Taking a character that is beloved by so many and doing an origin film with a young actor in place of the long-beloved one is a huge risk…even for Disney. Add all the director controversy over Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) with firing Lord and Miller replacing them with Ron Howard, who is an established director that gets a lot of hate for some reason, and there was a lot going against the decision to make this the next stand-alone Star Wars film. It definitely didn’t help that it followed on of the most polarizing saga films, and only five months after Last Jedi split the fandom. For me, Solo works, and it does enough to make it a fun entry into the Star Wars films, despite some eye-rolling moments and overuse of clunky expositional dialogue.
Solo: A Star Wars Story has enough fan service to make the film enjoyable despite some of its weaknesses
Han (Alden Ehrenreich) plans to escape the criminal overlord who has enslaved him and his love, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), but only manages to save himself. Determined to return to his home planet and rescue her, he sets out to become a pilot, and earn enough money to buy his own ship. In the pursuit of this quest, he meets Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), and Beckett (Woody Harrelson), all looking to make one big score.
The reason this movie works is Han and Chewie. Their dynamic echoes back to the original trilogy, and the chemistry between the two of them saves this film. In fact, the moments with the duo are among the best in the Solo: A Star Wars Story, and some are so great that they completely overshadow some of the more questionable decisions made. Ehrenreich and Suotamo both had big shoes to fill – more literally for Suotamo – by taking on the mantle of two of the most beloved characters in cinema history. To me, Ehrenreich embodies much of the character that Harrison Ford crafted all those years ago while bringing something slightly different to it: hope. This Solo hasn’t become as cynical as the one we meet at the beginning of A New Hope. Though this film doesn’t execute it perfectly to establish the edge Solo will have in that first of many Star Wars films, it definitely sets him down a path where he could become that guy.
While Chewie and Solo’s relationship is my favorite part of the film, the other characters are also pretty great. New to the universe – Beckett, Qi’ra, and Lando’s droid co-pilot, L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) – are each great additions to the Star Wars Universe. They all get a little bit of development to make us come to appreciate who they are, but there is enough mystery left that could be explored in other films, comics, video games, or novels. Of course, that’s not to take away from the other returning character. Glover’s performance as Lando is excellent. The only part I didn’t like about it was not getting enough of him. That always seems to be the trend with this character throughout the films. He’s there just enough to make you love him and want more.
There are plenty of action set pieces and character interactions in the film to make it super enjoyable. However, there are a few moments that tarnish it slightly, and could make some people hate it. Early in the film, Han doesn’t have a surname, which had been alluded to in an interview early in the film creation. The moment comes early, and induced many groans of contempt from the packed IMAX theater I was in. The story points are simply serviceable to create the character moments and big action scenes, but are ultimately nothing new or super memorable. This bad guy wants this thing so you guys steal it or we’ll kill you, but don’t forget about that rival group of bad guys who also want that same MacGuffin who are also probably going to kill you. What makes this basic story worse is how we learn about the object they’re after and the people who want it through clunky dialogue moments that are more irritating than sand getting everywhere.
Despite that, Solo: A Star Wars Story delivered an excellent cinematic experience that had enough fan service to win me over. I enjoyed the cast and their take on three of my favorite characters, plus the new ones that intrigued me. My nerd senses were in overdrive for a few moments in the film, and I couldn’t contain my sheer joy at a few moments which foreshadow events from the previous adventures with Solo we’d already been privy to. Solo earns the Must See rating from this satisfied, possibly too easily, fan.