I grew up with Harrison Ford as my Han Solo. Harrison’s Han was a snarky smuggler with a quick trigger finger. His braggadocious swagger and charm save his life just as often as it gets him in trouble. I always wondered about Han’s life pre-Luke and joining the rebellion. Although the comics and books filled in the gaps pretty well, I always thought his story would make a great movie. So obviously, seeing Solo: A Star Wars Story in the next phase of the film franchise peaked my interest.
Writers Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) and son, Jonathan Kasdan (In the Land of Women), drew on the elder Kasdan’s cinematic knowledge of Han to mesh it with facts and story elements from the Han Solo Trilogy books in order create a script that a cross between Firefly episode and The Man with No Name.
Its wild west space opera vibe is a perfect backdrop for a young Han Solo.
Prepare to meet Han (Alden Ehrenreich) as he makes moves to escape Corellia, the planet of his youth, where long-term survival is questionable at best. After a deal goes bad, Han makes a break for it with his girlfriend Qi’ra. He gets out but Qi’ra doesn’t. As he flees, Han vows to return to Corellia to save his girl.
Broke and out of options, Han makes yet another rash decision that puts him face-to-face with the Empire. And thus begins his journey into the stars and starts him down a path towards the life of an outlaw.
One run-in with a wookie later, Han and his new partner, Chewbacca, team up with a crew led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) setting up for a big score.
Young Han Solo
Alden Ehrenreich’s Han is a charming scoundrel. He does a more than decent job pulling off the wit and street smarts integral to Han’s personality. Han is a reckless, unexpectedly intelligent, hopelessly optimistic and fearless in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. But, Ehrenreich occasionally comes across as too much youthful scamp than badass-in-the-making.
Overall his portrayal has all the necessary elements and plays well. I just wish some of his swagger felt less affected and more a natural part of his personality. But the shortcomings in the lead protagonist are well compensated for (mostly) by the performances of the rest of the cast.
Backroom Deals and All…
It probably doesn’t need to be said but, Solo is absolutely a heist film. It’s doubtful that any other type of story would’ve done justice to this cast or story.
There are side deals, double crosses, high jinx, and plenty of tragedy to be had. This story moves (although they could’ve cut the runtime down and you still told the story) and director Ron Howard pull the best out of this cast. It’s not the best heist film I’ve ever seen (not even set in space) but it’s a solid film, told well against sublime cinematography and set design.
This journeymen’s tale boasts all the necessary cast of characters to turn a pretty standard storyline into a dynamic, humor-riddled film geared to invest audiences in Han’s evolution and lay the breadcrumbs to the Rebellion.
There’s the wise yet world-weary smuggler Beckett (Woody Harrelson), his battle-hardened wary badass partner Val (Thandie Newton), the cape-a-licious and charismatic pilot Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and his suffrage-minded droid L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), the lethally unstable yet wily bad guy Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), and one damsel not-so-in distress Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke).
By the end, all the pieces in place for Han Solo are yet to come. There are a few places where the story is too thin for a big emotional payoff to make a huge impact (and there’s plenty of setting up for one) so this ultimately ends up as a solid heist film with plenty of bromance and high points to keep things lively.
Solo: A Star Wars Story lands a solid but mostly predictable addition to the franchise. If I’m being honest, it made me want a Lando Calrissian movie just that much more. Donald Glover out acts Ehrenreich at every turn.
I don’t do spoilers so I’ll just say: You may go for Chewie or Lando, his capes, and the Millennium Falcon, but if you don’t leave also talking about Val, L3-37, and Qi’ra’s end scenes then I don’t know what’s the hell’s wrong with you.