If I am going to give Solo: A Star Wars Story anything, it will be that after all the fuss taken over it, firing two directors (Lord & Miller) to hire another – safer – choice (Ron Howard), the final product shows zero strife in its through-line of style or storytelling. That being said, the film still feels safe and seemingly inconsequential at times, existing more as a bankroll on nostalgia and as another pipeline through which Disney can say “because we can.” As a character origin story, which I assume most audiences are expecting, it’s pretty shallow; but, as a simple sci-fi action-adventure film, it’s undeniably fun. There are two sides to this story. In one, audiences wanting to be entertained within the Star Wars-verse by a cohesive plot will be satisfied, but for those expecting a little more depth and insight into the unexplored narratives of the galaxy, they will be left short.
The man at the center of it all, Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich), definitely has his day in the sun here. His irreverence toward danger, his scrappy talent for survival, and his smooth operations are all there. We meet him as he is trying to escape a life of servitude on a poor crime-ridden planet along with Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra. He is just at the beginning of his long journey, when his aspirations for being a pilot are just pipe-dreams. After he is separated from Qi’ra in his escape, he joins the Imperial army to become a pilot (and eventually return to his planet to save his captured beau). Three years later, he’s nowhere closer to his dream or Qi’ra, until an opportunity to join a band of rogue mercenaries changes everything and sends him on an adventure to become the reluctant hero by which he is known.
The adventure is quite a ride, presenting several action sequences that would rival some of the best Fast and Furious event-level chases. They bring us to never-before-seen reaches of the galaxy and un-explored terrain for the ongoing Star Wars universe. The action, as well as the locations, are visually stunning. In terms of moving plot, these sequences are often flashy enough to excuse the fact that the ultimate heist of the film is pretty tired. The plot is often flat, mostly as a direct consequence of the film’s flat characters. The villainy in the film is often just a looming threat that is never fully manifested, or that is used as plot twists meant to temporarily throw Han off, but are reversed with a simple act of his cunning. Everything comes easily to Han, but many audience members may be too captivated by his gun choreography to care.
And it’s not too much of a stretch to assume that audiences will be distracted. Ehrenreich actually does a commendable job here, presenting a version of Han Solo that is undoubtedly green, but also possessing of all the tenacious talent and wise-cracking charm that we expect of him. It’s a shame that the writers decided to not actually give us much of an inside into Han’s origin, rather than a simple early look at a character we already know. Nothing much is learned about him to excuse the creation of an entire movie, or nothing that matters to the Star Wars universe, anyway. In the very least, though, the origin of Han and Chewbacca’s friendship is a heartwarming sight to behold.
The remaining main characters, including Qi’ra, the formidable Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), and Woody Harrelson’s Beckett, are mostly set pieces. That isn’t to say Glover didn’t eek every moment out of Lando’s portrayal, and Harrelson didn’t make a hardy go of his plot-moving character — of course they did. Clarke’s Qi’ra is definitely an interesting one among them, but only if they decide to take this storyline further in future films.
Verdict: 3 out of 5
Loyal Star Wars fans are going to walk away from this one satisfied. It is definitely not as much of a train-wreck as The Last Jedi was and is satisfyingly surface level entertaining. Ehrenreich fills the shoes of the dogged hero well, and Howard churns out a smooth narrative complemented by fresh visuals. The overall story and characters are somewhat stale, though, and hardly warrant praise in their attempt to introduce something new to the canon, and Star Wars fans deserve more than to just be visually entertained for over two hours.