Solo is an entertaining, character driven and original adventure set in the Star Wars universe, successfully expanding the world and what a Star Wars movie can be, even if it isn’t quite ready to take one foot out of the past.
Taking place between the prequels and original trilogy, Solo: A Star Wars Story drops us right into the thick of things as Han is trying to get him and his love, Qi’ra off their indentured planet on into a life of freedom. Circumstances lead Han into signing up for the Empire, getting his last name, meeting Chewie and eventually is wrapped up in a heist or two that brings him back around to Qi’ra three years later. From there, Han must carry out a major heist to get square with the bad guys, he runs into Lando and his droid lover L3-37, and gets to ride around in the Millennium Falcon. Sounds like a Han Solo movie, right?
For as paint by numbers as that Solo plot synopsis sounds, the film never feels dull or on the rails. The opening of the film is a bit strained as they try to introduce Han and Qi’ra’s relationship and background, it drags a bit, but I think they just try to do too much while dropping us right into the thick of things. Though, shortly after, once Han meets Chewie, the film gets its feet and never stops rolling.
Alden Ehrenreich falls right into the title character and I never felt like there was a strain in his performance or the filmmaking to make him feel like Harrison Ford. Ehrenreich also doesn’t feel like an impersonation, but he captures the heart of the character, he has a swagger, and that goes for all of the new actors playing old parts. Donald Glover similarly doesn’t feel like he’s just doing Billy Dee Williams, but he feels like Lando Calrissian. He is probably the silliest element of the film, but he slides right into the film’s tone, which is easily the most comedic film in the Star Wars canon. Joonas Suotamo’s second go as Chewbacca feels just as authentic as it does in The Last Jedi, but even he seems to have given Chewie a few extra tricks as the role becomes ever expanded.
The rest of the cast is filled out firstly by the always great Woody Harrelson, who plays a mentor of sorts to Han in Beckett. Beckett is a scoundrel, with a crew light on manpower, so Han and Chewie end up riding along for some extra muscle; well Chewie, at least. The other new characters are just as compelling as him, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3 easily being the most memorable. L3’s arc is a lot of fun, and I like the legacy she is going to leave on the franchise. Bridge is hilarious and has a great scene with just about everyone in the cast. Emilia Clarke plays Qi’ra and is right in line with the strong women the new Star Wars films have been giving us. I wish her background was a bit more fleshed out, she’s a bit too much of a mystery, but Clarke is having fun. Not as much fun as Paul Bettany, who is just chewing everything up as the film’s villain. Thandie Newton and Jon Favreau also both shine in smaller roles, with both making me wish we got more of them.
The action and set pieces in the film are also mostly delightful, with only a couple of beats falling flat. This is an all new kind of action for the series, no big battles, no duels (well, their kind of is one here), no space battles, but that doesn’t mean it is lacking. Everything is well staged and the characters are mostly embroiled in shoot outs, but the pacing is mostly great and the film has more than a few surprises, and always looks amazing. The look of the film had me a bit worried in the early going, very blue, but when the film reveals why that is it becomes clear it is a story driven decision. The film is also stacked with weird creatures and characters all around the edges, and I look forward to seeing more of these crazy creations as I watch the film in future.
Solo: A Star Wars Story makes the new set of films 4 for 4, with this feeling just as solid as Rogue One and Force Awakens. While it is probably not going to be anyone’s favorite Star Wars film, I imagine, it is certainly easy to enjoy and feels like a tip toe in expanding what a Star Wars film can look like. Yes, it is a Han Solo movie nobody really asked for, but it sucked me in and made me excited to see more adventures in this Solo corner of the Star Wars universe.