Solo: A Star Wars Story, 2018.
Directed by Ron Howard.
Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jon Favreau, Linda Hunt, Ian Kenny, John Tui, and Warwick Davis.
During an adventure into a dark criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion.
Really, the most important and only thing to know going into Solo: A Star Wars Story is that despite the most troubled production process for a film since arguably Fantastic Four, it turned out to be a spectacularly exciting journey with terrific casting and loads of fan service that will honestly probably make even novices with the lore smile. The LEGO Movie‘s Phil Lord and Chris Miller had already almost completed the prequel/spinoff before franchise overseer Kathleen Kennedy stepped in and changed directors to the Academy Award-winning Ron Howard who at one point was interested in making an entry in the Star Wars saga, citing creative differences as the duo was working on something in tone that was more of a screwball irreverent comedy and faraway from feeling like an actual adventure in a galaxy far far away, but it’s pleasant to report that there is no clash in style or anything off about the experience.
Without question, anything you could ever ask for in a film depicting how Han Solo became the space rebel that Harrison Ford made an iconic staple of cinematic history is here, from escaping his own oppressed home planet to an unlikely confrontation with Chewbacca that spawned the friendship of a lifetime (and the kind of synergy and chemistry we should all strive to have with our closest companions), meeting smuggler Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover fresh off of the fever heat success of his hit new single This is America, naturally filled with swagger as a highrolling gambler that doesn’t always play by the rules), acquiring the Millennium Falcon, and more.
With that said, you should have some reservations if the love letter approach didn’t work for you with Rogue One, but on the flipside if you hated The Last Jedi for getting too thematic and occasionally experimental expanding on the powers of the Force and generally just being unlike anything else in the series, then you will enjoy this as it is a highly safe entry first and foremost focused on razzle-dazzle set pieces and staying true to what we already know. Hopefully, that covers all the bases so in case this ends up with a 90+% percent on Rotten Tomatoes I don’t have half the Internet laughably assuming critics such as myself are taking a check from Disney to be nice to awesome movies.
However, one area everyone should just stop worrying about right now is the casting of Alden Ehrenreich as Han. Yes, he’s a great little-known actor but realistically he did have big shoes to fill, and from both a character and physical standpoint the performance does strongly feel reminiscent of a much younger version of the man. The humor and wisecracks are there, the banter with Chewie (now stepping into the Wookie outfit is Joonas Suotamo, and while the role demands much less from a traditional acting perspective it is also crucial to note that the performer is equally responsible for making that budding friendship pop) is replicated with pitch-perfect precision, and through the number of lengthy action sequences we gradually begin to see the already skilled pilot grow in technique.
Not to say too much about the narrative, but it kicks into motion after a failed attempt at escaping Han’s planet together with his apparent girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke getting to play a more complex character than one might assume, more of a survivor than anything) has a hiccup separating them, leaving Han enlisting for the Empire as a pilot as a means to one day be reunited. Obviously, what ensues is an alignment switch as he comes into a group of infiltrators pulling off heists for their own personal financial gain (Woody Harrelson makes for a great mentor shaping Han into the person we are most familiar with him as) but plans to steal some quality goods for a serious player also come into play, and it’s worth noting that Paul Bettany’s Dryden Vos is a scary individual with his scarred face and merciless attitude. Without spoiling anything, the dynamic between him, Han, and Qi’ra is one of the strongest elements of the film, smartly written in a way that keeps us guessing what could actually happen.
The only real shortcomings of Solo: A Star Wars Story is that it doesn’t really earn anything on an emotional level despite containing quite a few character deaths. One of them, in particular, seems like it should have been a bigger deal and weighed on another character’s conscious, but barely does. There is also a degree of predictability considering that audiences know somehow Han and Qi’ra aren’t going to work out. Thankfully, one of the initial building blocks to Han and Chewie coming together is their desire to save those they care about, with the Wookie wanting to free the enslaved of his kind.
When it comes down to it though, people are going to be surprised at how much they want another Han Solo film, not just because this first crack at it is incredibly fun, but also due to the HOLY SHIT cameo teaser near the end that opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. The casting works, Harrison Ford or not it really does feel like Han Solo, and the adventures left to tell with these characters might as well be endless. The prequels do need to find a better middle ground between fan service and taking storytelling risks, but they are undeniably essential blockbuster fun all the same.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com