Since purchasing Lucasfilm in 2012, Disney has done a remarkable job of bringing Star Wars, as a whole, back into the popular culture with new films. The Force Awakens (2015), was a huge hit, and The Last Jedi (2017), while more divisive, was very successful, as well. However, it seems like the Star Wars “fever”, following a troubling production in which Ron Howard was brought in to replace Phil Lord and Chris Miller as director, has finally hit a curb stop as Solo: A Star Wars Story has literally flopped. This is a shame because while Solo isn’t some underseen masterpiece, it is a fun, good looking, well-cast, adventure film. It doesn’t aspire to be anything else, and it works as it is.
Solo is a film that lives and dies based off its casting, and I’m happy to report that I thought that Alden Ehrenreich more than exceeded my expectations as Han Solo. While he looks nothing like Harrison Ford, and at points it does feel like he’s overshadowed by some of the cast, he is very charming and rogue-like in the role, which is a defining characteristic of Han Solo. Han in this film is young and inexperienced, and Alden plays him just like that. The rest of the cast is almost equally as good. Donald Glover is fantastic as Lando, though you could accuse him of impersonating Billy Dee Williams. He still manages to make it is his own, and he’s incredibly charming, but, also very untrustworthy. Basketball player, Joonas Suotamo, plays Chewy again, and he’s hilarious in the role. Han and Chewy have some classic back and forth banter. Woody Harrelson is Solo’s mentor Beckett, and he’s a blast in the role, essentially playing himself, as usual. Paul Bettany makes for a very intimidating gangster though his screen time is limited. If there’s anyone in the cast I had any reservations about, it would be Emilia Clarke, as Solo’s love interest, Qi’ra. Not only did I not really buy the relationship, but at points I think she’s kind of off.
The production design is top-notch, and I really appreciate the mix of practicals and CGI. We’ve come a long way in that regard. There are plenty of creative alien designs in the film. The cinematography starts out very dull, perhaps to fit the environment, but once we get to Han’s main island location, things pick up noticeably, and it gets brighter and sharper, and better as a result.
The film has plenty of humor, as well, as you might expect, but it never feels like too much, or distracts from the main narrative. Instead, it’s natural, coming from the characters themselves, which is the kind of humor that I usually appreciate in these kinds of films. My favorite line was when Solo met Chewy, and Solo responded to Chewy’s typical “rraw!”, with “You’re gonna need a nickname, ‘cause I ain’t saying that every time”, done with perfect timing on the part of Ehrenreich.
John Powell’s score, with John Williams contributing a new theme for Han Solo, is also of note. Once you hear those opening notes, you know instantly what kind of film you’re in for. Powell’s score doesn’t let up. He really captures the spirit of old Williams’ Star Wars scores from the 70’s and 80’s. The way he plays with The Adventures of Han theme, is nothing short of excellent. The love theme, in particular, really stood-out. It’s a gorgeous tune that really gets your emotions going. Some of the writing reminded me of Powell’s more concentrated and mature writing on How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014).
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a solid entry in the Star Wars canon. Aside from way too many fanboy callbacks, for example, how Solo got his last name. There wasn’t too much for me to complain about on an entertainment level. It’s a shame it’s not doing better, but I quite enjoyed it. If you like Star Wars films, like I do, then I highly recommend you see it.
Monday through Thursday at 3:10, and 6:30 PM, Friday and Saturday at 12:10, 3:20, 6:30, and 9:40 PM, and Sunday at 12:10, 3:20, 6:30 PM, at Entertainment Cinemas.