Movie Review: Solo, A Star Wars Story
Solo, Disney’s latest non-numbered Star Wars film, manages to outrun all the baggage surrounding it’s production to create a fun, breezy affair. Just bring your basket, because Disney can’t make a Star Wars film without at least a dozen Easter Eggs.
It’s amazing how different two franchises overseen by the same company can be. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has thrived on each movie having it’s own style, Star Wars has always been Star Wars: a fairly homogenous grouping of films that are pretty much corporate-mandated to feel… Star Warsy. Even if you loved Rogue One or hated The Last Jedi, those films still had the Star Wars™ imprint all over them. Such is the case with Solo.
I don’t know how much longer I can say this, but for now, that’s fine with me. If Marvel is my night out at a cutting edge Gastro Pub, Star Wars is my night in with comfort food. I like SpiderMan, but I own 7 lightsabers. It’s safe to say that I love Star Wars. While that love no longer burns like Anakin Skywalker after some poorly chosen high ground, I still enjoy coming back every once in awhile to that galaxy far far away.
If you feel the same, you’re going to find Solo winsome. For everyone else, there should still be enough here to scratch that summer movie itch.
Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is a young street rat with a dream: to escape Corellia with his girl Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), get a fast ship, and fly free. Things don’t go according to plan, and Han must cross both the Galactic Empire and the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate to earn his wings.
The first thing I wanted to do was address the Bantha in the room: this film had a horrible development period, with multiple directors and tons of doom-predicting rumors swirling about it. Now, I’m not going to say you’ll love this film, but one thing I can say is that none of that extra baggage wears the film down. I couldn’t detect any massive shifts in style, tone, or cinematography as the film went along. The acting was fine, and in spots Ehrenreich managed to echo Harrison Ford’s iconic smuggler. Donald Glover’s Lando is just about everything you could ask for (except for maybe more screen time).
I’m not sure what the original Solo film was going to be, but Ron Howard’s end product is safe, fun, and uncontroversial. That might throw some people off. This is a film about how a young Han Solo becomes the charming yet jaded anti-hero we know in A New Hope. That the entire thing feels like a jaunty adventure doesn’t get us there in the most convincing manner; it does, however, get us there in a mostly fun, summer-blockbuster-movie manner.
Star Wars Gonna Star Wars
The other aspect that viewers might get hung up on is the sheer volume of Easter Eggs. Ever since the prequelogy came out, Star Wars has been overbearingly self-referential. It seems like in a Galaxy of billions (probably trillions), everything comes back to a Skywalker or a Fett. This seven degrees of K’Van Bakon is sometimes cute or rewarding; often times it causes eyes to roll and groans to erupt.
Solo tends to stay mostly in the former zone, but every once in awhile they drop a reference that is going to make hardcore fans face-palm. It also means there are a few moments in the movie that are going to fly right over the general audiences head in less than twelve parsecs.
Little Orphan Solo
Thankfully, most of those issues are papered over by how winsome this film is. Anyone looking for a serious documentary about the life of one Han Solo is in for a bad time watching a movie all about having a good time. I liked that The Last Jedi felt like an old radio serial (if Kurosawa made radio serials), one of the primary influences in Lucas’ original films. Solo goes right down that route as well. I expected Lando to be drinking Ovaltine and Han to solve a puzzle with his Little Orphan Annie Decoder Ring.
A big part of that feeling comes from how Solo is packed to the gills with charming rouges and winking devils. This feels like an old western serial, complete with train robberies and death defying escapes through perilous (space) canyons. I already talked about Ehrenreich and Glover, but the rest of the cast was in on the caper as well. Woody Harrelson’s character blends right in, Emilia Clarke is fine as Qi’ra, and the film really feels like it’s found its groove as soon as Chewbacca shows up. Finally, Disney once again shows how for all their missteps in the Star Wars world, they know how to make a fan-favorite droid. Come for Han, stay for L-3.
The cast sets Solo apart from Rogue One, which at its heart was also an ensemble-space-robbery. If Rogue One was The Magnificent Seven, Solo is Maverick. Sure the Empire is Evil and “summa pee-pul gunna die, Annie“, but Solo never lets that get it down.
She Might Not Look Like Much, But She’s Got it Where it Counts
Well, to be fair, Solo does look good, but it rarely had me gasping at its beauty like the last 3 Star Wars films did. The train heist was impressive, and the kessel run was very… Star Wars™, but nothing rose to the level of The Holdo Maneuver or Rampage Vader. Like everything else in Solo the visuals serve to move you along at a jaunty pace. While I never was overcome with majesty, I also never had any downtime to nit-pick or check my watch.
And that, pretty much is the cliff notes version of Solo: A Star Wars Story. It never rises to exceptional heights, and it rarely attempts anything groundbreaking. But it is fun, brisk, and winsome. If you are looking for a continuation of the summer blockbuster season, you won’t regret signing up with this motley band of pre-rebel scum. Just keep your phone’s browser on Wookiepedia, or you might find your mind floating home, kid.