Directed by Ron Howard (Christopher Miller and Phil Lord)
Review by Nicholas Haberling
This might be unknown to the casual Star Wars moviegoer but there is a disturbance in the fan base and frankly I find it difficult to provide my opinion on Solo without that overall context. Since the release of Star Wars Episode VII it doesn’t feel like any of the new movies have united the fans although the closest to universal praise was Rogue One. Instead the battle has been between movies being too close to the original films or then being too edgy. This finally brings us to Solo. Unlike the episodic films or even Rogue One there are no galactic stakes at play here. Instead we have a fun and fast paced space-western.
I’m not sure if the title of the film gives this away but this is the origin story for Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich). That said, the plot of the movie is fairly straightforward and upon reflection I don’t think there were any side plots of note. After running into the smuggler Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), Han must go on a mission to steal valuable hyperspace fuel for a crime boss in order to pay off a debt. Throughout these events we run into characters and situations that shape the Han we know and love from the Original Trilogy. Like all other Star Wars films I don’t want to write too much because I’d hate to spoil it for anyone, but it is safe to say that nothing that happens will surprise the fans who have watched the originals many times.
Of course I have to start with Han Solo himself. Going into the movie I was concerned whether or not Alden Ehrenreich would be able to step into Harrison Ford’s space boots. Thankfully, after this film I think my trust in casting departments has increased significantly. Ehrenreich’s performance wasn’t mind blowing but most importantly I believed he was Han Solo. The arrogance, the charm and the space pirate with a heart of gold was all on show here. Still, Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian stole every scene in the movie. At this point I’m not sure whether Bill Dee Williams (original Lando) or Donald Glover owns the character. Of course the last in our cast of familiar faces is the mighty Chewbacca played by Joonas Suotamo. One of the best parts about Solo is being able to see Han and Chewie develop that all too familiar camaraderie.
Next are the newbies to the Han Solo story. We will start with Qi'ra played dutifully by the Mother of Dragons herself, Emilia Clarke. I think a theme of all the actors for this film will be competence. With the exception of Lando no one’s performance blew me away. But in terms of Qi’ra’s connection to Han, she is a love interest from his past on Corellia who is also a lieutenant in the crime syndicate Crimson Dawn. Finally we get to Tobias Beckett played by Woody Harrelson. Of the new characters I think he was the most interesting because of his influence on Han. By the end of the film I wouldn’t be surprised if Han modeled himself after Beckett prior to us seeing Han again in A New Hope.
If I have to be honest, prior to the release of Solo I wasn’t convinced this was a movie that had to be made. In fact after seeing the film I’m still not certain it was absolutely necessary. The film dutifully went over some aspects of Han’s past that we already knew about, as well as others that we didn’t. In spite of that I think Solo was a movie needed in another sense: it was fun. There was no Death Star in orbit or internal conflict like with Kylo Ren. For two and a half hours I was able to take a seat in the Millennium Falcon and laugh and smile as an adventure unfolded before me. And frankly I think that’s what all Star Wars fans need right now. The ability to just sit back and enjoy watching a story in the galaxy far, far, away we all love.