“Solo: A Star Wars Story”- Movie Review

It’s been a few months since the release of The Last Jedi, and the fandom is still sobering up from the dramatic fallout that spawned from it. So the odds of the newest installment, Solo, getting a warm welcome seem pretty slim. I mean the film already comes with a lot of baggage. The first set of directors were booted from the project halfway through production. People were (and still aren’t) too keen on seeing someone else besides Harrison Ford step into Han Solo’s shoes. Most of all, it’s an origin story that nobody was really begging for in the first place. When Ron Howard was brought on to sweep up the mess, the future looked a little brighter. And while the finished product is still ripe with flaws, I doubt it’s going to add fuel to the fire.

Solo follows the early adventures of, who else, the notorious space scoundrel Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich). After escaping his hell of a home planet, Corellia, with dreams of becoming a pilot, young Han finds himself drawn into the criminal underworld. There he meets his future partner-in-crime Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and the smooth-talking smuggler Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), reunites with a love thought to be lost named Qi’Ra (Emilia Clarke), and teams up with a notorious criminal (Woody Harrelson) who shows him the ropes. Han and his fellow outlaws get involved in an elaborate heist, a task that, unbeknownst to them, is far more dangerous than they realize.

I love the character of Han Solo just as much as any Star Wars fan, though I’ll admit the idea of him getting his own standalone movie never captured my interest. My curiosity about Solo stemmed less from a desire to know every detail about Han’s life and more about if, despite a bumpy road, its story would be able to enrich the character’s legacy. And in some respects, it does. The film gives you some basic answers- how Han got involved in a life of crime, how he met Chewie, how he won ownership of the Millennium Falcon, how he got his name, etcetera, etcetera- and the action scenes (especially one involving a train) have a fun western-style vibe to them that feels appropriate for a Solo-centric adventure.

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Interesting tidbits like these are sprinkled throughout a narrative that has a surprisingly dull energy. The movie opens with a strong first act. We see Han’s grand exit from Corellia and his determination to full-fill his dreams and meet back up with an aforementioned character (it’s an easy guess as to who it is, but I don’t want to risk spoilers). This is obviously meant to be the emotional drive that powers the rest of the movie. Towards the beginning of the second however, the object of Han’s devotion comes back into the picture, thus sucking out a much-needed sense of motivation. The remainder of the film feels underwhelming because of it. I still found myself  interested in what was going on, and like I said, I was never bored out of my mind. Something about it wasn’t as exciting as I wanted it to be. The weak humor and bland cinematography made up of nothing but greys, hazy browns, and mustard-yellows didn’t help either.

Alden Ehrenreich’s performance as young Han Solo is solid. I can’t image the enormous pressure he was under for this film. Imagine being tasked with portraying one of the most beloved and iconic characters in the history of cinema. So beloved, in fact, that people are acting like the character isn’t recast-able. If he acted too much like Harrison Ford, people would hold up their pitchforks and scream he was just doing an impression. At the same time, I image Ehrenreich wasn’t given enough wiggle room to put his own into it. And if he did, fanboys would light their torches and rant about how he was ruining the character and how he wasn’t ENOUGH like Harrison Ford. But I think he pulled it off. He got Ford’s mannerisms down, he had the charm, he had the personality. I bought him as a young Han Solo.

The rest of the cast gives equally strong performances. Donald Glover is great as young Lando, and Chewbacca is fantastic as always. The chemistry among the three of them is one of the brightest spots of the film. Woody Harrelson works well as a sort of mentor to Han. Emilia Clarke does very well as Qi’Ra, whose storyline represents another issue I have with the film. The mystery surrounding her character is built up repeatedly and yet the film doesn’t give any answers. Because of that it’s hard to grasp who she is as a person, and thus it’s hard to get invested in her. She’s not the only one with this issue. The film tends to build up certain story elements that either don’t have a fitting payoff or are left up in the air to be addressed by a sequel.

With all that being said, I do like Solo: A Star Wars Story. It suffers from a messy execution, with a dreary visual style and less than stellar narrative developments. In terms of sheer spectacle, it hits all the right notes. I just wish there was more of it, and more risks taken at that. What we have in the end is a fun enough ride that does what it needs to do. If you’re hoping to see a decent origin story about Han Solo, then that’s exactly what you’ll get.

Cosmic Grade: 3.4/5 Stars

 

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