Solo: A Star Wars Story

By Christopher Hill –

When Disney purchased Lucasfilm from George Lucas, there was immediate excitement about new, capable hands crafting more Star Wars movies. When it was announced that Disney would work off of two separate tracks, the traditional “current” narrative, as well as “historic” stories, the idea of more fleshed-out backstories and new characters promised an expansive universe of Star Wars, one not limited to the last name of Skywalker.

Their first historic offering, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, created a completely new tone, with novel characters that you wanted to see again in the cinema, only to find those characters trapped in a finite story. The second is Solo: A Star Wars Story, the Han Solo origin story.

I probably don’t have to remind you that the swashbuckling adventurer Han Solo is beloved in the Star Wars lexicon. Part rogue, part hero and all charisma, Harrison Ford created a character that harkened back to the 50s serials—a character always able to get himself out of trouble through skill, luck or a little of both.

This Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) is somewhat brash, with more luck than anything else. He takes chances at all turns, and each departure works for him—almost too well. Together with Kira (Emilia Clarke), they are a couple looking for a better life, away from the poverty and despair they have known. Once split apart, Han tries desperately to return to her. It is in that journey back to her that the movie resides. Along the way we meet some interesting, yet clearly disposable, characters that provide the promised character backstories. The lone non-disposable character is everyone’s favorite, Chewbacca. In addition to reuniting Han with his lost love, much of the movie cultivates the pairing of Han and the Wookie and their growing friendship. It is a relationship that begins to pick up steam near the end of the film.

Han and Chewbacca. Photo by Jonathan Olley.

In fact, a lot of this movie picks up steam near the end of the film. If this were a generic summer action film, the results would be fine. However, this is Star Wars, and that universe expects a high cut above generic. The results are a mixed bag, but if you look at the chaos surrounding the making of the film, expectations could be lower. The original directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street), were replaced during shooting by Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind). And if that wasn’t enough, there was a rumored case of buyer’s remorse concerning the acting prowess of their chosen new Han Solo, creating a lot of baggage for a potential franchise-launching film.

Knowing this history, that the film shines in places is a testament to Ron Howard and his ability to reimagine another’s vision, a challenging task. Solo provides a lot of the backstory fans wondered about. The in-depth Star Wars fan will find a whole host of Easter eggs, both verbal and physical. Perhaps most gratifying is a Star Wars story with no mention of the force. No, not one “May the Force Be With You.” For a universe needing to diversify, this is welcome news.

If you are a fan of Star Wars, you will remain one. Donald Glover (The Martian, Spider-Man: Homecoming) is fantastic in the role of Lando Calrissian, a role he was truly destined to play and probably the real franchise-driver. The story flows but is very linear. You know what’s coming, with few surprises (although there is one major reveal that makes a sequel a certainty). The interactions between Solo and Kira never seem to excite; instead, they seem forced. However, the exchanges between Solo, Chewbacca and Lando grow over time. By the end of the film, their chemistry starts to shine. While the concerns over Ehrenreich’s depiction are warranted, that is mainly due to his predecessor in the role. Harrison Ford could sell an idea with his eyes alone, a skill this Solo has not learned — yet. He apparently has signed on for a three-picture deal, so he could develop, and while not fill the shoes, at least occupy them well.

Could this movie have been a disaster? Certainly. Is it? No. It will not rank near the top of Star Wars films, but neither is it at the bottom. It is a beginning with seeds that if properly nurtured, could grow into a strong series. Hopefully in future films, Disney will make Solo a trio and keep Lando in the mix.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

In Theaters: May 25th Rated: PG-13
Violence: Yes, a few actions off-screen that result in onscreen visuals scary for younger viewers.
Language: None
Sexuality: Limited to a few kissing scenes.

Copyright: 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™, All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Walt Disney Studios  Motion Pictures.