Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

Rating:

7.5 out of 10

Cast:

Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo
Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca
Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra
Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos
Thandie Newton as Val
Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian
Jon Favreau as Rio Durant

Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett
Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37

Directed by Ron Howard

Solo: A Star Wars Story Review:

Years before the events in A New Hope, young Han Solo is a thief on Corellia working for Lady Proxima. However, he is desperate to get away. Conspiring with another young thief by the name of Qi’ra, the two plot their escape together. However, in the process, they run afoul of Proxima and quickly find themselves on the run.

Unfortunately on their way off planet, the two are separated. As Han is about to be captured himself, he makes one desperate attempt to get away – he joins the Imperial Navy. By becoming a pilot, he believes he can make his way back to Corellia to find and rescue Qi’ra. However, things don’t go according to plan.

Three years later, Han finds himself to be cannon fodder for the Empire and not the pilot he dreamed to be. It’s only a matter of time before he will be killed on the battlefield in the name of the Emperor. But when he catches Tobias Beckett, Val, and Rio Durant in the middle of a heist amidst the chaos of war, he sees an opportunity to get away. Han begs to join their group. And yet again, things don’t go according to plan. But he is ultimately sent down the path that will take him back to Qi’ra and into the lives of new friends along the way.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is rated PG-13.

What Worked:

If you followed the production of Solo: A Star Wars Story, then you know it did not go smoothly. Despite having a good script and strong cast, the original directors were fired very late in filming due to creative differences with Kathleen Kennedy. That would lead you to believe that this film could be a massive train wreck. But then director Ron Howard was brought it to put things back on track. Apparently it worked, because Solo ended up being a fun addition to the Star Wars Universe.

Amid the bad rumors on the production, it was said that Alden Ehrenreich needed an acting coach for his role as Han Solo. Well if he did, then it worked. He does a fantastic job as Han. It’s not a copy of Harrison Ford – after all, there can only be one Harrison Ford – but there are enough of his mannerisms to make him recognizably Han Solo. Ehrenreich makes the role his own much in the same way Ewan McGregor did when taking over Obi-Wan from Alec Guinness. He’s funny, cocky, brash, and passionate. He’s Han Solo before he was beaten down and made selfish and cynical by the galaxy.

Ehrenreich is wonderfully paired with Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca. Suotamo gives Chewie his biggest on screen role yet and he delivers. While Star Wars fans think they know how Han and Chewbacca met, they’re still in for a few surprises. In fact, the first meeting between the two is one of the most unexpected scenes in the film. And yes it is highlighted by Han speaking a broken form of Wookiee language in one of the funniest moments in the movie. Another amusing moment features the two having a shower scene together. Not what I was expecting, but it got big laughs. Anyway, Joonas Suotamo seamlessly blends his performance with that of Peter Mayhew in the previous films and the end result is a great treat for Chewbacca fans.

But one of the major standouts of the film is Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian. Glover somehow perfectly captures the speech patterns, swagger, and style of Billy Dee Williams. But like Ehrenreich, he still manages to put his own unique imprint on the character. Every moment Glover is on the screen, the movie is taken up a notch. The love/hate relationship he has with Han and Chewie is a lot of fun. We also get more insight into the character as we find out behind the ladies’ man show, he was raised by a strong apparently single mother. It adds depth to the character that is worth exploring more in hopefully another Solo sequel or even a Lando standalone movie. I actually think Glover could carry such a film.

The rest of the cast is equally strong. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is fantastic in a breakout role as L3-37. She’s a droid unlike any other in the Star Wars Universe. She’s a free thinker, a champion of droid rights, and she has a hilarious romantic tension with Lando. Yes, you heard that right. L3 also carries a surprise that will shock Star Wars fans. Also noteworthy are Jon Favreau as the cute alien Rio Durant, Paul Bettany as the evil and unhinged Dryden Vos, Emilia Clarke as Han’s love interest Qi’ra, and Woody Harrelson as Han’s mentor Tobias Beckett. The mysterious character of Enfys Nest is also very intriguing. I think this character will be interesting for fans to explore for years to come.

If you are a Star wars fan, you will be pleased with a number of Easter eggs spread throughout the movie. There is a reference to an old Star Wars video game. There are references to the Clone Wars cartoons. Planets and characters from the prequels are mentioned. Most of it is subtle like in Rogue One, but it will please fans.

Solo: A Star Wars Story delivers everything you look for in a Star Wars film – humor, heart, and action. There are several great action scenes including the aforementioned first meeting between Han and Chewbacca, a fun “car” chase on Kessel, a Star Wars style train robbery, and the legendary Kessel Run (which explains how the Falcon did the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs). As for the music, it was well done. While I felt the music fell back on familiar Star Wars themes a little too often, the original music by John Powell is excellent and feels like it fits the universe while breaking new ground.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is one of the most beautifully-shot Star Wars movies. There are gorgeous moments when the Millennium Falcon flies the Kessel Run. There are stunning landscapes from Spain and Italy. However, Director of Photography Bradford Young also makes use of numerous close-ups to show us the operation of the Falcon, the intensity of Han Solo, and the beauty in the little details that are often overlooked in these types of action movies.

What Didn’t Work:

Remember in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade how in the opening scene Indy got his whip, his fear of snakes, his hat, and his scar all within the matter of a few minutes? There are times in Solo: A Star Wars Story where it feels like that. I realize they need to accomplish a lot in a short time span, but some of it feels really rushed and some of the reveals seem forced (no pun intended).

Finally, I’ll add that the ending felt a tad anti-climactic, especially after the big Kessel Run scene. I won’t spoil anything here, but it felt like it needed to go bigger than it did.

The Bottom Line:

As soon as I walked out of the theater after seeing Solo: A Star Wars Story, I wanted to see more. The actors are great, the characters are fun, and there are a lot of exciting possibilities left to explore. If you enjoy Star Wars, you’re going to want to be first in line to see this.

After each Star Wars movie, I like to rank them. While the rankings change over time, here’s where I’m at today with Solo: A Star Wars Story:

#1 – The Empire Strikes Back
#2 – A New Hope
#3 – The Last Jedi and Rogue One (tied)
#5 – Solo, The Force Awakens and Return of the Jedi (tied)
#8 – Revenge of the Sith
#9 – Attack of the Clones
#10 –The Phantom Menace

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