I have a bad feeling about this
Solo: A Star Wars Story is directed by Ron Howard, written by Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan, and stars Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, and Paul Bettany.
When George Lucas sold Lucasfilms to Disney back in 2012, I never would have imagined the Star Wars franchise falling from grace the way it seemingly has in recent months. The success of The Force Awakens back in 2015 had me dead-convinced that Star Wars was about to take the world by storm the way again just like it did back when the original trilogy was first released. By all means, Episode VII had the franchise all set up for another fun and memorable trilogy and seemed to swerve the franchise into a more optimistic direction, given the way the prequels pissed everybody off. Then came Rogue One, a movie I personally was not a fan of, but I'm sure was a nice nostalgia blast for die-hard Star Wars fans. And then came The Last Jedi, a movie that I happened to like a lot, and one I was admittedly shocked to see get such a bitter reaction from audiences. But as for Solo: A Star Wars Story, I am finding myself better understanding those complaints people were starting to have back with The Last Jedi: Disney is driving the Star Wars universe into the ground and exploiting it for all its worth.
The first problem presented to us by Solo is that the movie has no real reason to exist; we all loved watching Harrison Ford as the charming, sarcastic gun-slinger back in the original trilogy and then as a charming, sassy old man in Episode VII. Now, did we know everything about where Han came from and things like how he met Chewbacca? No, but it's not like all of the Star Wars faithful felt as if their lives were incomplete and would ever think any less of Han Solo because his backstory stayed relatively unknown. Don't tell that to Disney, though; they will milk the Star Wars cow for all it's worth, and seeing how their current plans show they have no intentions of deviating from anything and everything that ties in to one of the franchise's episodes, they will take up a Han Solo backstory movie the first chance they get. I'm aware that George Lucas was planning a young Han Solo film well before he sold Lucasfilms, but if I were him, I would have put it off until I saw what exactly the new state of the franchise would turn out to be under Disney's control.
So anyway, the plot of Solo begins on the world of Corella, where orphaned children are forced to live their lives as thieves. Two of the children, Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and his lover Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke), are able to escape with a stolen sample of a powerful hyperspace fuel called coaxium. Han and Qi'ra use the coaxium to bribe an Imperial officer into letting them board a transport, but Qi'ra is captured just before she can get on board. Han vows to one day return and reunite with Qi'ra. He then joins the Imperial Navy.
Three years later, Han finds himself an infantryman, fighting in a battle, where he encounters a group of criminals led by a man named Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). Beckett and his group have Han arrested for desertion, and Han is thrown into a pit with a beast: a Wookie named Chewbacca. Han is able to persuade Chewbacca to work with him, and the two are able to make an escape together. Needing extra help, Beckett takes Han and Chewbacca with him. From there begins a series of adventures for Han and Chewy, which includes Han being reunited with Qi'ra.
I'm hesitant to say that Solo contains spoilers, because if you've seen any of the trailers, you know that Han will get back together with Qi'ra and befriend Chewy and meet Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). We'll get to plot issues in a minute, but first, it's worth mentioning that Solo underwent a directorial change while the film was in production. Directing duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller left the project in June 2017, their firing being due to "creative differences." The duo wanted to turn Solo into a comedy film, but producer Kathleen Kennedy and the Kasdans were seeking only a dollop of comedy to the film. So after Lord and Miller got bounced, Ron Howard stepped in as director, and, reportedly, about 70 percent of the film needed to be re-shot. This directing change and the need for re-shoots tells me only one thing: this turned into quite a troubled movie.
- The best thing I can say about Solo is that it does have some fun set pieces, primarily a scene where the criminal group attempts to rob a moving train, easily the best scene in the entire film. There's enough on display to satisfy anyone who has come just for some entertaining Star Wars action, and, honestly, I feel like that's the group this movie is targeting the most. The cast boasts a lot of charm, especially Glover, who thrives in his role as a younger Lando. The bummer is that there just isn't a whole lot of Lando in the movie, which leads me to my low points.
- Lawrence Kasdan was a co-writer for The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens, so seeing him as a co-writer here just has to make you feel at least a little optimistic. Now being a co-writer with his son maybe wasn't the best idea in the world, but given Kasdan's previous screenwriting credits, he absolutely deserves the benefit of the doubt with Solo. It pains me to say, however, that the writing for Solo is....I don't want to say it's terrible, but, let's just say that the writing is...problematic. Key pieces of the story, like how Han got to be known as Han Solo and his reunion with Qi'ra, are lazily handled, not at all given the time and care they should have been given. Han gets the last name of Solo when he is enlisting in the Imperial Navy, and he tells the Imperial officer that he "doesn't have a people." The officer tells Han then he will be known as Han Solo. Are you kidding me? One of the most iconic Star Wars characters ever gets his last name from one nameless officer's interpretation of Han, "not having any people?" Is that what George Lucas envisioned of Han from the beginning?
As for the reunion with Qi'ra, it's treated like it's some casual event that needs no build-up whatsoever, completely ruining everything that happens between Han and Qi'ra in the beginning of the film. Qi'ra simply walks up to Han at a party, no dramatic entrance or nothing, and says to him something that goes along the lines of, "Hey! We haven't seen each other for a long time, but we're back together now and it's, like, all cool and stuff!" Poor Emilia Clarke looks like she's cringing at the dialogue she's trying to say while smiling, while Ehrenreich just stands there not doing anything to help salvage this scene at all. Next time that happens Emilia Clarke, sick a dragon on Kasdan.
There's a lot more about the writing I could get into, but the only other thing I'll mention is that the screenplay hardly gives Lando anything to do, except for a bizarre but thankfully brief subplot involving his droid co-pilot L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) having romantic feelings for him. No. Just no.
- The movie also has issues with pacing, feeling incredibly tedious and at times like it's struggling to find something to do. While there are sequences of riveting action, they're interspersed with a series of uninteresting conversations that make the movie seem like it's dragging along. Plus, the movie plays several of its later scenes like they are multiple endings, and that had me instead wishing for the movie to be over as opposed to being invested in the final act.
I know it sounds like I thoroughly disliked Solo, but the truth is that I found it to be okay. It has some fun moments and some charming characters, and for a lot of people out there, that may be more than enough. However, I can't say I'd be too thrilled about having to watch Solo again one day down the road, because the troublesome writing and pacing do make it a more laborious task to sit through. But despite the fact that I found this movie to be okay, I am a little worried about Disney's mindset with the Star Wars franchise going forward. Are they going to keep churning out these origin stories, or are they going to think outside the box and get a little bit more creative about possible adventures to be had in the galaxy far, far away? It's still too early to say that Disney will be the death of Star Wars. Maybe they just need get through a little bit of trial and error before they can really start cranking out some great new material. But given the disappointing box office returns of Solo and its rather tepid critical response, I think it's clear that the world is going through some Star Wars fatigue right now. Whether the world will be relieved of that fatigue by the time Episode IX comes out is unclear. What is clear is that Solo has ended up being the target of a lot of new frustrations by long-time fans, and unless the Disney-led Star Wars can come into its own, those frustrations aren't going away anytime soon.
Recommend? Yes, if you're in the mood for some fun space action. I would also recommend it if you're a die-hard Star Wars fan.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: