Solo: A Star Wars Story recalls the early days of one of the franchise’s most beloved characters, Han Solo, played here by Alden Ehrenreich. It’s an entertaining romp through the Star Wars extended universe, but fails to deliver anything fresh to audiences.
A young aspiring pilot, Han Solo, joins a band of thieves on a rip-roaring adventure through the galaxy to pinch a share of Coaxium; a coveted energy source in return for riches. Along the way, Solo will make lifelong friends and face treachery, as he discovers what life as a scoundrel is all about in the Star Wars universe.
It’s a fairly generic plot that features elements and themes found in other Star Wars movies, as well as classic Westerns and other genre-films. Essentially, Solo follows a fairly conservative Hollywood blueprint, a checklist of sorts, to keep both old and new fans happy, as well as the wider, modern demographic. It’s classic Disney filmmaking, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but it’s a shame when you consider the first Star Wars Story film, Rogue One, felt a lot more unique and original as a standalone film. Obviously this film needed to reveal specific aspects of Solo’s background, such as his first meeting with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), as well as his procurement of the Millennium Falcon and the infamous Kessel Run, all of which feature, however once you remove those aspects from the film, along with any other bits of fan service, there isn’t much left to write home about.
Thankfully the film does have lots of redeeming qualities. For instance, the casting, performances, set, costume, creature and visual effects design are all great. The production team have continued their outstanding work in developing the Star Wars extended universe, with an exceptional amount of attention to detail in each of the film’s design elements. The character design and costuming, along with the action set pieces have all been meticulously crafted to immerse the audience into the film’s world, with renowned success. The universe George Lucas built over 40 years ago is vast indeed, and the production team seem to keep topping themselves with each new film. Sadly, the score by John Powell leaves a lot to be desired. Powell’s composition fits well to serve the film’s narrative, but there is nothing close to being memorable there.
Alden Ehrenreich had big shoes to fill stepping into the role made famous by Harrison Ford, and does a fantastic job in honouring the character. Ford is of course, irreplaceable, but Ehrenreich manages to do the role justice without turning Han Solo into a parody of himself. It may take a while for some to get used to Ehrenreich in this role, but he will eventually grow on you. Likewise, Donald Glover is a natural shoe-in for Lando Calrissian. He does a perfect Lando impression, almost to the point where it seems Glover is impersonating Billy Dee Williams playing Lando. It sounds off-putting when looking at it like that, but it works, and Glover’s performance is one of the highlights. Woody Harrelson deserves a special mention as Solo’s mentor Beckett, who is great in everything he’s in. Unfortunately the film is somewhat lacking in the villain and love interest department. Both Paul Bettany and Emilia Clarke are highly talented actors, however their characters needed some more development.
With Solo: A Star Wars Story, property owners Disney and director Ron Howard have played it safe, opting for a film that fits the textbook style blockbuster structure, afraid to take any thematic risks, pushing no boundaries. This doesn’t necessarily make for a bad film, and it’s definitely not the case here, but when you consider there will be at least one new Star Wars film to come each year for the foreseeable future, fans would hope to expect the filmmakers keep the stories fresh and the films interesting, straying from the norm, separating the Star Wars universe from every other universe out there today. In the long game, Solo could be classified as a blip on the Star Wars themed movie radar – a rather entertaining blip.
This film marked the first time an Academy Award-winning director ever made a Star Wars film.