Solo: A Star Wars Story Director: Ron Howard Writers: Lawrence Kasdan, Jon Kasdan Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures Rated PG-13 | 135 Minutes Release Date: May 25, 2018
The Star Wars film universe will never be the same now that Disney has started to release spinoffs. These films are part of a larger anthology that will explore parts of the untold stories of the mythology. Much of which has revolved around the Skywalker saga. Solo: A Star Wars Story is a departure from what we have seen since Disney acquired the property, but it also stays true to the spirit of stories that take place in a galaxy far, far away.
Of course, it is incredibly risky when making an origins movie about a character as iconic as Han Solo. But if it is done right, it can pay off in the long run. While Solo may be a little rough around the edges – just like its title character – it is the kind of spinoff that will not disappoint. Check out my full review below.
Solo takes place years before the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Here Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is a young criminal in the making who has dreams of escaping from his crime boss, to whom he has some outstanding debts. Along with Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), the two believe they have acquired a powerful fuel source, which would be enough to buy their escape. However, a mishap separates the two, and it’s up to Han to navigate through the criminal underworld in order to save his beloved Qi’ra. Along the way, he befriends Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), while learning the art of galactic smuggling from his mentor Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson).
This was always going to be Han’s origins story. So it’s only natural that we get to see a very inexperienced would-be hero learn what it takes to be a great con man. Han is reckless, stupid, impulsive, and he makes up for all of those flaws by pretending he knows what he is doing. His life on the streets can get him only so far. While Tobias stresses that Han does not trust anyone, the scoundrel tends to believe that people are inherently good and trustworthy. Though for a film like this, it is not easy to trust anybody.
That’s what keeps Solo so engaging. The audience won’t know which character will betray Han. Even when it happens, it is quite unexpected. So while the origins story does take away from the legend, Lawrence Kasdan and Jon Kasdan‘s script makes a great effort to make this film still feel like a Han Solo film rather than a Star Wars film. Part of what made Han so wonderful is that we didn’t know about his legend or how he came to be. We only knew about Han through what he had to say. Though that may have put his trustworthiness into question, it did add a bit of mystery to the character. A mystery that would not be solved or revealed until now.
So Han learns about the smuggling trade at a young age. Despite being a very inexperienced upstart, the title character earns his reputation through a variety of friendships, betrayals, and heists. And a lot that plays well because Ehrenreich is so charming. Yes, Harrison Ford made the character so famous. And we’ve seen that for four Star Wars films. But we have to remember that Solo is a film that is building up this character. So it and any potential future films will be rough around the edges. Just like the character. This is the Han Solo of the mean streets of Star Wars. An aspect that is rarely explored.
It’s only fair that the film feels a little unpolished. The first act is choppy at best and looks as though it is at war with itself. Which makes sense if you are familiar with all the behind-the-scenes production troubles – all of it coming down to creative differences between Phil Lord and Chris Miller – the film’s first directors – and Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm. But the film makes a point that Han has a heart of gold, he just has this wild ambition and a habit of getting himself into trouble.
That kind of trouble finds him signing up to be a soldier of the Empire, where he hopes to become a pilot. But before he could become one, he has to fight on the frontlines, and it is there that he finds Tobias Beckett, Val (Thandie Newton), and Rio Durant (Jon Favreau), con artists who are using the war as a front to swipe an aircraft they will use on their next heist. While Han tries to convince them to bring him aboard, the three ditch him and leave him for dead with what the Empire calls “a beast.” But this is no ordinary beast, this is the one and only Chewbacca, a Wookiee and ace pilot who would eventually become Han’s best friend. And we get to see that relationship blossom throughout the film as the two get to know each other – at times very intimately. But it is all very funny.
While Solo does take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the film still feels like a long-lost Star Wars film. One that goes back to its western genre roots and weaves in some hints of noir. A lot of that comes through thanks for Bradford Young‘s cinematography. Everything has a tangibility to it. There is tension between the standoffs, as the camera zooms in on Han reaching for his holster. The lighting bounces off the practical sets giving the film a real sense of being substantial. And various cantinas and wretched bars feel almost too real. In fact, it’s as if you’ve already been there. And part of that is due to Young’s cinematography along with Neal Scanlan‘s creature creations.
One can’t forget about the supporting cast that will help develop Han Solo to become the dashing lovable rogue that we know he will become. One thing is for sure, Lando is a scene-stealer, but there is not enough of him in the film. But he doesn’t waste any of his screen time. Clarke as Qi’ra is a Star Wars femme fatale, adding an air of mystery to the film with her character. Her allegiance is questionable at best, and it’s not quite clear if she still feels the same way about Han when she encounters him again.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge‘s L3-37, a self-made robot who is woke. She is a droid who believes in equal rights, and will not hesitate to free her fellow brothers and sisters from their enslavement – whether that is being forced to work until droids are burned out or droids being forced to fight each other against their will. The way she goes about all of this may be comedic, but there is a sense of timeliness to it that is a reflection of the world that we live in now.
But the one person who you probably would want to steer clear of is Paul Bettany‘s Dryden Voss. While Bettany is unquestionably good as Vision in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Dryden Voss is the complete opposite of that. It’s hard to tell if anyone would walk out of a conversation with him alive with the way he converses. Bettany’s cool voice gives off a false sense of security, but that scarred face tells you that you do not want to be in debt to him.
Solo is a Star Wars film without feeling like a Star Wars film. Yes, there are familiar characters that remind us this film takes place in the same universe, but it doesn’t forget that it has its own story to tell. And there are a few Easter eggs in this that fans will surely enjoy, but not too many where it becomes a distraction. However, there may be one where it leaves those same fans conflicted.
Though it may have its flaws, Solo is still a terrific spinoff that will not disappoint. The film leaves enough room for the character to grow to become the dashing rogue that we’ve come to know and love. And hopefully, with some lessons learned from this one, we will get to see a franchise that will eventually lead up to that meet up between Han Solo and Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan at the Mos Eisley cantina.