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Solo: A Star Wars Story – Movie Review

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Solo: A Star Wars Story – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

With the Star Wars series now an annual event, it was inevitable that we would get spin-off films centered specifically on the beloved characters. Solo: A Star Wars Story mostly plays it safe with its heist movie beats and moments that recall later memorable scenes with the titular nerf herder. However, director Ron Howard still injects the film with a necessary dosage of energy and lighthearted fun. This might be the simplest Star Wars movie to date, story-wise, but it nonetheless has its charms as an endearing side adventure. It’s clear everyone recognizes the weight on their shoulders in showing the younger pre-Rebel days of Han Solo.

Solo continues the cliffhanger movie serial appeal of the Star Wars saga as Han jumps from action set-piece to hair-raising event. The filmmakers are aware that the audience is savvy enough to know Han will survive these scraps, so these scenes mostly exist to form bonds with certain characters. Han and Chewbacca click early on, so we immediately buy them as the duo who can communicate flawlessly with one another and they work the best off each other. The other members of this group of smugglers perform their required roles, with Donald Glover’s cape-loving Lando Calrissian bringing the expected charm. The second he appears on screen, he’s believable as the younger version of Billy Dee Williams’s Cloud City administrator.

Alden Ehrenreich easily slips into Harrison Ford’s star making turn. He doesn’t attempt an impersonation, but rather brings his own swagger and boyish cockiness that a young Han Solo would certainly have. We see a young man who grew up with plenty of struggles and without the help of the Force, which is almost non-existent in this Star Wars adventure. This is exemplified by an entertaining opening where Han faces off against a tyrannical alien. The Millennium Falcon gets a stand-out action sequence of its own and while John Powell provides strong compositions, he knows when to let John Williams’s classic themes make an appearance. As expected with Star Wars, part of the fun in this universe comes from seeing the various aliens that populate the galaxy. The design and effects team fill the screen with these extra-terrestrial beings, who are a good mix of puppetry and computer-generated creations.

The plot doesn’t veer that far off from most heist movies and those archetypes and familiar story strands become ever more prominent as the film plays on. One sequence, involving the actual stealing of the McGuffin, seems to go on for quite a while. However, Howard gets the pacing back to speed not long afterwards. The new Star Wars films have certainly been self-referential, but they knew when to space the cute callbacks out. Solo seems to lean on them in not so subtle fashions. There are moments so choreographed to get the audience’s nod of recognition, one half expects Howard’s Arrested Development narrator to pipe in with an added aside. Bradford Young’s cinematography is oddly dark at many points. One can understand the filmmakers wanting to give Solo a look unique from the rest of the series, but they could have used a few extra lights on the Falcon and some of the planets.

Years from now, when Disney has produced and released a gazillion more Star Wars movies, Solo will be seen as a solid, but not necessarily an essential entry. However, it doesn’t need the large stakes of the main episodes or even Rogue One. If anything, this film goes back to George Lucas’s original intent of wanting these to be old-fashioned adventure movies. Ron Howard does the job effectively in bringing us to other planets and giving this young smuggler his first major heist. That Ehrenreich pulls off playing an iconic character forever linked to a beloved actor is especially impressive and shows he has a lengthy career ahead.


Stefan Ellison