“Hey kid, I’m puttin’ together a crew. You in?”
RELEASED: May 25th 2018
DIRECTED BY: Ron Howard (/Phil Lord & Chris Miller)
WRITTEN BY: Jonathan Kasdan & Lawrence Kasdan
PRODUCED BY: Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur & Simon Emmanuel
MUSIC BY: John Powell & John Williams
STARRING: Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Thandie Newton, Jon Favreau & Paul Bettany
When Solo was first announced, I was one among the many people who questioned the point of this film. Why did we need to know where Han Solo had found his jacket, won the falcon and met Chewbacca when most of these things had already been referenced in previous films. And while the film itself didn’t cover Han picking out a new coat, it did retread important moments in his life such as meeting Chewbacca and Lando, winning the Millennium Falcon and even being given his name, of all things.
Many people take issue with that last one in particular. But you know what? I didn’t mind it. In fact, I quite enjoyed it, and the rest of the film. So much so that although I was initially sceptical, I came out of the movie hoping for more films following Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, or at least films about Boba Fett and Lando that used the same characters and had some sort of through line. Unfortunately, it seems that will never happen now. But at very least, we got this highly enjoyable movie before Lucasfilm opted to put their standalone features to rest.
Solo: A Star Wars Story documents the early years of Han Solo’s life, following him from his teenage years as a orphan thief on the industrial planet of Corellia, through his time as an Imperial soldier, to his first big score, where he meets his steadfast companion Chewbacca, befriends the suave smuggler Lando Calrissian, and learns some important life lessons that transform him into the smuggler we all know and love from the original Star Wars.
As many expected, there isn’t that much that’s unexpected in this movie. Han gets his name, his flight lessons, he meets Chewbacca, becomes a smuggler, gets his gun, gets the Falcon, etc. It’s just a checklist of things that make up Han Solo in movie form. And yet, somehow, it’s still a joy to watch. Maybe casual viewers won’t feel the same, but in a way this movie feels like a love letter to Star Wars fans, not unlike The Force Awakens. But while The Force Awakens was everything you expected, in the way you expected it, Solo is everything you expected, but with enough new takes on what you thought you knew to keep things exciting (that’s not to say The Force Awakens isn’t exciting).
This is all helped enormously of course by the cast stepping in to take on both new and established characters. The highlights are Ehrenreich, Suotamo and Glover in particular. Many people have said this previously, but Glover makes a excellent Lando Calrissian, with all the charm and posturing that we saw in Empire Strikes Back. But the real stand-outs are Ehrenreich and Suotamo, who really make these roles their own. They’re distinct variants from Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew, but from the second each of them step on screen, they just are those characters. The mannerisms, the speech, their actions, they play these parts perfectly. In fact, on Suotamo’s part, this may be the best Chewbacca movie of the saga.
Of course, the fact that, at the end of the day, the film does stick to that aforementioned checklist does hold it back from being truly great. While I loved seeing new planets like Han’s homeworld and the war-torn Mimban, and the rest of the film did fill me with glee from it’s references and callbacks and the heart that it injects to it’s characters and stories, I think a sequel could really take the character to new and interesting places. They have the foundations to move on and make a truly great film here, but in this first outing, in a lot of ways, they played it safe, but considering this is a movie no one seemed to think they wanted or needed, that’s alright.
Just put those other standalone’s back into production, Lucasfilm!
All-in-all, I give it: