Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo
Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett
Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra
Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian
Thandie Newton as Val Beckett
Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37
Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca
Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos
Erin Kellyman appears as Enfys Nest
Jon Favreau as Rio Durant
Director: Ron Howard

Young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) finds adventure when he joins a gang of galactic smugglers, including a 196-year-old Wookie named Chewbacca. Indebted to the gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), the crew devises a daring plan to travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal a batch of valuable coaxium. In need of a fast ship, Solo meets Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), the suave owner of the perfect vessel for the dangerous mission — the Millennium Falcon.

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I was cautiously optimistic about Solo: A Star Wars Story. I’m a fan of Star Wars, I like all but 2 in the entire series and I’m open to some new ideas. However, a Han Solo movie felt very unnecessary. Not helping was the fact that the original directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, were fired and were replaced by Ron Howard due to ‘creative differences’. Howard then reshot around 70% of the movie. I went into the movie expecting it to be decent at least, and Solo actually surprised me quite a bit, it was very entertaining. It has a great cast that does well in their roles, a story that worked and was unique, separating itself from the other films in the series despite some faults and Ron Howard’s great direction.

A lot of people have been saying that we don’t really need a Han Solo movie, and even after watching the movie I don’t have the feeling that we really needed a Han Solo movie. But I was nonetheless entertained by what we got. Something that separates Solo from the rest of the Star Wars movies is that it expands the borders of the universe beyond that of the Skywalker Saga(s). It focusses more on the underworld side to Star Wars which is something that we don’t really get to see in live action until now. So in that sense it is expanding the Star Wars universe, so whether or not you like the movie, I do think that this is something worth praising. Another thing that separates Solo from the rest of the Star Wars movies is that it doesn’t feel like a lot is at stake, and I mean that in a good way. The stakes in other Star Wars movies are on such a large scale, with planets being destroyed, rebellions struggling to survive against empires, etc., so it felt refreshing to have a more personal story for a Star Wars movie. On the whole the movie is quite fun and has quite a lot of heart to it. No it’s not as risky as The Last Jedi and so it won’t irritate fans for doing something different (it’ll just irritate fans in other was like every Star Wars film after the 1977 original). Some of the things that establish what we know about Han are here. Things which include Han meeting Chewbacca and Lando, getting the Millennium Falcon and more are here. Some of them worked, others… felt kind of forced and didn’t quite work, in particularly how Han gets the name of Solo. There are rumours about there being sequels and I can confirm that Solo: A Star Wars Story does seem to set up for sequels in the way some things are left at the end of the movie. I wouldn’t mind there are sequels honestly, as long as it can bring something fresh and new to the table. I want to see where certain plotlines are going in, Han’s story as he becomes the character we all know and love and explore different areas of the Star Wars universe. There is one moment of fanservice near the end which I liked but it is rather out of place, and unless they follow up on it in another movie it’s going to be completely pointless. Also, for anyone who only knows Star Wars from the movies, they are probably going to find this moment extremely confusing. You will all know what it is when you watch the movie. Solo is about 2 hours and 15 minutes long and at times you can really feel the runtime. The first act I liked but it is a bit of a rocky start, with it being rather slow to begin with. I still really enjoyed the movie from start to finish but really the pacing is only perfect from the point that the film introduces Lando.

I guess one of the first questions that people have is whether the lead actor exceptionally portrayed the titular character, and the answer is yes. Alden Ehrenreich really works as a young Han Solo, he’s not trying to do a Harrison Ford impression but you can see little bits of Ford in his performance. This really is Han Solo as he is starting out, here he is naïve, and he has a good heart (or at least that aspect is shown more prominently here than in his prior appearances by Harrison Ford). By the end he has changed a little but isn’t quite the Han Solo we first saw in A New Hope, in that sense I feel like there’s more story to be told with this young Han (and I’m completely open to it now). The rest of the talented actors are great as well. Donald Glover was a perfect choice for a younger Lando Calrissian. We don’t actually get to see him as much as you’d think but he is great in his scenes. Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson were really good in their roles and are welcome additions to the Star Wars universe. Another stand out performance is that of Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, Chewbacca in Solo gets to do much more than any of the 6 other Star Wars movies he’s been in. The film shows how him and Han meet and becomes essentiely partners, and you can believe the friendship, despite one of them not speaking a comprehensible language. Other standouts include Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Lando’s droid named L3-37 and a character named Enfys Nest. Some of the other actors like Thandie Newton and Paul Bettany don’t really get to do as much in their roles but they are good in their scenes.

Solo is a fast and exciting movie and Ron Howard’s direction really added something to it. It’s a great looking movie as well, the cinematography by Bradford Young truly blew me away. I was surprised at how beautiful many of the shots were. The CGI was also great, at least on the first viewing there weren’t any out of place/really fake looking CGI. The action scenes are all well directed and are very memorable. The way the camera moves and the smooth direction overall were really effective, whether it be a gun battle, a ship chase or a car chase. An example is a train sequence early in the film which is fast paced, thrilling and exciting. It’s already known that most of the film is Howard’s but as for how much of the film is Lord and Miller’s, I couldn’t really tell, it’s not blatantly obvious as some with other movies with multiple directors. There are probably some moments of humour and dialogue that could possibly be their’s but otherwise nothing stood out on a first viewing. Honestly as bad as the situation was and as much as I hate this happening over creative differences, I am glad that Ron Howard directed it in the end as he did a fantastic job with Solo, and I hope that there he returns to direct the sequels, should they be a thing.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is by no means one of the best Star Wars movies but it is a good one. It’s an exciting sci-fi adventure with Ron Howard’s great direction and the talented actors, and it managed to be a pretty good movie surrounding Han Solo. I would say to give it a chance at least, you may very well end up being surprised by what you see. At the same time I will say to keep your expectations in check, the movie does have some issues, mostly with certain aspects of the story but on the whole, Solo is actually quite good and one of the best surprises of 2018.


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