Of all the new Star Wars movies that have been produced since Disney bought Lucasfilm Ltd from George Lucas, it was this tale of Han Solo’s origin that seemed the most likely to fail. Having a new actor fill in role made famous by Harrison Ford was always going to be a big task. And with the often discussed production issues that ultimately resulted in Ron Howard taking over director duties there was plenty of concern that we were not going like what we’d eventually see.
The movie is to all intents and purposes Han Solo’s origin story with Alden Ehrenreich taking on the role of a character. He might be lacking the experience of the Harrison Ford version but he’s still carrying much of the ego and you see that right from the beginning in an early chase sequence. Before you can say “scruffy looking nerf herder” (or spell it) you’ll soon see his first meetings with friend and Wookiee copilot Chewbacca (Joonas Suatomo), taking on gambler and scoundrel Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and finally getting his hands on his beloved ship the Millennium Falcon.
In addition we get Emilia Clarke as Han’s ex girlfriend now turned criminal Qi’ra, Woody Harrelson (Beckett) and Thandie Newton (Val) playing a pair of rogues who help lead Han astray (they could have had their own stories to tell) and Paul Bettany as Qi’ra’s boss Dryden Vos. Much like the first franchise spinoff in Rogue One we get to see characters with a lot more shades of grey to them than what we get with the typical Rebels / Resistance versus Empire / First Order stories from the trilogies.
Seeing Han, Lando and Chewie years before their appearances in the first trilogy turned out better than I had expected and a lot of it is due to the filmakers giving fans exactly what they want sprinkled with a fair dose of humour. Han even gets to shoot first which is justice served in my eyes. I really wished though that the Han, Lando, Millenium Falcon thing was a movie in itself and not mixed in with an origin story that’s also mixed in with a heist film… there’s too many ideas! And they aren’t necessarily bad ideas for the train heist is a great sequence as is the mine theft; they’re just not given enough time to be played out to best effect.
And that might be the downside to Solo as despite having a lot more room to manoeuvre in terms of story compared to Rogue One which had a VERY definite end this movie doesn’t always hit the high points as consistently and tries to answer too many questions in one film. I think it also shows signs of one director’s vision colliding with another’s much like Justice League did with some unexpected moments of humour that weren’t bad, just felt out of place. Still the result is much more palatable to me than what we got with that film. Considering the cards dealt to him (appropriate choice of words here), Howard still did well in steering the movie on a course that at least feels like Star Wars. It does make me wonder if the rumours were true about the state of the film prior to him taking control.
One a side note, one thing that I noticed that’s maybe a bit odd to bring up now is that it seems every Star Wars movie has a scene where “battle plans” or something similar are discussed in detail yet there is none of that at all. It’s a staple of movies in the franchise and almost completely nonexistent here. Maybe that’s a good thing though as these characters are more focused on doing rather than talking and the film certainly doesn’t need any additional pacing issues.
In the end the movie does what most people want from a Star Wars side story in that it is mostly a self contained tale but also tosses in a lot of fan service to appease those who’ve dug deep into the franchise over the years. The possibility of seeing more from this corner of the universe does have potential so there is hope we get to see Disney and Lucasfilm give it another shot. I’m pleasantly surprised with what we’ve got here in Solo: A Star Wars Story and if you can forgive some of the sins of its structure and jarring transitions there is a lot to like. I’m definitely a fan as I got my fix from it and that’s all I could really ask. 🙂
Whether or not Solo: A Star Wars Story is your kind of movie I can’t fairly answer but I do think it might attract more people than The Last Jedi which was divisive in how much it was willing to throw away in trying to refresh the franchise for a new generation. But I think we might all agree that it has the potential to have some very interesting DVD extras if the producers are willing to share the whole story…
Solo: A Star Wars Story is out now in cinemas everywhere.