Ever since the announcement of the Han Solo origin movie a few years back, Star Wars fans weren’t too excited, especially as there’s no actor that can truly match Harrison Ford’s iconic performance as everyone’s favorite scruffy-looking nerf herder smuggler. Things looked even worse for Solo in production, as the film’s directors — Phil Lord and Chris Miller, were replaced by veteran director Ron Howard before filming even wrapped up.
With its troubled production and shaky story idea, a lot of Star Wars fans (including myself) weren’t too excited for Solo. But against all odds, Lucasfilm and the rest of the Solo crew delivered a fun and crowd-pleasing movie, and not a train wreck as I’m sure most of us feared.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is space western-slash-heist movie that follows the origin of Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich). The film shows how Han became the smuggler we all know and love from the original trilogy. Along the way, the movie shows us how Han met Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover); as well as introducing characters important to the young Solo such as childhood friend and partner Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) and smuggler mentor Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson).
Without getting into the specifics, Solo’s story has some issues. The film suffers from a weirdly paced first act (much like fellow Star Wars story Rogue One), and there are some emotional moments that seem unearned. Thankfully, the movie’s pacing gets better as the second act starts.
There’s also the fact that the movie plays it safe. Fans expecting something totally new and fresh from Solo’s plot will be disappointed, as most of what happens is fairly predictable. The film’s scale is also not as big as Rogue One, both literally and in the grand scheme of the Star Wars lore.
Now, you may think “Geez I though you said that Solo is a fun movie.” Well it still is, faults and all; even if the story is far from perfect, it has lots of riveting action scenes along with fan-service that is sure to please Star Wars geeks (it sure elicited a positive response from myself). While most of what happens is fairly predictable, it’s in a mostly positive way, unlike The Last Jedi which had a story that’s subversive but very divisive.
If the story is just fine, the acting was anything but. Alden Ehrenreich’s portrayal of Han Solo may not a one-to-one replica of Harrison Ford’s, but in the context of the movie, Ehrenreich knocked it out of the park. His younger Han Solo is more of a bright-eyed idealist than the original trilogy’s cynic, but he still oozes the charisma and charm of the Han we know and love.
Solo’s supporting cast is equally impressive, though the standout is definitely Donald Glover as Lando. Glover’s Lando nails it as the smooth-talking scoundrel, down to Billy Dee William’s voice and mannerisms. But the best part is that he also gives more depth and an emotional dimension to Lando.
Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson also both gave great performances as Qi’Ra and Tobias Beckett respectively. Clarke played a compelling romantic interest to Han, while Harrelson’s Beckett was convincing as Han’s criminal mentor.
The non-human characters were also excellent in Solo, specifically Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3-37 and Joonas Suotamo’s Chewbacca. Waller-Bridge’s portrayal of Lando’s droid co-pilot L3-37 is reminiscent of Alan Tudyk as the scene-stealing K-2SO in Rogue One. Both played sharp-tongued droids with hearts of gold. Suatamo’s Chewie meanwhile, is great as always, given that he also played the Wookie in Episode VII and VIII alongside Peter Mayhew.
If there’s one thing that Solo absolutely did well, it is the Han and Chewie dynamic. From their first meeting until the end of the movie, Han and Chewbacca’s interactions were magnetic. I found myself giddy with joy every time the duo was on screen; the movie just nailed what was so great about Han and Chewie in the original movies.
What Solo didn’t nail 100% though is stand-out cinematography. Sure, it was competently shot and certain scenes had awesome visuals, but they’re not as breathtaking as The Last Jedi or Rogue One’s setpieces. The film is also just fine musically, as the soundtrack didn’t have much stand-out tracks, aside of course from Han and the Millenium Falcon’s signature themes. Though one thing I would like to praise about Solo is its tone. I feared that switching directors would mess up the tone of the movie, like what happened to last year’s Justice League. Thankfully, director Ron Howard managed to fit in the Phil Lord and Chris Miller-filmed scenes neatly with his own.
Objectively, Solo has quite a list of things that can be improved. It could have used a better-paced story, and it should’ve taken more risks. The film’s look also could’ve been more colorful and have more awesome shots; think Snoke’s throne room in Episode VIII or Rogue One’s Scarif battle.
While I’ve ragged on Solo’s pacing for most of this review, past the first act, boy does it get exciting. The story is also not risky yes, but at least most of it makes sense, as it has no big plot hole to speak of. Solo is also filled with lots of references to existing Star Wars characters and lore, perfect for fans looking for a fun movie like myself.
The faults are also more than made up for by the film’s amazing cast of characters. Every actor was great in their role, especially Ehrenreich and Glover as Han and Lando respectively. The whole cast’s performance and how they played off each other was excellent, so much so that it made me look past the movie’s shortcomings.
So is Solo: A Star Wars Story worth a watch? Very much so! If you’re expecting a game-changing Star Wars movie, or a Han Solo performance that perfectly emulates Harrison Ford, then you’d be setting yourself up for disappointment. If not, then Solo is an entertaining action movie driven by a great cast of characters; Solo definitely captures the fun side of the Star Wars franchise, even with some bumps along the way.
Yes, Han shot first. And yes, you will know why when you see Solo: A Star Wars Story when it starts showing in cinemas tomorrow, May 23.
Featured image and article images courtesy of Lucasfilm.