Solo: A Star Wars Story is currently in theaters and is directed by Ron Howard, after previously being directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Unlike the previous recent Star Wars films, this film actually garnered a lot of bad attention before release. This was mainly due to the fact that the project’s original directors (Lord and Miller) were fired off the project by the head of Lucasfilms, Kathleen Kennedy, for unknown reasons. Combine that with reports of other behind the scenes problems as well as the utter mess of The Last Jedi, and the fanbase was certainly not happy with this movie coming out. Is the film’s status as a box-office flop justified? Well….not entirely.
The film’s story revolves around the very early adventures of the classic Star Wars hero Han Solo (played by Alden Ehrenreich), as we get to see the origins of his character and how he became the infamous smuggler from the original trilogy. After meeting a crew of bounty hunters (led by Woody Harrelson), he embarks on a dangerous heist that has the potential to prove himself to the galaxy. From there, he of course meets Chewbacca, the suave gambler Lando Calrissian (played by Donald Glover), and an old flame of his played by Emilia Clarke.
A definite praise that I can give this movie is the cast, as the film is flooded with one awesome actor after the other. Emilia Clarke (best known for her role on Game of Thrones) gives a charming and sly performance as Han’s former lover. As far as I’m concerned, Woody Harrelson can pretty much do no wrong and definitely fits as a character for this universe. Even Paul Bettany’s character (while not in the film for very long) is very entertaining, and at times intimidating.
The absolute highlight of the cast however is Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian. His performance as the cocky smuggler perfectly captures the charm and smoothness of the original character portrayed by Billy Dee Williams. The scenes with him and Han competing with each other in gambling were especially a highlight of the film. Although his comedic-relief droid companion L3 could’ve definitely been left out of the film entirely.
As far as the action goes, it’s also very entertaining for a Star Wars flick. Thankfully there’s a good balance of ship battles and on-ground battles, as well as some good one-on-one fights. The cinematography is very well handled, and the effects are pretty decent. On top of that, the music during these action sequences is just epic, and contains some great throwbacks to the old trilogy.
However, despite these positives, there are a handful of negatives. One of these negatives is Solo himself. While I respect the filmmakers and the actor for not wanting to just do a total Harrison Ford impersonation, it does still get in the way of Alden’s performance when measuring up to one of the greatest genre actors alive today. To be fair however, there is a good 50% of his performance that is ok, and his chemistry with Chewie and Lando is definitely there. The problem just comes down to his performance just not being that memorable.
Another problem with this film is the look of it. With a few exceptions, a lot of the locations in this film just look generic, dirty, and honestly, a bit ugly. While I get that it’s supposed to be a bit grimy due to it being a sort-of darker western type film, it still needs to look presentable. While Rogue One had a darker tone as well, it still had beautiful locations that still resembled the Star Wars universe, whereas the scenery in this just looked boring and dusty throughout most of the film. The only time when it did look really interesting was when the characters were on the Falcon, which looked better than ever.
The final (and probably biggest problem) with the film, and one that many people have brought up as well, is that in the end, it does feel kind of pointless. A lot of Star Wars fans didn’t want answers to questions like “Where did Han get his blaster?” or “How did he get his name?” or any type of boring origin story for someone like Han Solo, they want these spin-off films to think outside the box and go to places and eras that fans actually WANT to visit. The fanbase has spoken about wanting films like a Boba Fett movie (which thankfully is happening it looks like), a movie about Obi-Wan Kenobi with Ewan Mcgregor back, and especially a film dealing with the Knights of the Old Republic lore, rather than the generic content on display in this flick. Hopefully with the film not doing well in theaters, Lucasfilms will get the message and improve the future of the franchise.
My final say is that if you’re looking for a decent sci-fi blockbuster with some cool action and effects, this will satisfy you just fine. However, if you’re looking for a hardcore Star Wars film that tells a story that feels justified in its existence, you’ll probably not get what you’re looking for. It’s a good effort, but the galaxy far, far away could certainly use some improvement in the future.
Final Verdict: B-