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Solo: A Star Wars Story (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Solo: A Star Wars Story


Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Joonas Suotamo, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Ian Kenny, John Tui, Warwick Davis, Erin Kellyman, Charlotte Louise, Anthony Daniels, Clint Howard, Lily Newmark, Sema-Tawi Smart, Samantha Colley, Ray Park and the voices of Jon Favreau, Linda Hunt, Andrew Jack and Sam Witwer.

Screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan.

Directed by Ron Howard.

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. 135 minutes. Rated PG-13.

In the continuing attempt to dramatize every single thing that ever happened in George Lucas’ fantasy world (I mean really, there must be hundreds of Star Wars films, TV episodes, novels, games, graphic novels, radio plays, holiday specials, etc.), here comes the inevitable origin story of one of the Star Wars empire’s most beloved characters: Han Solo.

There is a certain amount of nostalgic fun in revisiting these old characters – we get to see Han Solo meeting both Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian here. We also see how he comes to own The Millennium Falcon. It fleshes out of small parts of earlier stories – a throwaway line about “The Kessel Run” in the first Star Wars film A New Hope becomes an extended action sequence here.

However, sometimes the nostalgia surpasses the plotline. While always entertaining, it is a somewhat slight story, yet another Star Wars film that essentially revolves around the acquiring of a rare and powerful mineral to try to stop the evil Empire.

Truthfully, Solo is better than we may have feared due to all the drama behind the scenes. Original filmmakers Christopher Miller and Phil Lord (The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street) were sacked in the middle of filming, causing Disney to scramble and hire big-name director Ron Howard to take over the reins, getting rewrites and re-filming much of what had already been done.

Howard does a good, workmanlike job in somewhat alien waters for the director. After all, I believe his last two sci-fi/fantasy films were Cocoon and Willow over 30 years ago. But Howard is an old pro and gives the film a smart and sleek sheen, even if it is not exactly an edgy take on the material.

Still, it’s only middling Star Wars – better than average stuff, but far from the heights of things like The Empire Strikes Back, A New Hope and The Force Awakens. Solo feels sort of like what it is – a stop-gap to keep fans happy until the next major title in the saga blasts off. This would be particularly important because the last Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, had very mixed reactions at best.

So, it is nice to say that Solo is mostly very entertaining. Particularly after the horribly bleak Last Jedi, it is nice to see a Star Wars movie that remembers how to have some fun.

Alden Ehrenreich doesn’t look all that much like a young Harrison Ford; however, he has captured the character, nailing Ford’s brash swagger and charming overconfidence.

We meet Solo as a young gangster, trying to escape his home planet Corellia with the love of his young life, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). When she is captured, and he has to go on by himself, he promises to come back for her. Flash forward three years, and he is still planning on making that return.

He meets Chewy and they fall in with a group of bandits (Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton and the voice of Jon Favreau). Through them, he meets the evil head of “Crimson Dawn,” who by (extremely large) coincidence has taken on Qi’ra as his ward (it’s a little hazy whether he has romantic feelings for her or not). Together the group (including Qi’ra) have to go steal unrefined coaxium from the mines on the planet Kessel, picking up Lando Calrissian on the way.

The real saviors of Solo are Woody Harrelson and Donald Glover, who bring a real sense of humor and spark to their characters. When they are on camera, Solo is at its best.

Coming soon is Glover’s Lando Calrissian movie. And while Glover was one of the better parts of Solo, it still makes you wonder how long Disney can keep milking this saga until people just don’t care anymore. Lucas hit that over-saturation period about a decade ago before he turned over the keys to Disney. Remember the animated movie version of The Clone Wars? Good, you’re better off forgetting it.

While Disney has done a good job of resurrecting the franchise, their current decision to do at least one new original Star Wars story annually seems like a recipe for over-exposure. Solo will not be the movie to put the brakes on the series’ momentum, but like last year’s disappointing The Last Jedi, it is a bit of a step backward. Not a massive failure, but it has a bit of a “been there, done that” vibe to it. We’ll have to see how much slack audiences will give the series if it doesn’t figure out a way to reinvent itself again, like it did with The Force Awakens.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: June 2, 2018.


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