TL;DR – It is okay, the story is okay, the acting is okay, the effects, okay well they are more than just okay, but overall it is just okay
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Hmm, okay, well this is an interesting film, it had a dramatic change of directors and tone during production, and it is charting the course for one of the most iconic characters in film history. All of this leads to some pretty big expectations, but also a lot of hesitation because a large course change mid-way through rarely leads to a great end product. However, the same was also said of Rouge One (see review) and that turned out to be really good, by the end. Well, today let’s see if they can capture that magic again, and give justice to the character of Han Solo.
So to set the scene, we open on the shipbuilding planet of Corellia which is being used to rapidly increase the Imperial Empire’s military might across the galaxy. Among the ship skeletons and sensor pods, there is a trapped underclass stuck working for criminal syndicates in order to survive. Enter Han (Alden Ehrenreich) on a stolen landspeeder racing through the streets, a deal has gone wrong but there is a silver lining as he was able to swipe a container of hyperfuel coaxium a very rare and expensive element that is needed in ship production and is heavily regulated by the Empire which means there is a growing black market for it. Well, this one canister is enough to get him and his love Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) off this rock and into a new world away from Lady Proxima (Linda Hunt). Nothing goes to plan, and after another chase, only Han can escape by signing up to be an Imperial recruit and thus because he needs a full name gets the moniker, Han Solo. Unfortunately, life rarely goes well and the next we see him he is in a trench on a foreign planet fighting in an Imperial war of occupation. However, by luck, he stumbles across Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), his wife Val (Thandie Newton), and their pilot Rio Durant (Jon Favreau) and for the first time, things are starting to go his way … almost.
Okay, well I am going to feel a little lukewarm about Solo by the end, that shouldn’t take away from some of the truly amazing parts of it. The first thing I have to give full credit to is the effects team which was spearheaded by the amazing ILM. Solo is full of these visual wow moments like the visualisation of the Kessel Run, or the spectacular train heist sequence on Mimban. As well as this, we have two fully visual effects created characters in the film with Rio and L3 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) that are wonderfully integrated into the film in a way that you don’t feel like they are digital creations. To add to the effects, I really liked John Powell’s musical score for the film, which combined those classic Star Wars themes by John Williams but also made his own stamp on the film, with my favourite track probably being Marauders Arrive.
Also, while the visual effects and music were excellent I also think that the casting for the film was also spot on. Woody Harrelson immediately embodied this old guy who is on no one’s side but his own, who cares for people deeply but will drop them in a second if he needs to. The big bad is Paul Bettany playing Dryden Vos the head of the main criminal syndicate Crimson Dawn that we are working with in this film. I am more used to seeing Paul in more hero roles like in A Knight’s Tail and Avengers, but here he really sells the villain who will kill you in a moment if he wanted. After sharing the role of Chewbacca in The Force Awakens (see review) and The Last Jedi (see review) this is the first film where Joonas Suotamo is running solo. With his work with Peter Mayhew, you can tell he has really captured the all the little details of what it means to be that lovable fuzzball. Emilia Clarke is playing a character that is walking a very tight line between multiple competing forces, and she really excels in that space. Also, Thandie Newton is amazing in everything she does and here is no exception, add to this we have Donald Glover who of course nails Lando and Phoebe Waller-Bridge who continues the trend of Star Wars needed to have a sassy robot somewhere but with a much better take on it this time. Of course, this is a film about Han Solo so we do need to talk about Han Solo, and look Alden Ehrenreich does an okay job here, but does he really compare to peak-Harrison Ford, no, but then could anyone, also probably no.
Now at this point, we are going to delve into the film and talk about why I didn’t really engage with it as well as the other post-Disney acquisition Star Wars films. But to do that we will be touching on the end of the film so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead for those who have not seen the film. These anthology films are films beyond just being good films in their own right have the added burden of needing to justify why they are here. Rouge One did that with their third act battle sequence that showed a side of Star Wars that we have not seen. Walking out of the cinemas I honestly felt that we never got that justification for Solo, the film didn’t add anything to the Han Solo character, nor did it really add anything to the Star Wars universe. Part of this might come from the big course correction halfway through production. Now to be clear I do really enjoy the work of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, but unlike some of the other productions were this has happened like Fantastic Four (see review), they are their directing style was well known in the industry, so this feels like a failure on all sides during pre-production.
In many respects, it feels like this film exists mainly to plug up some holes in the canon. For example when in A New Hope Han mentions that the Millennium Falcon can do the Kessel Run in “less than twelve parsecs” which led to a generation of people sarcastically mentioning that a parsec is a unit of distance not speed. Or the giant debate over if ‘Han Shot First’ which at this point has become one of those really annoying fights that define fandoms. Add to this as the film moves into its final act you could really feel the drive to try and set it up for a sequel. This took a lot of the impact out of the ending because it felt like it was taking away from the current film to set up the next, also it kind of goes against the spirit of these anthology one-off films and feels like franchising for the sake of franchising.
In the end, do we recommend Solo? Well sort of. Look I did have fun, there were times when I smiled and laughed, there were some amazing set piece action sequences, stunning visual effects, and even a Tron style troop carrier. However, I just don’t feel that the film works as a whole, even if individual elements in it are really good.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Solo
Directed by – Ron Howard (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller)
Written by – Jonathan Kasdan & Lawrence Kasdan
Based on – Star Wars by George Lucas
Music by – John Powell & John Williams
Cinematography by – Bradford Young
Edited by – Pietro Scalia
Starring – Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Joonas Suotamo, Donald Glover, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Thandie Newton, Jon Favreau, Erin Kellyman & Paul Bettany with Ray Park, Sam Witwer, Linda Hunt, Anthony Daniels, Kiran Shah & Warwick Davis
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13