Written by Rick Warren / gfn21
When Solo: A Star Wars Story was first announced, there was a general confusion as to why it was happening. It didn’t seem like a necessary story to tell, as it would be impossible for it to escape from being predictable. On release, that belief has proven true. Solo is fun and entertaining at times, but unbelievably predictable from beginning to end. While many of the actors are great in their roles, nearly every new character is killed off in ways that are anything but interesting. Due to this, Solo amounts to being nothing more than an okay film. If you aren’t a huge Star Wars fan, it’s fine to give this one a pass and catch it on Netflix down the road.
For a Spoiler-Filled Review, read on.
SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT!
Whatever you’re expecting to see in Solo, you’ll see; from Han’s first encounter with Chewbacca to the Kessel Run, every major event in the character’s early history is here. While far from surprising, these moments do deliver, particularly Han’s interactions with Lando. Solo: A Star Wars story doesn’t fail because of the classic material the film presents, but rather the new things that it adds to the lore being so easy to see coming.
All of the new additions have potential, but most of that potential is wasted immediately thanks to careless, predictable character deaths. Jon Favreau is great as the lovable pilot Rio Durant, but Rio is killed early into the movie so that he can make way for Han’s growth as a pilot. L3-37 is wildly entertaining as Lando’s droid, but she too is killed off for no reason other than that she wasn’t present in the original trilogy. Val, a member of the gang of smugglers Han joins, is also killed off just to make room for the titular hero’s relationship with Beckett. Introducing great new characters into the Star Wars universe and proceeding to kill them minutes later is ridiculous, and the fact that this occurs so consistently in Solo is a problem. The deaths don’t service the story like in Rogue One, and instead feel completely unnecessary.
New characters being killed before they can meet their potential isn’t Solo’s only problem, though, as new characters failing to be interesting is just as much of an issue. Qi’ra’s relationship with Han is fine enough, and her arc ultimately concludes with a great cameo that sets up the future. The issue with this is that, given the movie’s box office struggles, we may never see anything come from this setup. As for the film’s villain, Paul Bettany had little to work with and couldn’t save Dryden Vos from being a generic bad guy. From the character’s weapon desperately trying to resemble a lightsaber to the scars covering Dryden’s face, it feels like those behind the film had no idea how to make Dryden feel unique.
As for the man who is supposed to be a mentor for Han, Woody Harrelson’s Beckett is the prime example of the film’s foreseeable nature. While he’s well-acted, his betrayal is as uninteresting of a twist as there could be. The bond between Beckett and Han feels forced as well, as the movie quickly jumps from Beckett seeing potential in Han to seeing him as an equal and as a friend. He also barely reacts to the death of Val, which is odd since he clearly had a long and intimate relationship with her. If the movie tried to do a bit less and spent more time on Beckett as a character, he wouldn’t have been nearly disappointing. Instead, he’s one of the key reasons Solo doesn’t work as well as it should.
Pure Star Wars
While it has some profound flaws, when Solo focuses on the aspects of the franchise that work it’s a blast. The action is the typical Star Wars fare, with enemies missing 90% of their blaster shots and the heroes doing cool things. The practical effects meet the high standard set by the rest of the series, and a good portion of the humor lands. The movie undeniably has the Star Wars feel that many felt The Last Jedi was missing, but importantly, it gets its protagonist right.
Separating Harrison Ford from the role of Han Solo is never going to be possible, but Alden Ehrenreich does his best to make the character his own. Smaller things such as the character’s voice remain noticeably different, but Ehrenreich manages to capture many of the mannerisms that make Han who he is. By the time the movie reaches the second act, the comparison goes away. This Han Solo truly does feel like a younger version of the character Harrison Ford played so well.
Han genuinely shines throughout the film, particularly when he takes control. While completing the Kessel Run in 12 Parsecs is an obvious display of his skill as a pilot, it’s his interactions with Chewie and Lando (who is portrayed brilliantly by Donald Glover) where he truly shines. The first encounter with the former displays his courage, while the card games with the latter show just how clever Han Solo can be. Though his relationship with Beckett could have been fleshed out better, the way it ended was an amazing callback to Han Solo’s most iconic scene in the original films. His huge choice regarding Enfys Nest reestablishes his role as the thing he hates to be called, but knows he is: a hero.
Solo: A Star Wars Story succeeds at providing great, young versions of Han and Lando, but does little more than that. The film plays like a greatest hits album of Han’s big off-screen moments, with some good action and humor mixed in, but never does anything that makes it feel special or necessary. For general audiences (and even casual fans), this isn’t a movie that needs to be seen in theaters.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is an okay movie, but its predictability stops it from being anything more.
Han, Lando and Chewie are great +2
“Old” moments are still exciting +1
Solid humor, action and effects work +1
Some fun, likable new characters... +1
...that are killed off in predictable/unnecessary ways. -1
Dryden and Beckett fall flat -1
FINAL SCORE: 3/5