Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Ron Howard
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Bradford Young
WRITERS: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasden
MUSIC: John Powell
When it was revealed that “Solo: A Star Wars Story” was in trouble behind-the-scenes, I started to have very low expectations for this film. For those not in the know, original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were fired after four and a half months of principal photography. After this happened, Lucasfilm quickly hired Ron Howard to step in and finish not only the last three weeks, but also five additional weeks of reshoots.
Ultimately, Howard got the only director credit. The big question now was whether or not the film was compromised beyond repair. Thankfully, despite some clumsy moments and knowing certain elements beforehand, the movie is solid entertainment. Still, before I get to what I liked about the film, I can definitely say that it is not the best Star Wars film around.
The biggest problem is that it is just not necessary when you get right down to it. The movie explains several moments that have already been hinted to in other films and we all know who has to live in order for appearances in previous movies. The film also suffers from a rather clunky opening, again probably the result of transitioning directors.
That aside, though, as a Star Wars fan, it was fun to actually see where Han Solo came from. We do learn little tidbits such as how Han got his last name, we see how he got off of Corellia, his time with the Empire and how he met Chewbacca and Lando. Finally, there is also a twist in the film that might confuse those who are not diehard fans, but it was a delight when I saw it but, of course, I’m not going to spoil it here.
For a quick synopsis, the film follows Han and shows us how he first became a smuggler. He’s not necessarily the roguish man we meet in “A New Hope” and we even see those inevitable traits of a Rebel general throughout the film. Thankfully, the movie has a decent cast to also carry us through Han’s origin story.
Alden Ehrenreich had the toughest challenge of the entire cast as the young Han Solo. Unsurprisingly, I can’t say that he reaches the level of Harrison Ford, but to be honest, I never expected him to but he does give a decent performance and ultimately carries the film quite well and does not dishonor the character. So, he may not be Ford but he could have done a lot worse and I commend Ehrenreich’s bravery at taking on such a monumental role.
Thankfully, he is also surrounded by a great supporting cast. Emilia Clarke is great as the strong love interest and fighter Qi’ra. She has a decent amount of chemistry with Ehrenreich and turns in a tough yet vulnerable performance. I can’t say too much more about her, though, as that would spoil too many other elements.
Woody Harrelson plays Tobias Beckett, a smuggler that shows Han the ropes and is a likable guy. The only problem is that he is definitely more where Han will be when we see him in “A New Hope” and that alone means that Tobias will provide some harsh lessons for Han.
Like K-2SO in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, there is another lovable droid with L3-37, a co-pilot for Lando voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. She is a rather funny droid and a scene stealer as she continues throughout the film to fight for equal rights for droids. Also like K-2SO, she has plenty of attitude to go along with her idealistic crusade to help other droids.
Finally, there is Donald Glover as a young Lando Calrissian and he is definitely the best supporting character in the film. There are moments where I felt that Glover was channelling Billy Dee Williams. Honestly, when the film was through, I thought that I could watch an entire movie about Lando if Glover was up to it.
A final highlight for the film is also the action. There are several thrilling chase sequences worthy of Star Wars as Han and company try to outrun rival criminal organizations and the Empire. There is the thrilling train heist that has been shown in the trailers and there is a great sequence where Han finally gets to make the famous Kessel Run.
Is the movie necessary? Absolutely not. Is it the best Star Wars film? No. Still, the “Star Wars Story” series is set up to be a companion to the main series of films, focusing on events and characters that have bigger roles in the ongoing saga. Therefore, “Solo” ultimately succeeds in this category by giving us a decent though imperfect origin story for everyone’s favorite smuggler.