Review - Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), PG-13, 2h 15min - Of all of the Star Wars films to date (of which this is the tenth overall, and second anthology entry), this was easily the one that I was the least excited about (yes, that includes the prequel trilogy when they first hit theaters). I liked the premise: a Han Solo origin story, but the film encountered a number of obstacles during production (including a director change) and I wasn't terribly thrilled with the casting of Alden Ehrenreich as the younger version of the iconic character (I didn't feel like he could carry a film based on what little I had seen of him previously). On the other hand, I felt like Donald Glover was born to play a young Lando Calrissian, and after seeing the likes of Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, and Paul Bettany in the trailer I was cautiously optimistic. But even then I just didn't have the excitement and urgency that I usually do leading up to a new Star Wars film. That's the long way of getting to this point: Solo: A Star Wars Story is the Star Wars film that I didn't know that I wanted (and want more of). Is it the best in the franchise? No, I'm not delusional. But it was a fun film that was much more entertaining than I expected.

The film gives us Han's back story, long before he crosses paths with Luke and Leia and the Rebellion. We see his evolution from petty thief to outlaw smuggler and the genesis of relationships that inform the man that we know he becomes - some with familiar faces like Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando - and others with a number of intriguing characters that we're being introduced to as well: Qi'ra (Clarke), Beckett (Harrelson), Val (Thandie Newton), Dryden Vos (Bettany), Enfys Nest (Erin Kellyman), and the outspoken android L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge).

To his credit Alden Ehrenreich grows into the role as the film progresses, and by the end I wasn't just on board with his portrayal of a young Han, but I wanted to see more. A part of that is due to a character cameo that I certainly was not expecting, but the majority of it is a result of the third act when we really see Han begin to morph into the overly confident, sketchy, calculating legend we love from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

I admittedly haven't read any of the extended universe material (which I know technically isn't cannon any longer after Disney acquired the Star Wars franchise), so I don't know if this sort of story had been touched on in another medium previously or not. I felt as though it worked well here. The fact that despite all of the production obstacles, that this was the film that resulted leaves me hopeful that a potential sequel could attain the excitement levels that the other Star Wars films have brought to the table. It successfully sets up two of the most important relationships in the Star Wars mythos as well as opening possibilities for future anthology films in a way that Rogue One did not (which wasn't really necessary as it led directed into the original trilogy the way it did).

If you're a Star Wars fan, you're likely to find something you like in Solo.  As I mentioned earlier, it isn't the cream of the crop, but it certainly isn't a dumpster fire either.  It is a fun, entertaining film that provides a little insight as to why one of the most loved characters in the franchise is the way he is. 












*****SPOILERS*****

- The cameo I mentioned in the main review above is the appearance of Maul (role reprised by Ray Park, but voiced by Sam Witwer) towards the end of the film when Qi'ra relays the news that Dryden Vos has died.

- I'm not an expert on some of the continuity, but this appears to take place sometime after the events of Phantom Menace.  I have been told by multiple friends that Maul's story continued in the animated Rebels series that took place after Menace.  I'm guessing that this appearance may lead towards that or similar events (if Rebels is not considered cannon - I can't keep track of what is and isn't Post-Disney's acquisition of the franchise).

- This film was originally going to be directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller before they left the film due to 'creative differences' with Lucasfilm. Ron Howard ended up taking the reigns.

- Warwick Davis, who has played a number of characters in Star Wars films over the years (most notably the Ewok Wicket in Return of the Jedi), played Enfys Nest's minion Weazel.

- I really enjoyed how the scene in which Han first encounters Chewbacca was very similar to Luke's being dropped into the Rancor pit in Return of the Jedi.

- I also really enjoyed the rapport between Ehrenreich and Glover and the card scene in which the Falcon trades hands.

- Jon Favreau provided the voice for Beckett's associate Rio Durant.

- There appeared to be a set of Mandalorian armor in the background of the meeting room of Dryden Vos' ship.

- Speaking of bounty hunter armor, the armor that Beckett wears on the mining planet is the same armor that Lando wears in Return of the Jedi.

- Mild rant: I really wish fandom wouldn't flip out when early production pictures hit the web. People got all bent out of shape when images of the Millennium Falcon were released and the design wasn't the one we all know and love. By the end of the film, it ends up that way. People just need to calm down and let the story play out before loosing it.

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