Solo: A Star Wars Story had everything going against it; the behind the scenes drama, shortage of marketing, and the lack of excitement in general seemed to dig a hole for the film that seemed impossible to climb out of. Being only the 2nd spin-off film of the rebooted Star Wars universe, Solo had to prove that these stories are more than just blatant cash grabs. While it’s not perfect, it manages to give us some classic popcorn fun.
Lorde and Mil-erm- I mean Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story follows the famous scoundrel a decade before a A New Hope begins. Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is a 19-year-old con artist, trying to survive in the sewers of Corellia. He and his girlfriend, Q’ira (Emilia Clarke) attempt to buy their way out of the slums, but only Han can escape. For three years, he fights for the Empire, trying to get enough credits to buy his own ship and get back to her. But Q’ira isn’t the same girl anymore; now, she’s a ruthless lieutenant for the crime lord, Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).
With the demand for hyperfuel and other rare resources, Han finds himself on a heist mission with her and a group of other criminals, where he meets the likes of Chewbacca and the charming Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover).
Ever since Solo was announced, fans were extremely skeptical to see another person play the part that Harrison Ford made famous. Who could overshadow the original scoundrel? The answer is no one, but Ehrenreich certainly gave it his all. With all the rumors of him having an acting coach on set, Ehrenreich was already not popular with the masses. But he proved everyone wrong. Not only was he able to become Han Solo, but he was able to do so without it being a blatant imitation. He stays true to the character in most aspects, but also makes the role his own. With how little there is known about Han Solo (if you discount the EU), Ehrenreich had a lot of opportunities to mix in his own style.
With the lack of a compelling story, Solo relied on the performances to keep folks watching. Thankfully, the cast had a dynamic chemistry and worked beautifully together. Woody Harrelson’s rogue Beckett puts on a great gunslinger personality and toes the line between anti-hero and mentor. Clarke, who has had a questionable choice of roles as of late, brings a nuanced performance to the very troubled Q’ira.
But the man everyone has been waiting for is Glover as the galaxy’s most charming smuggler. Glover channels his undying swagger into the cape-wearing fiend and creates a character too cool for school. With him is his co-pilot, the socially woke droid, L3 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who’s more busy fighting for robot rights than paying attention to the issue at hand. It’s a shame that he’s severely underused because he easily steals the show whenever he’s on screen. Also, if you’re expecting to see any hint of him being pansexual, prepare to be disappointed. Once again, LGBTQ representation is presented off screen.
But while the cast is very energetic, the fast pacing barely lets the audience enjoy them. For most of the runtime, we’re going from action scene to action scene, leaving very little time for interaction. The action scenes are mostly fun, but at some point, you just want it to stop and leave some time for character exploration.
Unfortunately, Howard hears that cry for help too late in the game and tries to shove in too many character arcs in the last 10 minutes in the film. Characters’ true colors start showing and everyone and their mothers starts to get double-crossed.
But that’s not all! It wouldn’t be a Star Wars movie without a forced tie-in to another part of the franchise. Usually, I’m okay with these tie-ins, but this twist was very alienating to casual Star Wars fans and left them more confused than in awe. The only ones who could gasp in excitement were the followers of the tv shows. This new franchise has had its “fan servicey” moments, but to use a plot point from the tv shows as such a pivotal moment leaves a significant section of the fan base out of the loop.
Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t bad per se; it’s precisely what we thought it would be: a movie meant to cash in on one of Star Wars’ most iconic characters. But going in with those kinds of expectations leaves you with a movie that is pretty fun most of the time. Sure, we’ll always be wondering what Lorde & Miller’s vision would be, but Howard creates a perfectly fine, nonoffensive romp.