‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ Stumbles Before Kicking Into Hyperdrive (Spoiler-Free Review)

When a Han Solo prequel movie was announced, I was more than skeptical. In fact, I was pretty outspoken by how unnecessary I thought this movie was. However, as time went on it began to sound more and more intriguing and like the makings of an underdog hit. Lawrence Kasdan, writer of Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens decided to lend his talents here and he was very eager to do so as well. Now add-on Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, a mentor-type role for Woody Harrelson, and Bradford Young as the cinematographer? With those prospects in sight, the movie begins to sound pretty exciting. But what about Han Solo? Who could possibly replace the iconic stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder at his own game? Well… many would say Anthony Ingruber or some YouTube Harrison Ford impersonator. To those who wanted a Harrison Ford impersonation, I’m sorry, but that just would have never worked. Thankfully, Alden Ehrenreich steps up to the plate with his own spin on the character, while still harboring the essentials to a believable young Han Solo. I’ve been excited about his portrayal since the casting was announced, and I do know that quite a few others had faith in Alden as well. It seemed a lot of people were finally on board, but then came the news of original directors Phil Lord & Chris Miller being fired by Lucasfilm, only to be replaced by Ron Howard very soon after. So, after the roller coaster of skepticism and excitement,  where does the final product end up?

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Alden Ehrenreich and Joonas Suotamo, our new (yet old) Millenium Falcon duo!

Well, for starters, I’m glad to say I fell for Alden’s Han Solo very quickly. My initial concern was how long exactly would it take to have me convinced this young street kid is Han in his younger years, and I found Alden to be very charismatic almost instantly. Is he the same Han we know from the originals? No, not exactly. This portrayal is a bit more naive and inexperienced. I would go as far to say he’s too trusting of those around him (trust and grey morality weave into this story thematically throughout). It’s actually quite noticeable that Han is much more guarded in the original trilogy and this story gives him good reasons as to why. Unlike our original protagonist from Star Wars, Han did not grow up in the outer rim of the galaxy. Meaning his youth witnessed a lot of the true control of the Empire and the chaos it created on most planets. So expect a bit of a different Han in this movie, one that only wants to find his place in this world (whether he thinks he knows that place or not). As far as the central protagonist goes I think Solo: A Star Wars Story at least nails that.

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The original Millenium Falcon crew before Harrison Ford turns it into a piece of junk.

However, I have to say that the introduction to this movie is quite a bumpy road. I wouldn’t say anything I witnessed was necessarily bad, but things start to move really fast, right away, and it can be quite distracting. Pacing begins to feel a bit cleaner as Han and his new group of friends start to group together. Yes, Lando is as cool as you imagine and yes, you are going to want more of Donald Glover’s space stud persona. His Lando does feel different than Billy Dee Williams’s but in a good way. A notable standout is Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3. She’s the hilarious and outspoken droid you see in the trailers and has some of the funniest moments to be in a Star Wars film, well, ever. Overall, I would go as far to say all the characters are quite enjoyable, but much like Rogue One some of them can feel a bit underdeveloped. I’m sorry to say I think this goes for Thandie Newton’s Val especially. I know that many give Emilia Clarke a lot of flack for her roles outside of Game of Thrones, but I really liked her here as Qi’Ra. I found her character to be very nuanced and she always had a level head regardless of the situation she’s in, demonstrating she’s more of a force to reckon with than Han himself (who is always foolishly trying to be her hero). Overall the gang is an entertaining bunch but the third act demonstrates which characters this story cares about the most. It’s also worth noting that the third act of the movie is probably the best part and had me on my toes. This section of the movie involves the elements at play the most and everything has fallen into place to result in a western-styled climax.

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Phoebe Waller Bridge’s L3, Donald Glover’s Lando, and an envious Han Solo.

As a life-long Star Wars fan, I can say I enjoyed Solo to the best of my ability, and I really did have a lot of fun with it! A lot of the action here is really cool and there are many laughs to have. Although, I don’t think this movie will convince anyone reluctant to it that it was a necessary entry into the franchise, and I wouldn’t rank it too high on my list of Star Wars. There’s a chunk of this movie where I felt emotionally uninvolved, and that’s probably due to the lack of stakes present up until the third act. The story feels most effective when it’s in relation to Han’s loss of innocence during this period of time. Moments that I particularly disliked of this film is when it became too self-referential, and this meant explaining silly things about Han that just did not need an explanation at all. I’m sure many of you will see what I mean. With that being said, I really do want to see more of this Han Solo, Lando, and Qi’Ra. Part of me feels this could’ve been even better with Ron Howard taking the helm from the start and that’s only because a lot of this movie works, while other parts just feel sloppily thrown together. I can only assume this is from the troubled production and shifting of visions, so I’m totally game for another crack at it with the new team moving full force. On a final note, why was this spoiler-free? Is there anything worth spoiling? Absolutely. There are some pretty good surprises here and I advise everyone to go in clean! There’s one in particular that really left a grin on my face. 

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story flies to a theater near you May 25, 2018! Check out the trailer above.

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