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Solo: A Star Wars Story is a space western directed by Ron Howard and written by the father-son combination of Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan. It is the second standalone Star Wars film and it is set many years before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope. The film stars Joonas Suotamo, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover and Alden Ehrenreich.
In Solo, we follow a younger and more idealistic Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) on his adventures where he makes a new friend in Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). They group together with other characters such as Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) as well as Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), owner of the Millennium Falcon, on a heist.
My Expectation For Solo
For me, every Star Wars film made under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy at Lucasfilm has got progressively better. Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story were great films, but I give the slight edge to Rogue One in my preference between the two. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is my second favourite Star Wars film ever made and it may well be my No. 1 as time progresses. All of this has led me to be in such a good place with Star Wars at this moment in time.
Still, I understood that the progressive streak Lucasfilm was on when it came to the quality of Star Wars films was probably going to come to an end with Solo. This did not mean that I thought the film would be bad. Instead, I went into Solo expecting it to be decent but absolutely the weakest film made under Kathleen Kennedy’s leadership of Lucasfilm.
Alden Ehrenreich Would Be The Key
This film has had an extremely troubled production which really tempered my hopes about Solo for a long time. Still, the late marketing push for Solo made me a bit more hopeful about the film and Alden Ehrenreich looked as though he could succeed in portraying Han Solo, a character so synonymous with Harrison Ford. Clearly, the success of a film about a young Han Solo is going to largely come down to Alden Ehrenreich’s performance as Han. I was interested to see his take on a younger, naïve and more idealistic Han Solo than we first saw in Star Wars: A New Hope.
I also could not wait to see how the events of Solo would potentially enhance what we saw of Han in the Original and Sequel Trilogy films as well as his relationships with Chewbacca and Lando. Certainly, one thing I was pretty certain of with this film was that Donald Glover would be awesome as Lando. In the end, all I wanted Solo to be was a decent, fun adventure film. Anything more would be a bonus.
My Thoughts On Solo
Solo is Star Wars at its most entertaining. From start to finish, I was hooked and I had an absolute blast with this great film that, like The Last Jedi, exceeded all of my expectations when it came to quality. From the very beginning, the film has great pacing and momentum. I had read/watched a number of viewpoints about Solo which stated that the film had bad pacing and that the first act was rough to get through. I have to wonder what film they were watching because I never felt this way.
I think a big reason why I was so captivated by Solo was due to how quickly I attached to the characters in it. That comes down to the quality of the performances given by the cast. Let me make this clear; Alden Ehrenreich is superb as Han Solo. He nails the subtle nuances and mannerisms of Han and I completely bought into his younger, more naïve take on the character. The echoes of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo were there, but Alden made the character his own which I loved.
Donald Glover was, as I predicted, awesome as Lando and there were certain moments where he acted and sounded exactly like Billy Dee Williams which really impressed me. Yet, like Alden, he also made the character his own. I thought Paul Bettany was extremely menacing as Dryden Vos, Woody Harrelson was as good as he always is and Emilia Clarke gave a much more nuanced performance as Qi’ra than I initially expected. The character who surprised me the most was Enfys Nest who was terrific. I loved her musical theme and her development as a character in the third act of Solo was really engaging.
Superb Character Dynamics
Every cast member gives impressive individual performances and the strength of Solo absolutely lies in its characters and the way they all interact with each other. I loved the dynamics and relationships between the characters in this film, particularly when it came to Han and Chewbacca. Chewbacca is probably as good as he has ever been in Solo and the relationship he had with Han was pitch perfect. From their awesome first meeting to their last scene in the film, watching them together was an absolute delight.
Han and Lando’s relationship was fantastic and I also loved how the relationship between Han and Beckett was developed in Solo. Beckett is the mentor to Han in this film and everything they went through as well as the lessons Beckett taught Han gave Solo some real dramatic heft. This was particularly the case in their final scene together where Beckett dies at the hands of Han after Beckett had betrayed him. It was quite a moving scene after everything we had seen these characters go through both individually and collectively.
Moreover, the scene provided some deserved, subtle fan service in the fact that Han shot first in the scene where he kills Beckett. It was a great nod to Star Wars fans, especially to those who are still annoyed that George Lucas, in his Special Editions, changed the Cantina scene in Star Wars: A New Hope to Greedo shooting first instead of Han. For me, that change does not improve the Original Trilogy in any way, shape or form. However, the events of Solo do improve the Original Trilogy.
Solo Enhances The Original + Sequel Trilogy
Indeed, Solo enhances both the Original and Sequel Trilogy in magnificent fashion. For one, we get to see how Han wins the Millennium Falcon from Lando and the line “You lost her to me fair and square” in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back has a much deeper meaning now. Additionally, the relationship Han has with Beckett has a lot of parallels with the relationship that Han has with Rey in The Force Awakens. Parallels also exist between Han’s experiences and Rey’s experiences in their respective films.
In Solo, Han believes he has been away from Corellia for too long and needs to get back to reunite with Qi’ra. In The Force Awakens, Rey thinks she has been away from Jakku for too long and needs to go back. In Solo, Han gets his first job and blaster from Beckett which mirrors what happens in The Force Awakens when Han gives Rey a blaster and offers her a job. The reaction Han has to Rey’s comment that she “didn’t know there was this much green in the whole galaxy” when flying over Takodana has so much more meaning when we see the conditions Han grew up with on Corellia.
To me, Han sees a lot of his younger self in Rey in The Force Awakens. What we see in Solo gives the scenes that Rey and Han have together in The Force Awakens greater value. It all fits beautifully and Solo improves the viewing experience of the Original and Sequel Trilogy which is something I really appreciate. The arc of Han in Solo is necessary viewing to fully understand his interactions with Rey in The Force Awakens. It is almost as if Lawrence Kasdan had all of this in mind when he worked on The Force Awakens.
More Positive Elements About Solo
I have even more positive things to say about Solo. For one, I loved the adventurous feel of the film. The set pieces, action and score by John Powell enthralled me in the adventure that the characters go on in Solo. I also dug the new twist on the opening crawl. The “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” font was used to open the film and it was a cool, subtle touch.
The cinematography in Solo was superb. Bradford Young brought a grungy feel and look to Solo which was great. A thing in Solo which completely caught me off guard but in a great way was the reveal that Maul was the mysterious leader of Crimson Dawn, the crime syndicate that Dryden Vos and Qi’ra were part of. We see Maul in a scene with Qi’ra who had assumed Dryden Vos’ position of power after he was killed by Qi’ra.
It was awesome to hear Sam Witwer voice the character as he had done before in the animated shows Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. The reveal of Maul made absolute sense to me given his roles in those shows and the fact that I knew he survived his duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Still, I am uncertain about how the casual fan would have reacted to this.
I imagine the inclusion of Maul in Solo, which is essentially his return to the Star Wars franchise for a lot of people, would have been confusing for them. One must realise that the casual Star Wars fans are the overwhelming majority of the audience who see these films. They are essential to the future of this franchise and these films must cater to them above everyone else.
Solo Has Flaws
But, at the end of the day, the reveal was shockingly awesome for me. However, as much as I have praised Solo, it has a number of minor flaws and the majority of these are in the first act of the film. Indeed, there were a couple of clunky edits in the first act which were a bit jarring. Additionally, Val (Thandie Newton) died in the first act and for an actress as talented as Thandie Newton this was a bit of a waste, especially as I was liking the character before she died. I also thought that the way Han got his last name of Solo could have been handled better.
Do not get me wrong, I have no problem with Han not having a last name. But, I wish he had chosen the name of Solo instead of getting it from an Imperial officer when he signed up for the Imperial Academy to escape Corellia. I also thought that some of the scenes with L3-37 in Solo were a bit cringy and it brought the character down for me. L3 was decent overall but she was a bit hit and miss. Some of her scenes were great and others were not.
My Final Thoughts On Solo
Nevertheless, while Solo has minor flaws, they did not lessen my overall love for this film. This is a great film. For me, Solo continues the superb run Lucasfilm is on with the quality of its Star Wars films. I put Solo just above The Force Awakens and around the same level as Rogue One. Those three great Star Wars films are quite close to each other in terms of quality with the amazing film that is The Last Jedi being far and away my favourite of the Star Wars films made under Kathleen Kennedy’s leadership of Lucasfilm.
Solo leaves me with a huge desire to see more stories with these characters, especially when it comes to Donald Glover’s Lando and also Qi’ra thanks to the Maul reveal. Whether it is in films, TV shows, books, video games and/or comic books, I want to see the continuation of what we saw in Solo. It was a film that really exceeded my expectations and I never wanted it to end because it was such an enjoyable watch from the first scene to the last.
Thank you for reading this review! You can find my other articles here on Soapbox as well as my reviews which you can also find at my blog theturnertalks.com.