I’m going to start this review by saying I am not that versed in the Star Wars Universe enough to know people and details so bear with me and I’ll tell you how I felt about the movie. Solo is a stand alone in the nature of Rogue One. The events of this film happen way before A New Hope and have some ties to the “core” plot of the Saga, Episodes One through Eight. At it’s heart, Solo is a crime caper which just happens to occur in outer space. A young Han schemes and fights his way to his home world, described as “The Sewer of The Galaxy”, and becomes embroiled in a series of jobs each almost seemingly doomed to failure. Along his travels, he joins and is removed from the Imperial Navy, befriends Chewbacca, a wookie who will stay at his side almost to the end, and learns some very harsh lessons about loyalty, trust, and honor.
I’ll be honest. I could sit here a spew the plot from beginning to end. You’ll see variations of it strewn across the Internet like a rash. Instead, I’m going to tell you why I liked this movie. It was fun. Fun in that old fashioned wall to wall kinda way movies used to be for me. If I had never even heard of Star Wars, I still would have enjoyed Solo because it was straight up science fiction done right. It doesn’t hit you over the head with incomprehensible techno-babble nor does it get preachy about dystonia or the decay of morality because of the advancement of technological progress. It’s just a visually pleasing story about a guy who wants something better out of life so he works hard and eventually achieves a kind of freedom, which he often jeopardizes if only for the thrill of it or to satisfy some higher goal. He is very much a scoundrel and we love him for it. The scoundrel is an interesting idea. A “hero” who comes off as a self-absorbed ass but has a heart of gold. He wants to do good but also values his own personal freedom. An often contradicting quality that puts the scoundrel in and out of danger. He’s gruff and standoffish but will stand by you, especially if the price is right, through the hard times. He’s brash, impulsive, quick-witted, and a bit of a daredevil. A true Bon Vivant.
Woody Harrelson plays Tobias, a mentor type to young Han. I was really impressed at how naturally he blended into the world around him. Normally actors push through the babble or pass on cultural traits without really conveying a sense of place or trying to be convincing. He, however, seemed at home with the dialogue and mannerisms of someone living in that world. I believed he belonged there. I’d dare say an almost Oscar level performance. Almost. He does have some tendencies to flash his “Woody” and it takes the audience out of the moment. The actor playing young Solo seemed a tad distracted through most of the film. It was as if he was there but not present in the moment. I’m sure I’ll get called out for a lot of this, but such is life. Young Lando was every inch an arrogant prick. I never liked him in Empire and I still really don’t care about the character. I will concede that if we ever get a Lando movie, it MUST have his co-pilot droid, L3, in it. She was a blast. A very liberated (and liberating) entity who we didn’t get enough of. Her “relationship” with Lando would make an excellent story. Before I take on too much shit over this let me say I would be quite happy to reverse my opinion if I had more to work with. Lando is a slick hustler who, to me, is terribly two-dimensional. I really couldn’t care about him enough to form a connection. I’m more than certain there exists canon supported fiction wherein he gets some further development. (Instead of tearing me a new one, maybe drop a line to the website with some suggestions and I’ll look them up.)
All in all, I had a good time and that’s what matters. Nothing is perfect but this movie runs really smoothly and is very easy to follow. From the hardcore Star Warriors to the every man, there’s something to enjoy. It’s a thrill ride with a bit of a character driven story excellently shot and the scenes move very fluidly. One major complaint I could launch, especially about the “first trilogy” (aka Episodes One through Three) is how fake they look. Way too much computer generated background. Way too much attention to detail. And scenes that serve NO PURPOSE except to add background which could have easily been related through the scroll or conversational exposition. (The senate scene is one of the many reasons I just can’t get all the way through Episode One.) Solo, like Rogue One before it, had a nice subdued look to it. The background and foreground blend nicely. The space scenes were clean and you had an understanding of what was happening without any stark contrast of overly elaborate “Hey look! It’s Outer Space!” camera tricks. (Empire made me seasick.) A welcome addition to the Star Wars collection.
Han Solo, in Episode Four of the Star Wars saga, was introduced as a devil may care, always look out for his own, shoot first ask questions later type of smuggler. He was easily the favorite character of millions of young children, and the one who has the most noticeable character arch within the original movie. We saw him fight against the Empire, sacrifice himself for his friends, and save the galaxy for a second time. Sadly however, we had to say goodbye to our space jockey in Episode Seven, and we have not seen him for nearly three years. Now he has his own stand alone flick with SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY. I see this movie is fun at times, but ultimately forgettable to me.
This is the reason for which this article will probably end up short is because what was portrayed in this film was already talked about, or touched upon in the original trilogy: the Kessel Run, how Han won the Falcon from Lando, etc. There were also details that I really didn’t care to know about like how Han got his iconic blaster, or how the Falcon got rid of the front piece to show the look of the memorable ship. Other details just made me scratch my head, like Han receiving his last name from an Imperial Recruiter… what!?!? Why did we NEED to know how he got his last name; why can it not just be Han Solo from the start? Those things I really could look past, but I feel like Han at the end of this movie is not at the same character at the beginning of A NEW HOPE.
Han is a good guy at the end of SOLO, and that doesn’t work with his arch in Episode Four. He is an anti-hero who slowly progresses from man that takes the money and runs to a guy that would stick by you in your hour of need. Han repeats this character arch at the end of his stand alone film, dulling the character arch in the original movie. Han chooses the small group in need over his own guaranteed payday, while he is betrayed by the woman he loves; I do not get a real sense of him becoming a rogue with a chip on his shoulder masked by a charming wit. Solo does confirm my fear that I have with the Disney films, treading on familiar territory.
While I know that the Expanded Universe books and games are now non-canon, they did “expand” the universe of Star Wars that gave this galaxy far, far away a rich history spanning millennia, and more importantly, focused on more than just same five characters in this world. Disney at this point, if we don’t have Rey and Finn, are revisiting old ground because they will not risk creating new characters. Yes, Rogue One has a new cast of totally unseen characters, however very few of them are memorable, and I liked Rogue One. It seems that the Galaxy is rotating around the Skywalker-Solo lineage, but that is probably what disappoints me of the new Star Wars sequels. I know that the universe of Star Wars is diverse, captivating, and exciting, however, I know more than the average Star Wars fan and I cannot blame those folks that do not care to venture beyond the movies to see it.
On a personal note however, with me being a big Star Wars fan, I think I might be over saturated with Star Wars content. A Star Wars film every year and a new TV series coming out next year, with the last just having wrapped up; I do not think that system really benefits the franchise in long run or right now for that matter. With Solo, I think I may be reaching that point of saying enough is enough. While I am interested in seeing the end of this new trilogy, I feel that Disney needs to slow it down just a little bit. I want these films to rekindle my love for this setting, and this universe that I fell in love with when I was six years old.