Solo – A Star Wars Story Review

Solo

After several failed attempts to go see it at the cinema, I was resigned to the fact I’d have to watch Solo for the first time on blu-ray in September, but as luck would have it my local theatre did a special screening of the film! My streak of watching all the Star Wars films (made after I was born…) on the big screen continues! ANYWAY, so how was Solo? It was fun and exciting, and had a really good cast. I didn’t need to see so many boxes ticked off, but I’m not unhappy the film exists. So let’s take a deeper look…

Official Synopsis:

Young Han Solo finds adventure when he joins a gang of galactic smugglers, including a 196-year-old Wookie named Chewbacca. Indebted to the gangster Dryden Vos, the crew devises a daring plan to travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal a batch of valuable coaxium. In need of a fast ship, Solo meets Lando Calrissian, the suave owner of the perfect vessel for the dangerous mission — the Millennium Falcon.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Solo 4

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) – Han is a nobody from Corellia who wishes to become a pilot and see the galaxy, preferably alongside his love interest Qi’ra. Sadly for him, this dream only becomes half true, and even that half has some drawbacks…

Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) – Qi’ra is also a slave to the Corellian underworld, and wishes to see the rest of the galaxy alongside Han. The path they end up taking is vastly different, however…

Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) – Chewbacca is a Wookie who wants nothing more than to see his people freed from the grasp of the Empire, but has ended up in captivity himself…

Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) – Tobias is the leader of a smuggling ring who is currently taking contracts with Dryden Voss and the Crimson Dawn crime league. On the verge of a big score, he’s sure this will finally be “the one” that will lead to an easier life…

Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) – Lando was a top smuggler alongside his… odd droid L3-37. He recently retired to the world of gambling, cheating his way into the possession of much wealth, including a rather fast ship…

Dryden Voss (Paul Bettany) – Dryden Voss is a top crime lord in the Crimson Dawn syndicate, and one who does not like failure. If you do cross him, you’ll be very lucky to get a second chance…

Val and Rio Durant (Thandie Newton and Jon Favreau) – Val and Rio are the other members of Tobias Beckett’s smuggling gang. Val is romantically involved with Beckett, where as the multi-armed Rio… isn’t. They’re both handy crew mates to have around, though!

Enfys Nest and the Cloud Riders (Erin Kellyman and others) – Enfys Nest lost her family to the Crimson Dawn, and wishes to put a stop them and free the galaxy from the Empire while she’s at it. To do so she has formed a gang of her own to strike at key points and to build a fortune…

Plus more!

The Good:

Solo 1

Lando and the old assortment of weird aliens, two Star Wars classics in one shot!

There is a lot to like about Solo, including Solo himself! Ehrenreich does a good job as a younger version of the lovable rogue, just enough Harrison Ford mannerisms and passing resemblance to believe it, but also a lot of his own spin on the character to make it seem less like someone just doing an impression. Rather than see how Han Solo becomes the Han Solo of Episode IV, we see how a young, idealistic Han Solo turns into a more realist rogue alongside his new buddy Chewbacca. The following ten years are what turns him into the proper cynical jerk we see in the cantina, but that’s another story… or probably not now, due to Solo’s box office!

Some of the other cast kind of out-shone him, though. Donald Glover as Lando was great, possibly a better Lando Calrissian than the original, which doesn’t really make sense, but you know what I mean. It almost retroactively casts the original Lando as someone who still thinks he’s a young cool kid but he clearly isn’t any more. His funny droid (because every Star Wars film needs one, apparently!) was at least funny this time round, a strange “female rights” activist but for droid rights instead, all played up for laughs. Given how some of the more toxic SW fanbase members have reacted to “SJW” stuff, L3-37 almost rifting on people like that seemed like an intentional response to it, even though it was written and filmed before the frankly embarrassing vocal minority backlash The Last Jedi got…

Chewbacca is well fleshed out here. He’s not just a comically hairy sidekick, he’s a slave Han helped free who wants to in turn free the rest of his people, but ends up sticking with his liberator out of friendship. It’s a nicer story than the old expanded lore (or the “Legends canon”) that stated Chewbacca’s life was saved by Han so he had to follow him until Solo’s death due to owing a “life debt” (even if it was clearly implied they become close friends anyway, I’m not saying it was only because of the debt!). Throughout the film you get a genuine feeling of a friendship forming. Their first meeting, with Han thrown down a pit to be killed by the monster that turns out to be Chewie, is fun as well. Seeing Han nearly flat out mauled to death by his future friend was an unexpected treat.

Then we get to Woody Harrelson’s Beckett, who is the perfect mentor to Han, showing him the harsh ways of living in the wider galaxy, while being just that little bit more of an arse than Han would end up being. In fact you could see him as Han’s future had he not met Luke and Leia ten years down the line. I liked the idea of introducing Beckett’s crew, only for them to be killed mid-way through the film. It meant we got the old “assemble an odd ball team for a crazy heist” plotline, but also got an exciting heist attempt in the middle of the film as well.

I’ll tip my hat now, actually, on the film’s big moments. Han and Qi’ra’s near escape from Corellia at the start of the film, the train heist attempt with Beckett, Han and co. trying to steal a freight cart from a hyper-train mid-travel, the infamous Kessel run (which was apparently through cloudy space featuring gravity wells and giant creatures, as it turned out!), and the final showdown, were all exciting to watch up on the big screen. Han killing Beckett (who had betrayed him, sort of twice in rapid succession) but shooting first, as he has been taught, was not only a “ho-ho, do you get it?” reference to the infamous “Han shot first” scene from Episode IV, but it made sense and I loved that Beckett praised him for it before dying.

Want a cool set of characters without much effort? Stick some Mandalorian armour on them, give one of them a melee weapon and there you go! Seriously, I really enjoyed Enfys Nest and her Cloud Riders, and the fact it ends up being an early rebel cell is all the more interesting.

I’ll quickly mention Maul here, who appears via a hologram after Qi’ra kills Dryden. I liked it in one way (as someone who followed both the Clone Wars and Rebels cartoons I liked the tying in of related works) but it seemed in there for the hell of it, and leaves a hole that needs to be filled that now probably won’t, at least not on screen anyway.

The Bad:

Solo 3

These opening moments are about the only time Qi’ra is interesting.

Qi’ra, for having such a big role, ended up being quite flat. There are hints of an interesting background, horrible things she had to do to get out of the slums and into the arms of Dryden that might make the character multi-layered and worth investing in, but they weren’t revealed, and so by the end of the film I was still waiting for the ball to drop and for me to suddenly care about her, but it never happened. Once again things are set up for a sequel that will probably never happen, so I guess I’ll wait for the comic that fills everything in…

When the film was announced I thought to myself “it could be good, so long as it wasn’t just list checking all the things we know about Han’s past”, and although it was good, it’s still very guilty of that. After the three year skip towards the start of the film we see Han meet Chewbacca, get his trademark gun, meet Lando, do the Kessel run in under 12 parsecs, learn to shoot first, win the Millenium Falcon off of Lando and head to Tatooine to do a job for Jabba the Hutt to one day end up in debt to him. It’s funny how everything we knew about Han’s past happened in a matter of weeks…

We also find out how he got the name “Solo”, which to be honest felt really tacked on and unnecessary. He only has the name Han, so when he applies to be an Imperial pilot and is asked what his family name is, he says he doesn’t have one, leading to the Imperial officer to sarcastically put his name down as “Han Solo”. It could have just been his name, you know…

Overall Thoughts:

Solo 2

That’s just cheating, putting together a cool looking suite of armour like that…

Overall then, Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fun thrill-ride of a watch, with a great cast playing fun characters. It has some flaws, and certainly “didn’t need to be made” as it didn’t really add anything we didn’t already know about Han’s past, but I have no problem with it sitting on my blu-ray shelf in between Episode III and Rogue One. Harmless, fun, and certainly deserved more attention and box office gross than it ended up getting.

4 Star Watch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s