MOVIE REVIEW: Solo – A Star Wars Story [MINOR SPOILERS]

It is a lawless time.

CRIME SYNDICATES compete for resources – food, medicine, and HYPERFUEL.

On the shipbuilding planet of CORELLIA, the foul LADY PROXIMA forces runaways into a life of crime in exchange for shelter and protection.

On these mean streets, a young man fights for survival, but yearns to fly among the stars….

SOLO: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Directed by Ron Howard

We are dangerously close to Star Wars overkill.  With the announcement of:

  1. A new trilogy helmed by so-so director Rian Johnson.
  2. A new trilogy brought to you by the folks who gave us Game of Thrones.
  3. A live action TV series from Jon Favreau.
  4. And not to mention more Star Wars Story spinoffs (Obi-Wan? Boba?) and the only movie that really matters: the final chapter of the Skywalker Saga, Episode IX.

We are very close to oversaturation indeed.  Remember when you had to wait three years between movies and much longer between trilogies?

Fortunately, Solo is a welcome addition to the crowded Star Wars family.

Solo was one of the spinoffs conceived by George Lucas before he abandoned ship.  He’d been trying to do “young Han” since at least Revenge of the Sith, when he was pictured in concept art as an orphan raised by Wookiees.  Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) and son Jon wrote Solo, so you can be assured there is a level of authenticity here.  Who better to write that space scoundrel?  Nobody.

And who better to direct than Ron Howard?  He came in under difficult circumstances after the firing of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, re-shot 70% of the movie, and pretty much nailed it too.  Howard also brought in some of his regulars (brother Clint Howard and Paul Bettany) and threw in a literal ton of Star Wars references and crossovers.  Solo is Easter Egg heaven.

Finally, composer John Powell created a soundtrack that is different yet founded in the Star Wars universe.  Powell hybridized new and old themes together into a memorable score.  He too included Easter Eggs, in his music.  Listen closely when [SPOILER] the marauder Enfys Nest and her gang arrives.  Powell utilised a children’s choir, as a clue foreshadowing Enfys’ young age under the mask.

Everybody was worried about lead actor Alden Ehrenreich as Solo.  Admit it, you were too.  Fear not, for young Ehrenreich (who is signed on for three films) nailed the role.  His higher voice is the only niggle that consistently reminds you that he’s not the Han you remember.  Similarly, Donald Glover fits into Lando Calrissian’s capes comfortably, including the suave talkin’.  Billy Dee Williams should be very happy with the new Lando.

The concept of Han as an orphan is retained, but instead of being raised by Wookiees, his backstory is more aligned with the old Star Wars novels.  He is a thief on planet Corellia, where he and girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) try to stay under the Empire’s nose.  Corellia is a shipbuilding world with huge, expansive scenes of Star Destroyers under construction.  When Han and Qi’ra are separated, he joins the Empire, as he did in the comics.

Han wanted to be a pilot, but got stationed in the muddy trenches to quell an uprising on planet Mimban.  Han, you see, isn’t the best at taking orders.  While enlisted on Mimban, he meets Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his best friend to be, Chewbacca (now played by Joonas Suotamo).  Solo is swept into the seedy world of organised crime where he is delighted to catch up to Qi’ra, and is introduced to her boss played by Paul Bettany.  They both work for the dark, shadowy crime syndicate Crimson Dawn.

From an exciting pulse-pounding train heist to the Millenium Falcon, Solo keeps things moving.  It’s one big set piece after another, including the Kessel Run.  And yes, they used the novels as the source material.  The Falcon does indeed make the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, getting a little beat up in the process.  By the end of the film, she’ll look a little more like the ship you remember.

The plot has its twists but you can foresee that some backs are going to get stabbed.  Han’s backstory is over-explained a bit too much for a single film, but there is still enough left to explore should Solo 2 be somewhere in pipe.  The truth is, the first viewing of Solo is less paying attention to the plot, and more looking for cameos.  Speaking of which, characters tie Solo into movies as diverse as Rogue One and The Phantom Menace.  You’ll see some stirrings of the early Rebellion, and Han’s intrinsic sense of right and wrong.  You might even see a giant “fuck you” to the Star Wars special editions.  [SPOILER] Han is definitely a “shoot first” kind of guy.

Things get a little muddled with a side character (Lando’s droid L3-37 played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge) with a passion for droid’s rights.  Perhaps a droid-based Star Wars movie would be interesting for the future, but it was extraneous here.  Solo is best when it’s giving you a tour of the Star Wars universe, from crime lords to the trenches on the front lines of the Empire.  Trench warfare on Mimban is directly inspired by the muddy fields of World War 1, and it’s far better than any of the Clone Wars stuff in Revenge of the Sith.

Unlike The Last Jedi, a spinoff movie doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel.  In many measures, the pressure was off.  Solo aims to be a fun movie that requires no connections to the Force or Skywalker family.  It’s a shame that it has not performed well, but that is not a reflection on its quality.

3.75/5 stars

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27 comments

    1. There is an amazing episode of Rebels that shows some young Luke stuff. Just enough to make my hair stand up on my arms.

      I think the inevitable Obi-Wan spinoff movie will involve him watching over young Luke, protecting him. Probably a few scenes of Uncle Owen telling him to never come back.

      Like

  1. I liked this one a lot.

    Let’s see (No Spoilers)-
    Lando’s casting and performance was perfect
    Beckett was awesome
    Han’s voice was the only niggle I had with him as well. he totally looks the part

    Compared to Rogue One, Rogue One was a more consistent film, but when Solo did something awesome it did it way awesomer than Rogue One (The battle with Enfys early on was a highlight)

    I enjoyed the easter eggs a lot as well. My favourite was probably the Teras Kasi one because it was more obscure than the rest

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this one. Disney shot themselves in the foot by having this out at the same time as Avengers and DP2. I hope it doesn’t affect their decision to make more spin-offs because I feel like they’re doing these spot on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bang on — and I think this movie could have been held back to winter, except they were eager to show people that Ron Howard didn’t screw it up. I think the production difficulties meant that any more delays would be bad PR no matter what. I still haven’t seen Avengers or DP 2 — Han Solo was less busy than either film!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I thought their decision to release it now meant it was easier to explain its underperformance… let’s be honest, the reported problems and the reports about young Solo turning in a performance comparable to Ace Ventura was always likely to ensure this one was a big gamble. But yeah, the longer they waited, the more damage done to the whole thing. At least they can say “we were up against Avengers, etc”.

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  3. A very fine review and, well, I don’t mind the spoilers. I’m suffering from Star Wars burn out and I just can’t get excited about this. In fact, I’m not even excited about Episode 9. No sir.

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      1. Sadly I think you are right Harrison. My sister, the biggest SW fan in the whole world, has lost interest. Last Jedi strayed so far from the story that JJ set up in The Force Awakens, that she does not care what happens next. I have to admit that I understand her perspective. I do want to see Rey build up the Jedi order in a new way, but there’s no excitement. Not like there was after The Force Awakens, or even Attack of the Clones.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m content with what we’ve got in The Last Jedi, but I have my own ideas for the film that would have (in my humble opinion) been 10X better

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I did too. But it is what it is now — they cannot undo what has been done. So it shall be written, so it shall be done!

          I have read encouraging things about what JJ plans to do with Episode IX. He hopes to tie up everything including the prequels and make a proper end to the saga.

          Rian Johnson’s mistake was forgetting he was in episode VIII. His movie would have been a better first movie in a trilogy. And apparently that’s the way Lucas wrote it. With Rey (then called Kira) meeting Luke at the start. But I think Johnson wasn’t considering that they would have to wrap everything up in the next movie. What Johnson did feels like it was far too messy to wrap up next time out.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Good points. I haven’t bothered acting further on my TLJ ideas because I know it’s not going to do jack at the moment. There’s no point lamenting about what could of been. I hope JJ can give the saga a fitting end. (For me it would have to include the rest of the force ghosts)

          Liked by 1 person

        4. I think one of the big hanging threads is “will we see Anakin?”

          Was he speaking to Kylo in TFA?

          And I would love to see Obi-Wan too. I wouldn’t count on Liam Neeson showing up but hell, anything is possible. That would be an incredible way to tie it all back. Liam revealing wisdom he discovered in the netherworld, to pass along to the new generation of Jedi. Boom — ending made perfect. JJ, you reading this?

          Liked by 1 person

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