Solo: A Star Wars Story
Ron Howard's Solo: A Star Wars Story is much better than it looks, providing audiences with a low-key heist film set among one of the many worlds of Star Wars. Alden Ehrenreich lacks the charisma and confidence of Harrison Ford, but doesn't weigh down the film completely. Solo might not be the most revolutionary film of the summer, but it's one of the better Star Wars films because it's not too worried about the grander scheme of things and instead settles for something compact, fun and adventurous.
Ron Howard‘s Solo: A Star Wars Story has been one of Lucasfilm’s most controversial films to date, with the casting of Alden Ehrenreich as the character once made popular by Harrison Ford and the removal of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller so late in the game. Surprisingly, the film doesn’t suffer as much as one might think and ends up being a low-key heist film that’s full of adventure set among one of the many worlds of Star Wars.
Solo: A Star Wars Story follows a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) from his early uprisings to his first big “job”. It gives us a taste of what his motives and drives were once upon a time and it mostly settles on navigating through his past with a focused lens.
We get to meet the (first?) love of Hans’ life, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) and the man responsible for giving him his first real opportunity as a smuggler and general smooth-talker. That man is Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and along with his team, Solo slowly starts to find his footing as he becomes the character we all know and love today.
As a Han Solo origins movie, Solo: A Star Wars Story works decently enough, thanks to the supporting cast and a script that spends just the right amount of time on each character. We get to see plenty of planets, space ships and mingling in darkly-lit bars to fulfill most people’s needs and wants to explore the other side of the Star Wars universe.
And that’s what makes Solo work as a film. It’s not worried about the other Episode films or retelling a massive plot point in the Star Wars history (Rogue One). Instead, it simply wants to show us Solo’s roots and how he became.
It does this with a low-key heist mentality that’s more worried about Beckett and Solo settling a debt than saving the galaxy and for that alone it feels refreshing and small, which allows for its unique characters to get comfortable and the film’s story to progress at a rate that entertains and never bores.
There are a few solid highlights of the film that are unfortunately paired with some major downfalls. For starters, the introduction of Chewie is wonderful. It establishes their relationship early on and always feels organic and right. Secondly, Donald Glover‘s Lando is perfectly cast in everyway, with Glover capturing the essence of the character in ways that I never knew were imaginable.
Lando is stylish, intriguing and slick in ways that Solo can only dream to be and it makes for the film’s most engaging character.
The film’s biggest downfalls are star Alden Ehrenreich and director Ron Howard‘s odd decision to shoot such an ugly-looking film. I give props to Ehrenreich for really trying to sink his teeth into the role and give us those same mannerisms that were once brought to life by Harrison Ford. Unfortunately, the guy just can’t be as cool or as cocky and charismatic as Ford. He was never going to capture the character to perfection and I guess that means we should probably learn to accept it and move on, but I still feel like he was an odd choice and a choice that feels like fitting a square block into a circular hole.
And what’s with all of the washed over grays and darkly-lit rooms? Was there a budget getting covered up or was Howard just not interested in capturing anything remotely good-looking on-screen? Solo: A Star Wars Story is the ugliest-looking Star Wars film to date and one of the least-impressive visual spectacles of this year.
The locations are fine and the camera moves with enough fluidity to capture the action and dialogue without confusion or frustration, but man does the film look like a beat-up piece of crap, visually.
I’m also glad to report that I didn’t really notice any jarring differences in style. Previous directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (21 Jump Street) had most of the film shot before Howard stepped in, reshot and retooled pretty much everything that they had assembled. I’ve heard wild rumors about how much of the film is his and how much of the film is theirs and I don’t really care to find out much more at this point, but I can say that the film felt like a coherent and complete piece of work.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is entertaining enough and not focused enough on the larger Star Wars universe to make it feel special. It’s a different kind of experience and one that I welcome with open arms as we soon start to see Disney churn out Star Wars films almost as fast as they can pump out a Marvel production.
If Lucasfilm is okay with telling these small and intimate stories, then I have no beef with them ramping up on the property and telling stories that actually give us more content without simply being filler. Solo: A Star Wars Story is both fun and familiar, capturing a known character in a film that explores new worlds and new characters, but doesn’t exactly brake the mold of Hollywood blockbuster. I’ll gladly take it over another Transformers and I hope Lucasfilm continues to give enough creative thought and money into projects like this.
I also hope that they stand behind their artists next time and worry less about artistic vision meddling with their Star Wars “mold” and more about telling a great story. Luckily for them, Solo turned out alright and I’m not sure how much of that belongs to Lord/Miller or Howard.