Solo; A Star Wars Story is a 2018 American science-fiction adventure film directed by Ron Howard, produced by LucasFilm and distributed by Walt Disney Motion Pictures. It is set before the happenings of 1977’s Star Wars Episode IV; A New Hope and pivots on Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich); a driver cum pilot who goes on a criminal adventure alongside his furry compatriot called Chewbacca in a world plagued by lawlessness and chaos.
Han Solo is one of my favourite characters in the Star Wars universe alongside Darth Vader and basically, I came into this movie with high expectations. I yearned to see the complete story of this revered character way before he gave that important ride to Obi Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker, way before he fell in love with Princess Leia, way before he joined the Resistance or even way before his emotional demise after being put to the sword by his own son Kylo Ren or Ben Solo; take your pick. Nonetheless, having watched it, did this movie give me what I wanted in a standalone Solo film? Well, it’s all a bit here and there to begin with but why don’t we delve into this photo-play and find out why.
The movie does a relatively good job at portraying this anarchical world especially through Han’s point of view; he inherently does crime for a living and the film spares no opportunity to paint that picture for you right from minute one with a chase sequence. Whereas most criminal organizations are in competition for hyper fuel coaxium, an incredibly valuable resource, Han’s goals are primarily set on securing his freedom as well as his love interest in Kira (Emilia Clarke). Additionally, he has ambitions of being something more than he was, to explore the galaxy and go for enticing odysseys. For the latter to come to fruition, he knows what needs to be done and he does it. He employs cunning mannerisms; does dirty deals and double crosses people along the way much as the character we were introduced to in the original trilogy. Throughout the run-time of this movie, I got a reason to believe that his actions, though unconventional, were necessary and thus I credit Alden’s acting prowess; haven’t seen much of his movies but all the same, he did enough for me to consider his portrayal just as good as Harrison Ford’s.
As far as the other characters are concerned, there are some that stood out well for me and some that just didn’t. Apart from her roles in Terminator Genisys and Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke’s filmography is not one that I have been keeping tabs on but nevertheless she indeed is a great actress. Kira, her character here, does a fantastic job at enhancing Han Solo’s demeanour especially from an erotic standpoint and it made sense. This is because the two are pretty much treading a similar path; a path of independence and adventure even though there’s another side to her, which I duly will not mention since it is an outright spoiler. Need I even mention Donald Glover as Lando; phenomenal would be an understatement to describe his performance. Despite the height factor which we can comfortably slip under the rug, Donald Glover was perfect casting for this character that was originally brought to life by Billy Dee Williams. Lando, much like Solo, has his own agendas and the back and forth aspect of the two smugglers’ relationship was one that elicited excitement. On the other side of the coin, the likes of Val (Thandie Newton) and Dryden (Paul Bettany) , for me, came off as one of those “I did my purpose” characters. I didn’t really invest in them more so Val but that’s not to say they were completely bad; perhaps they were excellent in the eyes of another critic.
The boons of this Star Wars spin-off are considerable. Betrayal and self-centeredness is a theme that is quite prevalent in this film and I liked the unpredictability of certain characters in relation to the latter. The production designs and action sequences are exquisite; as you would expect, Han and his compatriots get themselves into a lot of trouble during their missions which they have to quell in one way or another and thus the scenes culminate into a well-executed visual effects in cool locations filled with action and drama. The humour is fairly laughable; Lando fends off Han while in conversation with Clarke’s character by a “Hey! Grown-ups are talking!” comment. We also have Kira discussing matters love with Lando’s robot and lastly, the one that I personally loved most was Han Solo kicking an alien hostile in the jugular where it ‘hurts’ most, I hope you get why I found this comedic because it would make it a lot less weird of a liking than it already is.
Coming back to the comment on whether or not I got the fulfilment that I came into this movie wanting to get, I’d say I was robbed off one particular aspect; the pre-crime Han Solo. I don’t know about you, and I’d like to get your thoughts on it in the comment section below, but the director Ron Howard had the opportunity to explore the story of Han Solo in-depth which he unfortunately failed at for me. In essence, what I mean is that I wanted to see how his upbringing shaped the man that he is in the film. Han Solo was orphaned at a young age, why didn’t I see that aspect of his life? Han Solo knows how to drive and fly as well, why didn’t I see how he mastered his skills? Such are the questions that I felt frustrated by at the end of the 1st Act because by then, the film was already way into Solo’s adult life. For a film that is just about 2 hours long, I think it should have been 20 minutes longer with the latter dedicated to fleshing out the character before that opening action sequence.
Just to cap it all off, I did enjoy Solo: A Star Wars Story in as much it has its dark side, no pun intended. Going forward, I hope LucasFilm and Disney do a better job at telling origin stories as I expect they will with Obi Wan Kenobi or even the Skywalkers. If you haven’t watched the film already by the time you are reading this review and are a fan of Sith lords, I ought to tell you that the one and only Darth Maul makes an appearance; don’t get too hyped up though, there’s not much to him.