While I walked out of Solo: A Star Wars Story feeling entertained, I still wondered why we needed a Han Solo backstory. I’m not the most avid Star Wars follower and therefore didn’t feel it was necessary to find out how Han turned into the Harrison Ford character we all know and love.
Ford’s characterization was enough for me, and I liked that there was an air of mystery around his past. I mean, you totally get that he was a smuggler and that he ran afoul of some space gangster types like Jabba the Hutt. That he and Lando Calrissian had a run-in at some point. And that although Han acted all tough and selfish, he actually had a heart of gold – and had a great sidekick and old friend, a Wookiee named Chewbacca, who stayed loyal to him until the end.
Then I talked to someone about it who felt the same way I did but added that he understood why this movie would be appealing. Why? Because a friend of his had grilled him, “Did you see how Han and Chewie met? Did you see how they got the Millennium Falcon?” with all the intensity of a hardcore Star Wars fan. because those questions were indeed answered, that’s all this fan cared about and was totally going to go see it.
There you have it in a nutshell. Star Wars is one of the most beloved cinematic franchises and now that Disney owns it, they are never going to stop making these movies because people are going to see them. Is there a plethora of material and characters, say like with Marvel or DC Comics? No. But long-standing Star Wars fans are still clamoring for more – and Disney will give it to them, even if they have to stretch the narratives way too thin.
As far as Solo: A Star Wars Story being a worthy standalone movie, it mostly does its job. The beginning is a little rough and eye-rolling, as we meet Han (Alden Ehrenreich), a young man who’s grown up on the streets of some renegade city run by gang lords. He and his love, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), have been plotting their escape, and when they finally get their shot, we experience the first of many action sequences. Except only Han is able to escape after Qi’ra gets caught.
Jumping ahead seven years, the movie finally starts humming once Han and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) meet and end up going on a heist mission with space pirate Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his crew. This then leads Han back to Qi’ra, who has had to take a very different turn in her life since they were separated, along with crossing paths with Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), who has the fastest ship around, the Millennium Falcon.
Solo is just the rousing adventure you’d expect and once you get into the actual meat of the story, you’re having a good time. As for the performances, I was a little worried about Ehrenreich being able to pull off the younger version of Han. There’s was all the flak that the actor wasn’t cutting it, but he surprised me. He doesn’t try to do an imitation of Harrison Ford, but there are moments Ehrenreich sounds just like him and has some of the same gestures. He handles it all quite well and is fun to watch. Plus, the kid has such a great smile that lights up the screen.
Clarke also does a nice job as the mysterious Qi’ra (although I fully admit it’s hard not to see her as her Game of Thrones alter ego Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Khalessi and all the rest). Qi’ra has had a rough go of it since she and Han were separated, and we are lead to believe she’s done some unsavory things to survive, including aligning herself with the gang lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). Nevertheless, she holds a very soft spot for Han in her heart, to her detriment, I’m afraid. There’s a big twist, and if there’s a sequel to this (and there might be), Qi’ra’s storyline will get very interesting indeed.
And much has been said about Donald Glover as the suave younger Lando, who most certainly makes an impression from the moment he is onscreen. However, I feel like the actor’s talents are somewhat wasted in this. There’s just not enough of Lando, so yeah, maybe a sequel would be good. Another standout is Phoebe Waller-Bridge voicing the snarky droid L3-37, Lando’s sidekick. She’s a hoot. But the character that actually captures my heart is Chewbacca. This is honestly as much his movie as it is Han Solo’s, and the two of them together gave me nostalgic feels.
There is also plenty of eye-popping visuals and exciting action, and yes, there is the Kessel Run sequence with the Millennium Falcon that’s pretty spectacular, but was Han always telling the truth about doing it in “less than 12 parsecs”? You’ll have to watch to find out. Director Ron Howard took over when the original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired. One wonders what they were doing with the sacred canon. My guess is they weren’t taking it seriously enough, which is a big no-no if you’re dealing with Star Wars. But Howard is a very capable director who plays by the rules, so Solo was definitely safe in his hands.
All in all, Solo does what it’s suppose to do. It gives the backstory to one of Star Wars‘ most beloved characters, delivers a mostly entertaining ride and sets things up for a sequel if that happens. Like I said, these Star Wars movies will never end.