Alex Reviews "Solo: A Star Wars Story"
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” – Me, walking into the “Solo: A Star Wars Story” screening.
Surprisingly, that was last negative form of that statement uttered for the couple of hours, and that is saying something as this is the first “Star Wars” movie to not say the iconic line. (Before you research that, note that the beeping from BB-8 at the beginning of Episode VIII was this phrase.) That being said, I was surprised at how many critics disliked it.
Set roughly a decade before “Episode IV: A New Hope,” Han’s standalone movie (with the title character played by Alden Ehrenreich) opens with a gritty home world befitting the scoundrel who became a legend and those keenly aware of Star Wars canon may notice just how appropriate it is that this be the place he calls home. At the same time, it is easy to see how the planet’s rough underworld, would shape the grey moral scale while not breaking it completely for a young man and those closest to him. This is the tale of his backstory that many have wondered about, where he meets his partner in Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) as well as Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), and even gives a bit of a look into why Han is who he is, much less who he would become on a fateful day in a cantina on a desert planet.
In a span of about ten minutes, the audience is introduced to all but a few of the major players in what could have been called “The Education of Solo,” due the pieces he picks up from various characters along the way. Most notably would be Tobias Beckett as the Old West-styled gunslinger outlaw who taught him two of the most valuable lessons the titular character would ever learn: Trust No One and Shoot First! The character feels like Woody Harrelson (The Hunger Games) could be mistaken for a lack of effort, but that would be a mistake. Harrelson makes Beckett his own.
When writing any review, I do my best to avoid anyone else’s input before getting my thoughts on the page, which allows me to express my opinion without influence. I ended up breaking that rule for “Solo: A Star Wars Story” because both me the group around me thoroughly enjoyed the film. Is it an earth-shattering world changer? No prequel may ever be. Expecting to see something entirely shocking is unfair to a picture with such known history of where the story ends, but the closest I can get to agreeing with this sentiment is by answering “Did we need to see how Han got his blaster or how he made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs or any other details from earlier movies?” To that I would agree that we didn’t, but I am glad we did because it is great fun seeing the origins of the galaxy’s favorite smuggler/scruffy-looking nerf herder.
The worst thing that could be said of the movie, is that it was sometimes difficult to see Ehrenreich as Han Solo, but this is not really his fault. It is more that it had way more to do with the long history of the character belonging to Mr. Harrison Ford than with his younger counterpart’s performance. All of that considered, he played the character exactly as I would expect (if not hope) for someone who was young and learning to handle himself. And with all due respect to the great Peter Mayhew, Suotamo continues to be the perfect successor as a more mobile Chewbacca and even adds some amazing emotion to his body language this time around, especially shown during the “meet-cute” scene between Chewie and Han. Paul Bettany (Avengers: Infinity War) is presents a master class in being a simultaneously charming and overtly terrifying villain as the villainous Dryden Vos, with the details in his mannerisms matched only by the amazing CGI on his face and in his foreshadowing weaponry. Donald Glover’s (The Martian) performance makes me want a Lando Calrissian standalone movie more than ever, as he steals every scene he appears in while enhancing the best of what Billy Dee Williams created in the original trilogy. Along with Ehrenreich, Glover does a fantastic job being the coolest man in the galaxy while showing this to be a younger, less knowledgeable version of Lando. (Keep an ear out for a joke that I belly laughed at while even those with “Star Wars” PhDs around me seemed to miss regarding his opinion of mining locations.) Bonus points for Warwick Davis finally getting to show his face in one of the series of films thirty-five years after his debut is “Return of the Jedi”.
Sadly, Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) feels like she is wasted at times as a side player, but the evolution of Qi’ra paints a remarkable story to mirror Han’s by the end. Her story arc perfectly develops the plot in a natural fashion while providing arguably the biggest surprise in a “Star Wars” movie since “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”.
For a two hour and a fifteen minute cinematic experience, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” feels like it goes by almost too fast. As a world hopping adventure that I did not want to end, I loved this film for its beauty, content, and what it can mean for the future of the “Star Wars” anthology series. If you get stuck on knowing where you are going without appreciating the journey you may take issue, this film is a can’t miss that I will watch as many as any other in the rich history of the franchise.