. The action is further enhanced thanks very much to impressive visuals and cinematography, whether it’s the cyberpunk-esque city slums or the vast, far-reaching landscapes of deserts, mountains, and forests. Some credit should also, as expected, be given to some of the practical effects and makeup applied to some of the characters.
But as I mentioned before, the film never really gets into the realm of depth and emotion that one would hope in a film about Han Solo. Much of that can be due to the fact that the film does go on for too long and could’ve been easily shrunk down to 90-100 minutes. That’s why it would’ve greatly benefited the film if it were to remove large chunks of the first act because that’s where much of the issues originate from. For the most part, the first act is very jumbled, clunky, and goes to too many places in such a short amount of time. It isn’t until Han meets Chewie, and to a greater extent after the first heist job, does the film begin to gain momentum.
Overall, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is a incredibly fun, enjoyable adventure with still plenty of noticeable of flaws that keep it from being a truly great Star Wars film. The film never quite justifies its existence nor does it provide any more context into the character of Han Solo other than what we already knew about him. Nonetheless, the film remains a fine blend of the western with the classic heist genre and has enough enlightening, committed performances and thrilling action to make it a delightful swashbuckling adventure with our favorite scoundrel.