“Solo: A Star Wars Story” Movie Review


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     If the continual negative publicity reported about the production of “Solo: A Star Wars Story” over the past year has somehow swayed your perception of the film and its potential merits, let me begin by saying this.  Director Ron Howard, as well as his talented cast and crew, nailed it.  “Solo” is everything you expect it be, thanks to superior production design and world building, an original story by screenwriters Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasden packing plenty of surprises, and a number of scene stealing actors whose characters may someday warrant their own movies. The film should have no problem meeting the high expectations of the fanbase, while also setting up a number of intriguing possibilities as the “A Star Wars Story” series of films move forward.

     With a completely unwarranted negative connotation attached to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, which came out in theaters less than six months ago, it’s not a shocking development to have seen the backlash against that film spill over to “Solo”, especially given the fact the film’s original directors, Chris Miller and Phil Lord, were let go by Lucasfilm just weeks before completion of principal photography in the summer of 2017.  As anyone who followed the story knows, Ron Howard was brought in to right the ship and ended up reshooting 70% of the shots originally done by Miller and Lord.  There also seems to be a trend unfolding amongst many in fandom who are leaving event films like “Star Wars” and “Avengers: Infinity War” disappointed because the filmmakers didn’t make the film THEY would have made.  

     And while anyone and everyone is certainly entitled to their own reactions and opinions to a film, the venom unleashed by some toward the talented creators behind the scenes is unwarranted.  Gone are the days where people speak with intelligence about film.  Rather than articulating a fact based critique on the script, characters, direction, etc., the people behind these baseless rants go for the punchline they deem will get them the most likes and retweets, something apparently necessary to satisfy their own fragile egos.  There is very little stopping anyone these days from going and making or writing their own film, so if you have a problem with the choices of Kathleen Kennedy, Rian Johnson, or Ron Howard, I would suggest you try your hand at filmmaking.  Who knows? You could create the next big thing and then sit and watch as the haters bash YOUR work.

     Stepping into the shoes of an iconic and beloved character like Han Solo, albeit a young version of him, is the kind of role that would likely manufacture plenty of anxiety and self doubt for an actor who thoroughly understands what will be expected from the fanbase.  Alden Ehrenreich tackles the role in a manner which indicates his intention to make the character his own, rather than simply mimicking the voice and mannerisms of Harrison Ford in much the same way Ewan McGregor did as Obi Wan in the “Star Wars” prequels.  In fact, Ehrenreich’s performance is solid enough that you simply accept him early on as the character, and you never really conjure the image of Harrison Ford in your mind since you know that’s now the older version.  

     The story begins by taking us to Han’s home planet of Corellia, where as a late teen he is one of many youngsters forced to work within a criminal underground in order to survive.  Along with his girlfriend, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), Han is sent to steal a vile of valuable fuel for their boss, but they ultimately decide to keep the loot for themselves and intend to use it as a ticket off the planet and out of slavery for good.  As you view these initial scenes on Corellia, one of the first takeaways is the look of their surroundings and the occupation by the Empire throughout the various buildings and streets.  It’s a dark, moldy, and wet setting colored in drab greys, blues, and yellows that constantly  reminded me of Fiorina 161 in “Alien 3"  We see stormtroopers constantly stopping people and shaking them down in a world we are told from the beginning is lawless and full of crime and treachery.  It’s certainly obvious why Han and Qi’ra want to get as far away as possible, but unfortunately their plan is only successful in getting Han a ride out.

     After a brief stint with the Empire as a would be pilot now demoted to the infantry, Han eventually meets Becket (Woody Harrelson) and Val (Thandie Newton), who take him and his newly found friend, Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), along on a job promising to make all involved rich enough to buy their own ship and go where they please.  Throughout the story, Howard stages a number of thrilling and memorable action sequences which are sure to be remembered as some of the best in all of the “Star Wars” films.  That he accomplishes this without a single Jedi or lightsaber is a first for the franchise, and notable in that everything centers around a heist that sees the Empire as only a backdrop and the Rebels as mere talk at this point.  

     Everything promised is delivered, including the card game in which Han wins the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), as well as the aforementioned first meeting with Chewbacca, and the famed Kessel Run that gave the Falcon the reputation as the fastest ship in the galaxy.  And if that were all “Solo” was, it would most definitely have been the disappointment many had predicted.  But Howard and his screenwriters have plenty more up their sleeves, all of which will be left out here to see for yourself.  It’s not just a variety of Easter Eggs littered throughout the scenery either.

     The stakes are raised significantly in the third act, introducing new potential conflicts that could possibly interconnect with the recently announced “Boba Fett” film, as well as possible appearances by the characters from the recently concluded “Star Wars Rebels” series.  It is in fact that series which the tone, worlds, and characters explored in “Solo” remind me of the most.  A notion that has unlimited possibilities given the various groups and factions who vie for power throughout the story as they make their way in a world ruled by the Empire.  And when we see Han navigate his way through these situations, as well as the relationships inevitably cultivated, a significantly more well developed character is created, something I believe will be obvious the next time you view the Original Trilogy and “The Force Awakens”.  In this respect, “Solo” is not only a necessary film within the “Star Wars” universe, it is an essential one.  GRADE: A