Solo: A Star Wars Story Review – A Big Bright Blur
Solo: A Star Wars Story Review – After a tumultuous production that saw extensive rewrites and a new director, the latest Star Wars film manages to be serviceable, if not great.
If you’re the type of person that believes in curses, there’s a decent argument to be made that the “Star Wars Story” movies are cursed. There have only been two so far, of course, but both have been plagued by major problems, and both required massive reshoots. Solo: A Star Wars Story even managed to misplace two directors (that’s a polite way of saying they were fired).
But if there’s one sure way to overcome a curse, a lucky and nearly limitless bank account is a good start. It worked for Rogue One and worked for Solo. Mostly.
With Rogue One, the problem seems to have been a miscommunication when it came to the tone of the film. Director Gareth Edwards wanted a gritty war movie, while Disney/Lucasfilm wanted a film that would make a lot of money. The result was a compromise where Edwards did everything the studio told him and reshot as much as 40 percent of the movie.
The result was shockingly good given how much of it was done at the last minute. So it wasn’t all that surprising to hear that Disney/Lucasfilm was willing to burn Solo to the ground and in some ways start from scratch to make sure it was good enough to make a ton of money. And the result is about what you’d expect, maybe a bit better if you’re naturally cynical. It’s not going to break any barriers or redefine any genres, but it isn’t the hot mess that it easily could have been – and probably should have been if it wasn’t for Disney’s deep, deep pockets and Ron Howard’s skill in giving audiences what they want without ever taking risks.
Solo is an origin story with heist flair and a bit of western motif thrown in for good measure. It fills in some of the gaps regarding an iconic character that none people have been clamoring for, and it walks the dangerous line between adding to the character and overwriting the personal ideas people have about that character. It’s tough for a film to present something that can compete with the imagination of viewers, but Solo does better than most.
It starts with a young Han on the mean streets of Corellian, fighting and hustling to try to steal a better life for himself and his girl, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). When things go pear-shaped, Han ends up in a tough spot and eventually comes into the orbit of Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), a smuggler and criminal who becomes a mentor to Han. Toss in a young Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), a smooth-talking Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), and a job with life or death consequences, and you have the general idea.
As the name suggests, the bulk of the film rests on the shoulders of the new Han, Alden Ehrenreich. Being asked to take over one of the most iconic roles of all time is a nearly impossible task, and Ehrenreich does a good job of it most of the time. He doesn’t fully capture Han’s roguish charm, but he makes the character his own, despite occasionally coming off smug more than confident. Where he really falters, however, are the scenes meant to carry deep emotional resonance, which consistently fall flat. That’s not on him alone, but there are moments where Ehrenreich is asked to do a lot and he doesn’t always succeed.
Those scenes are few and far between, but the emotional anchors littered throughout the film tend to drag it down at times. There are things you’d expect to come up – trauma in Han’s past especially – which just doesn’t go anywhere and are later played almost for laughs. These moments are most evident with Ehrenreich, but it isn’t just him. Clarke occasionally feels like she’s acting in two different movies, and there’s also a major, life-altering moment for Harrelson’s character that impacts him for all of about 60 seconds.
There’s an inconsistency at work that is probably the result of two competing visions battling for supremacy in the editing room, but the film is generally fast enough to skim over them without slowing the whole thing down. Once you accept that Solo doesn’t really have much emotional depth, you’ll enjoy yourself a whole lot more.
Solo isn’t a vital addition to the Star Wars mythos, but it is entertaining in a popcorn movie set-it-and-forget-it sort of way. There are also plot threads that suggest there is more to the story, but it’s not really clear if the film is hoping for a sequel or if it just doesn’t stick a few parts of the landing, especially those revolving around emotional closure.
One thing Solo does well is to fit within the existing Star Wars story without feeling too forced. You learn things like where Han gets his blaster and the movie goes to huge extremes to explain how the Kessel Run is measured in distance rather than speed, and it does it without feeling too over-the-top. The visuals are – unsurprisingly for a Star Wars movie – exceptional, and the movie manages to give some depth to Han Solo without rewriting him too much. It does sort of cut into the character’s arc in the original trilogy, but only slightly.
Overall, Solo works because it doesn’t take any real risks. It won’t surprise you, but it won’t offend you either. And when it comes to Star Wars and Disney’s big budgets, not failing is almost the same as succeeding.
Solo: A Star Wars Story Review Conclusion
Sooner or later, there will come a day when Disney/Lucasfilm decided that they have fully milked the existing Star Wars storyline – the one loosely defined by the Skywalker family – to death. That day has not yet arrived, but maybe it’s close.
If you took away the Star Wars connections, Solo: A Star Wars Story would still be a serviceable film, the type you stumble upon on TBS on a rainy Sunday afternoon and waste a few hours watching. It has some good moments and it’s inoffensive. It doesn’t really add anything to the overall Star Wars story, but it doesn’t hurt it either, so it’s kind of a wash.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is rated PG-13 with a running time of 135 minutes.