Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story is an Origin Story Made Especially For The Fans
I am a casual Star Wars fan but not a fanatic like so many others. I grew up watching a slew of Science Fiction films and I adore the genre as a whole. The original Star Wars trilogy were game-changers when originally released which is why the franchise has gone on to become such an iconic staple in pop culture for billions of people regardless of their age. While I would agree that Episodes 1, 2, and 3 aren’t exactly what I would consider great cinema, I didn’t hate them as much as everyone else seemed to. I think all three suffered from bloated runtimes while spending way too much time focused on politics. They also had a huge lack of character development and contained way too much CGI. It goes without saying that the prequels were universally hated by fans which is why the entire franchise when re-launching went back to its roots. Star Wars not only started over again but now, Lucasfilm is using these classics to tell untold stories about beloved characters. This is the reason why Solo: A Star Wars Story exists.
Solo: A Star Wars Story tells the origin story of a young Han Solo played by Alden Ehrenreich. As an audience member, we are introduced to Han well before he is known as Han Solo. The film opens introducing Han and the love of his life Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) running from local gangs when they end up becoming separated. The film flashes forward three years later to a time where Han is being expelled from a flight program. Han ends up joining forces with Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and going to prison which is where he meets Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). Once out of prison, Han and Chewie work with Tobias on a heist where Han reunites with Qi’ra and works with Lando (Donald Glover) in order to help Tobias obtain a rare hyperfuel known as coaxium.
As one of the most beloved film franchises in cinematic history, these new Star Wars films are being made for fans by fans. Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t a necessary film but one that was created because people love the character, Han Solo. Harrison Ford made Han Solo iconic so seeing an actor like Alden Ehrenreich playing a younger version of him, might be a bit jarring at first but as the film processes, Ehrenreich begins to transform into the man that we all love. I’ll admit I was very nervous when Ehrenreich was cast to play this role because I wasn’t sold on him as an actor. Before being attached to this project, no one really knew who Alden Ehrenreich was and most of his work with the exception of Hail Ceasar and Beautiful Creatures was unknown to the general public. Ehrenreich may not have the same level of swagger as Harrison Ford did when originally playing Solo but he does embrace the role and makes it his own.
The relationship between Han Solo and Chewbacca is the film’s most effective story arc. We get to see how these two characters meet and how they can communicate with one another. There is definitely a level of fan satisfaction that comes along with watching Ehrenreich and Suotamo interacting together on-screen. There is this very natural chemistry that occurs between the two characters along with a lot of humor and heart that will make fans incredibly happy. Even though the film is titled Solo: A Star Wars Story, it should have been called “Solo and Chewie: A Star Wars Bromance” because their interaction and story arc are ultimately the heart and soul of this film.
Because this is an origin story where most of the audience already knows what is going happens next, I feel like the film as a whole lacks a real sense of danger. I completely understand that this film and a series of films that are scheduled to be released over the next several years are intended to provide longtime fans with some additional insight as to who their favorite characters are and their pasts but it does feel like the stories are banking a little too heavily on the original trilogy. Solo relies a lot on fans knowing the history of these characters and having that feeling of nostalgia in order to be really effective for the viewer. Would Donald Glover playing Lando be that big of a deal if someone didn’t know he was playing a young version of Billy Dee Williams? I don’t think so.
The villain in this film played by Paul Bettany is what many would call a throwaway character. Bettany plays the role well but there is just no real fear to his actions because like said earlier, you know his characters fate before it even occurs. I love Woody Harrelson as an actor and would argue that over the past several years has starred in some truly memorable films including War for the Planet of the Apes and Three Billboards. As Tobias Beckett, it seems like Harrelson is just going through the motions. This isn’t a bad performance but rather one that just feels rather generic. Characters like Donald Glover’s Lando and Thandie Newton’s Val are noteworthy characters but ones that don’t necessarily get as much screen-time as they should have. They feel as those they are being used as a plot device rather than used to add substance to this story.
As you may recall, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were originally attached to direct Solo: A Star Wars Story. While they left the project due to “creative differences,” the exact reasons for their departure was never revealed. Rumors have it that they had a disagreement with screenwriters, Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan. Needless to say, Ron Howard stepped in at the last minute and ended up putting the whole thing together. Howard, who is a very iconic and skilled director, makes the film work to the best of his ability. It is definitely a well-shot film that is visually striking. Howard’s fingerprints are all over the film but at certain times when watching the film you can’t help but wonder what the film would have been like if Phil Lord and Christopher Miller actually directed it. This really isn’t very fair to Ron Howard but I do feel like the end product would have been a lot less of a western space epic and more of a comedic space adventure but hey, we will never really know.
While I didn’t love Solo: A Star Wars Story, I will wholeheartedly admit that I enjoyed it more than The Last Jedi and probably just as much as The Force Awakens. It is, however, nowhere near as good as Rogue One, which I still believe is the best Star Wars film since the original trilogy. Solo: A Star Wars Story is an entertaining and enjoyable prequel that works best for die-hard fans looking to fill the gap between the next major Star Wars release. I really don’t know if the world needs a new Star Wars film each year as I am already starting to feel a bit of Star Wars fatigue. I am interested to see how this one plays with the fans and how many other origin stories will be greenlit dependent on its success.
Scott ‘Movie Man’ Menzel’s rating for Solo: A Star Wars Story is a 6.5 out of 10.