Solo: A Star Wars Story
Written by Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan
Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Emilia Clarke, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, Joonas Suotamo and Jon Favreau
Directed by Ron Howard
First things first, while there is no crawl at the beginning of this Star Wars movie, it does have a little reading that you need to do in order to understand the world and the life that the film’s hero comes from. It’s effective without giving away too much or pandering to the audience. On the shipyard planet of Corellia, young Han (Alden Ehrenreich) dreams and schemes of getting off the planet with the girl he loves Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). After getting separated, Han is determined to make his fortune and return for her, enlisting in the Imperial Army as a pilot, but finding himself on the front lines in the infantry.
It’s on one of those missions that he meets Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and Val (Thandie Newton) and tries to get them to take him out of the battle after finding out their thieves. This gives Han his first lesson in learning who to trust. A theme that will play itself out several times during the course of the movie. This is also the moment when Han meets up with fellow captive Chewbacca and the pair form an uneasy alliance in order to escape from an imperial cell and make it off the planet. It’s a fun series of moments that help to establish some of the iconic relationships and moments that we know.
Trying to fit those moments in actually causes one of the only real problems I had with the movie. There were some pacing issues due to trying to give the audience too much too soon. I think if some of those moments happened more organically, they would have resonated more than my being able to go “and now he got this….” whenever something happened that was clearly a nod to established lore.
The new cast of characters actually really stand out in this film. It would have been easy for them to fade in the background and serve as narrative fodder, but there is a real sense of history with these new characters and they all are written in a way that makes them and their stories interesting as well. Qi’ra’s complicated relationship with Draydon Vos (Paul Bettany) makes for some interesting moments between the two characters when they reunite and you get a sense that there is more to Qi’ra than meets the eye. I also really enjoyed the references to moments and organizations like Crimson Dawn (a moment that will pay off later in the film at its climax).
There are some great action moments in the film as well including the heist aboard the moving space train, the famed Kessel Run and others and everyone seems to be having fun with their roles and in the film. Donald Glover’s Lando is awesome. He deftly navigates the role of the suave scoundrel with ease and it definitely helps keep this film what it ultimately felt like to me; fun. Solo works because it takes the philosophy that permeates the trilogy films along with the seriousness of Rogue One and casts them aside to make a heist movie. It is fun and it has fun with itself because it isn’t constrained by the boundaries of trying to either contribute to or move forward the main Star Wars story. Solo lets the viewer to see and enjoy the underbelly of the Star Wars universe. We get to see more of the mechanism that drives this universe while learning about the eclectic cast of characters who inhabit it. Solo is relentlessly fun at its core and that is definitely what I had in watching it.