In 1977 film going audiences were introduced to the universe that George Lucas built in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. This film was a massive success filled with a wonderful cast of characters. One of them that stood out for a lot of fans was the iconic, the legendary Darth Vader. He was a monster shrouded in enigma and even as we learned about him in the following sequels there was still much unknown. Decades later we were given his origin and that was deeply unpleasant much like the coarseness of sand. Now another character that fans fell in love with all those decades ago gets his own origin story. This time around Han Solo the smuggler that stole a princesses heart and saved the galaxy gets to tell his tale in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Let us hope he fares better.
Starring Alden Ehrenreich as Solo, Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca alongside Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Paul Bettany Solo: A Star Wars Story follows young Han Solo (Ehrenreich) as he begins his smuggling career. Along the way, he will do many of the iconic events that fans adore him for and he will make many allies and enemies, in particular, a fuzz ball that has become iconic in his own fashion.
The film opens on a relatively young Han pulling a job hoping that he and Qi’ra (Clarke) his longtime girlfriend can use the funds earned to escape their hard-knock lives (complete with an alien Miss Hannigan). Unfortunately, during the deed events take a turn for the worse and Han and Qi’ra are separated. To right this wrong and to be reunited with his one true love Han decides he will do anything he can to get her back and so he joins the Empire and from there the story kicks off into Hyperspace.
What works for Solo: A Star Wars Story is its characters (with a few exceptions). Han is a man trying to become the man we meet in A New Hope. The audience can see that this is a young man trying to be the rogue but he can’t help be the good guy and it’s compelling to watch his journey throughout the film. All of this is thanks to Alden Ehrenreich who has a vulnerable charm that will win you over from the opening scene of the film. As well as Han there is also the much beloved Chewbacca (Suotamo) who is given a wonderful arc in this adventure. Their bromance in this film is wonderful and jumps off the screen keeping you engaged as you watch them fall into adventure after adventure. There is also the character of Dryden Vos (Bettany) who is equal parts intensity and charm who was quite enthralling as the villainous force.
I can’t talk about Solo: A Star Wars Story without bringing up his brother in arms Lando Calrissian this time played by Donald Glover. He’s brilliant and steals a lot of the film away from the lead characters. I will say unfortunately that sometimes it feels like he’s doing a Billy Dee Williams impression which would be okay but when he drops out of it during the film it takes you out of the film. This brings me to the issues with some of the characters. First, there is the latest droid to enter the franchise L3-37 (Bridge). She has none of the cutting wit of C3-PO or the deadpan humour of K2-SO she just screams about an android revolution and that’s really it. And then there is Qi’ra herself, Emilia Clarke who is nothing more than a goal for Han to reach.
This weakness in one of the characters strangely highlights the weakness in the story because like Qi’ra the plot of the film is predictable and can easily be figured out. As well as that there will be times where the acting dips in quality, nothing to the degree of the other prequels in the Star Wars franchise but still poor. An example of this comes when a character dies and there are a few brief moments of sadness from the rest of the cast and then not two minutes later a joke is thrown in. It’s this kind of writing that ruins a lot of the more mature moments of this film and to truly tell the story of this roguish scoundrel in a lawless galaxy you’d need to keep the weight of these moments around. This is all down to how director Ron Howard plays it all too safe at times in the film. I will say though that Solo: A Star Wars Story is a visually sumptuous film, the Kessel run section of the film alone is astounding. Along with the awesome cinematography is the score which is a sensational piece of music. You can say many things about the Star Wars films but their scores are always impressive.
Ultimately when all is said and done Solo: A Star Wars Story is a straightforward Sci-Fi adventure with some great character moments but it’s not what the legendary smuggler Han Solo deserves. If you’re a heavy duty Star Wars fans there’s a lot to take away from this film but mainstream audiences may walk out unimpressed.