Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

Posted May 26, 2018 by Alden Diaz in Movies

The legend of Han Solo has, like many other tales and modern myths, morphed beyond the fictional man in a way that sorta seems to forget and omit the somewhat slapstick, fairly goofy, and overall improvisational nature of the famed smuggler. As a society, we remember almost exclusively the suave, roguish charm that so beautifully contrasted with the wide-eyed, lawful good nature of Luke Skywalker, and the dutiful cunning of the future General, Leia Organa. And on top of that, we remember how Harrison Ford, a legend in our galaxy, fit into that cinematic trio with Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. Solo: A Star Wars Story remembers it all, the things we cling to, and the things we usually don’t. It remembers every time that Han crafted a quick line or pulled off a daring feat of flying, but it also remembers moments like Han trying to single handedly blow out the burning fire of the tribe of Ewoks in Return of the Jedi, all while strung up by his hands and feet. Han Solo has been a lot of things, and now he’s two more: The star of his own film, and a James Bond-ed legacy character. And I have to say, despite some bumps in the road (both on screen and behinds the scenes), Ron Howard has ensured that Han owns both of those new distinctions quite well.

The odds were stacked against this film from the beginning (though of course, don’t tell Han that). For years since it was revealed to the public on LucasFilm and Disney’s slate, we’ve heard cries of how much people didn’t want it or didn’t need it (like we’ve ever needed anything after the 1977 original). Safe to say, this was the true landmine of fan anger, and it had the potential to be…well…we’ve all seen what other prequels can be. And I believe Howard (who, as we all know, replaced Chris Miller & Phil Lord on this project way later than could be considered comfortable) knew that and took the best possible approach to handling the delicate material. He directs the script crafted by the legendary Lawrence Kasdan, who worked with his son Jonathan, exhibiting veteran craftsmanship and ensuring that both quieter moments and spectacle are treated with respect to what’s come before (or what needs to come next canonically). Nobody knows Han Solo better than Lawrence Kasdan, and you can tell in Han’s folly throughout the story. And Howard & the Kasdans also wonderfully inject the film with its own identity as well, which is super important with this brand nowadays, as it’s never going to take a break. Contextually, it’s wonderful that all four of the new Star Wars films have distinct vibes.

The overall direction and story aren’t without their flaws, of course. The first act features a prologue that definitely isn’t paced that well. It feels as if the film itself is just dying to get to the meat of the story. Nothing about it is particularly bad (I didn’t have problems with it in the same way I did with Rogue One’s first half), but it feels tacked on. Like we almost could have reworked a few things and started right in the thick of it when the prologue ends. Despite the execution, I was thrilled at the very American Graffiti feel of some of that opening stuff. The movie moves extremely well once it gets going. The action is easy to follow and it fits THESE characters. You don’t get the usual trappings of duels and wars and submarine battles in space, but you get gunslinging and the best Chewie action we’ve ever gotten (major shoutout to Joonas Suotamo who does an excellent job). When it comes to music, it can be a tad hit or miss. The character of Enfys Nest is heralded by a great piece that has definitely stuck with me. But when it comes to the entire film, it isn’t consistently peppered with many memorable pieces. Of course, it can be hard since you’re stepping into the shadow of John Williams, but it’s largely an issue of integration. All of this, for better or worse, contribute to that identity and unique vibe.

And I think the, uh, solo identity of this film (I tried) is embodied by Alden Ehrenreich himself, who I can finally, happily say…IS Han Solo. Not Harrison Ford, but Han Solo. And yes they’re different. That’s what we needed him to be. That’s what any prequel should aspire to do. They serviced the lore by showing us the naturally “devolved” state of this guy. That more than anything is how the film makes the case for its existence, if we MUST speak through the lens of “need” vs. “don’t need.” This film is the brand announcing that our beloved characters are back on the table for adventures in their more familiar and beloved ages. Alden brings a swagger and a comedic sensibility that I was hoping he’d implement after his hilarious turn in Hail, Caesar! And Alden is not alone in his success, as the entire supporting cast from the top to the bottom really nails their roles. Glover, Clarke, Waller-Bridge, etc. are all fantastic and they continue to illustrate that world building is one of the true strengths of LucasFilm. Together the cast is able to bring exciting energy to scenes that aren’t even action oriented. I can’t see anyone not being enthralled by the fateful game between Han and Lando, proof positive that sometimes things previously unseen deserve to be seen. 

Now, given the subject matter, the film does have its fair share of “prequelitis.” Within the absolutely gorgeous, stunningly crafted shots of cinematographer Bradford Young, are things and lines that are undoubtedly there to activate your nostalgia hyperdrive. But of course they’re there. And what works for you and doesn’t work for you will of course be a matter of taste. But I can happily say that all but one thing landed for me. And even the one thing ended up working within the context of the theme of the film, which in my eyes, is identity. From Han, who do desperately wants you to believe he’s the “terrible person” outlaw, to Qi’ra, and even to L3, this is a film about people deciding what identities they’re going to create in a different way than we’ve seen before for this franchise. They’re not thrust into myth and tradition, they’re just trying to find significance however they can. And I could see that landing differently with different people. These are most definitely DIFFERENT emotions than we’ve seen infused with the films in this franchise before. Even the first standalone film was still intertwined with that mythical nature. This film is charged with the energy of those first few years after high school. Of first love. Of that first major mistake we all make. It isn’t operatic in its way, which is unusual for a world that’s so heavily space opera. But it worked for me. And it rewards those of us that have considered that larger world in ways both HUGE and minuscule. I appreciated that very much (and I’m still grinning from ear to ear about that thing…yes, THAT thing).

Solo: A Star Wars Story may not be the film you wanted or needed, but it’s a downright joyous film and a film I’m glad we have. For us, those that always found the in betweens and footnotes of this lore to be things of beauty. For new fans, who, dare I say, might end up feeling like this Han is just as valid as the Han we followed to the end of his life in The Force Awakens. And for Han, the swindler himself. This film, though certainly not perfect, makes his legend better. I sat there as Ron Howard’s name popped up in that familiar blue font feeling satisfied and like I’d just taken a great trip home. I can’t wait to experience this adventure in future marathons through this mythos.

About the Author

Alden Diaz

Alden Diaz is a WTN writer whose roots go back to the site's two predecessors. So basically he has a seat on the Council AND the rank of Master? Right? He's a geek with lots of opinions on film, comics, TV, etc., a graduate of broadcasting school, a smark, and a shameless collector of Funko Pop figures. Ask him why pigs are the best animal.