Solo brings the fun back to Star Wars
While it has its issues, particularly early on, Solo – A Star Wars Story picks up speed in the second act and vaults to a heroic finish.
Off-screen, Solo had some hiccups getting made.
Original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired (or “parted ways”) last summer and Oscar winner Ron Howard was hired to replace them well after shooting had already begun.
Similarly, the finished product has a rocky, rocky start.
Set before the events of A New Hope (aka – the original Star Wars), Solo follows, well, a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) as he tries to escape life living in the sewers of his home planet, Corellia.
All young Han cares about is getting a ship and making a new, free life for himself and his girlfriend, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke).
Unfortunately, Han isn’t as lucky as he thinks he is, and he finds himself traveling the galaxy in a different kind of way than he expected.
After teaming up with a group of scoundrels led by the sharpshooting Beckett (Woody Harrelson), and finding a new best friend in everyone’s favorite hairball, Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Han takes his first steps toward becoming the loveable smuggler with whom we all fell in love, all those years ago.
And the team is fun – a four-armed alien pilot named Rio Durant (voiced by Jon Favreau), a deadly-accurate first mate named Val (Thandie Newton) and Beckett make for a wonderfully zany, ad-hoc Star Wars family, especially when Han and Chewie climb on board.
Though there are some great space western sequences, Solo doesn’t really reach its potential until Donald Glover is introduced as Lando Calrissian.
While Ehrenreich does a phenomenal job of making Han his own, in spite of the very big shadow cast by Harrison Ford, Glover may actually have stolen the Lando championship from the incredible Billy Dee Williams, who originated the role in 1980‘s The Empire Strikes Back.
Lando and his droid co-pilot, L3-37 (voiced and motion-acted by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), breathe some of that old-school, space opera magic back into the Star Wars universe, which since 1999‘s Phantom Menace has seemed less … fun than it used to be.
That’s not to say there haven’t been some great Star Wars films. Everything Disney has put out in the series has been high quality, even if The Last Jedi was divisive among some fans.
Solo never reaches that level of filmmaking. There are sound issues, some bad dubbing early on and a regurgitated, derivative soundtrack that is rarely original and borrows heavily from the franchise’s more famous entries.
Clarke’s character isn’t the best, and the dialogue between her and Han can sometimes be cringe-worthy. But the two actors do have chemistry, and Q’ira becomes a lot more interesting as the film goes on.
My biggest complaint is that the film is way too dark – and I don’t mean tonally.
I mean it is very literally a dark film. Many of the outdoor scenes are shot with a very bright light source directly behind the actors and/or the action. And it’s distracting. At times, it is very difficult to see characters clearly.
But as the story unfolds, you’ll be having too much fun on the ride to care about the particulars. I’m always anxious before riding Indiana Jones at Disneyland because I know it gives me mild whiplash. But during the ride, all I’m concerned with is how cool everything around me is.
Solo is sort of the same thing. There are parts that are unintentionally funny. There are parts that are strangely edited. There are parts that are way too dark and hard to look at.
But there’s so much fun going on, that even though you notice the faults, you don’t really care.
Perhaps the film’s greatest achievement, however, is the time spent developing and showing the relationship between Han and Chewie. Ehrenreich is perfect in the role, but especially so in the quiet, intimate moments Han shares with Chewbacca. Suotamo (who takes over the Chewie role from an aging Peter Mayhew) conveys so very much emotion through Chewbacca’s body movements, motions and posture changes, that – just like Mayhew – he somehow translates the wookiee’s dialogue without speaking a word of English (sorry … Basic).
No, it’s not one of the best films in the Star Wars franchise. But you’ll leave Solo smiling wider at the galaxy far, far away than you have in a long time.