Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Retrospective Review

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

Before he crossed paths with The Rebellion, Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) was a former Imperial Militant who became a space pirate cruising around the Outer Rim alongside his fellow outlaw: the mighty Wookiee, Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). This is the story of how he came to be known as the galaxy’s most notorious smuggler, and how the man became a legend.

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Solo: A Star Wars Story remains a movie that was just mildly received by fans and critics alike. While some people would chalk that up to disinterest in Star Wars after the backlash to The Last Jedi from the year before, not many people really wanted a young Han Solo movie, and from the trailers it looked generally okay at best. It surprisingly bombed at the box office despite being a Star Wars movie (though they probably should’ve put it in cinemas in December instead of the middle of the year). I liked Solo when I first saw it, and I still like Solo now. However it’s probably the worst movie in the Star Wars series, aside from the first two prequels of course. I wouldn’t say that it does a lot of bad, it’s that it’s mostly just fine, competently made but doesn’t have a lot of great aspects to make it very memorable.

Much of the plot is straightforward and I went along with much of the plot decisions, even some of the weird ones like how Han received his last name of Solo. There are some callbacks which are a little cringeworthy and forced, but I tolerated them. The part that interested me the most about the plot was the part about the criminal underworld, we hadn’t seen that explored in a live action Star Wars movie. I wish there was a little more of that however, you get some but really not enough of that. Ultimately my biggest gripe with the movie was how safe it played everything. The movie is what you’d expect a Han Solo movie to be, but just that. It shows how Han met Chewbacca and Lando, how he got the Millennium Falcon, how he made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs, etc. Now as some people know already, this movie originally had Chris Lord and Phil Miller directing, and part of the reason they were fired was because they were improvising a lot and deviating from the screenplay often. While I can’t say which version would’ve been better, it would’ve at least made things a little more unique at least. The ending with Darth Maul might’ve been fanservice (especially with him randomly igniting his lightsabre during his hologram meeting with Qi’ra for no reason at all), but I genuinely would’ve liked to have seen where it progressed next in future movies.

Alden Ehrenreich ultimately does a good job as young Han Solo, he may not be doing a Harrison Ford impression, but what’s most important is that he nails the essence of a younger version of the beloved character. It’s not an easy task, but I think that Ehrenreich really pulled it off. I feel like this version of Han really suffered from not having follow up movies to progress him. For those who know, Han changed quite a bit in A New Hope, and so his story arc from smuggler to hero was in that movie already. By the end of Solo however, Han is a hero, so it feels like follow up movies would have to make him go backwards so that he’s at the state that he’s in before A New Hope. It’s irksome but you get past that. Woody Harrelson plays Beckett, Han’s mentor, you wouldn’t think it at first but he actually fits the role quite well. Emilia Clarke was quite good here, with her role of Qi’ra being one of the more interesting characters of the movie. With the point that they left off the movie at the end of Solo, I really would’ve like to have seen where the next movie would take her character, with her as the new leader of the Crimson Dawn. Paul Bettany plays Michael K. Williams’s replacement as Dryden Vos. Bettany is clearly having fun with the role, and he’s pretty good, even if it’s just a couple scenes. Still, I would’ve liked to have seen what Michael K. Williams would’ve done in the role. There was much hype with Donald Glover playing Lando Calrissian in the lead up to Solo’s release. Personally I thought he did a very fine impression of Billy Dee Williams. Outside of that there’s not really much to say about the performance, you don’t really get to learn anything about Lando and he doesn’t really leave much of an impression. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3-37 character had received criticism from some people, I found her to be just fine. Thandie Newton and Jon Favreau (as a voice) are very brief performers as members of Harrelson’s crew, I guess they play their parts well but they don’t last very long, so they really could’ve cast anyone in these roles and it would’ve worked just as well.

Solo isn’t among his best films, but Ron Howard did direct this well. The visual effects are quite good as to be expected, and the action was entertaining and fast paced. The cinematography by Bradford Young is among the best of the Star Wars movies, there are many parts that looked great. There’s just one problem, at times the lighting was a little too dark for its own good, so there are some parts especially earlier on where it was hard to see what was happening. The score by John Powell worked well enough for the movie.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is relatively decent. It’s mostly directed well, and most of the cast do well in their roles. It’s entertaining for what it is, but it really doesn’t do enough to justify its existence and at the end of the day, was just sort of conventional. If I was to recommend someone watching the whole series, even if it isn’t the worst in the series, I would say that they wouldn’t necessarily be missing out on a lot if they didn’t see Solo. However it’s not a bad watch if you have 2 hours and 15 minutes to spare.

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