Solo: A Star Wars Story - Review

A mere six months after Star Wars: The Last Jedi came out, we have another adventure from the galaxy far, far, away. This time an adventure focusing on a young(er) Han Solo. There will be minor spoilers throughout if you have not seen it yet.

Going in, my first thought was having another prequel was probably not a good idea. Especially from the trailer where they show Chewbacca in danger. I know Chewbacca survives. You know Chewbacca survives. So where are the stakes?

Well, sometimes the stakes lay elsewhere. I mean, you watch a biopic, like Lincoln and you still enjoy it, even though you know what the outcome is going to be. Solo still has a huge set of stakes - but more importantly, it is just pure fun

Solo is probably the most fun adventure movie that has been released this year. It is the least important and least serious Star Wars movie, and that is a good thing. The spinoffs can take a few more risks and play with the tone a lot more than the Saga films.

What makes Solo work is the cast. Alden Ehrenreich had inconceivably huge shoes to fill. He pulled it off with surprising confidence. Walking out, I knew that Ehrenreich was Han Solo!

Chewbacca is Chewbacca is Chewbacca. But it was nice to see him get some depth and character development sorely missing from the other movies he was in. The film does a really convincing job of showing the budding friendship of him and Han, and it enhances their bond in future films. Joonas Suotamo does a great job in the role, and Chewbacca (hopefully) has a long future in the franchise now.

The word "perfection" gets tossed around a bit too much, but it is well deserved in this case - Donald Glover's take on Lando Calrissian is flawless perfection. There were times during the movie in fact, that Glover had the cadence and voice down so well, that it felt like Billy Dee Williams actually dubbed some of the lines for Glover. (He didn't). Glover is the breakout star, and the future of the "Star Wars Stories" should definitely involve him.

The rest of the supporting cast does well too. Woody Harrelson plays Beckett - someone that Han Solo could have easily become. Emilia Clarke is the person who knew Han the longest. The romantic part doesn't really work since we know the future of Han's romantic journey. But the journey that Q'ira goes on ends in a very intriguing place, and that would make for a great movie or mini-series in the future. If the sole purpose of Solo was to launch other movies for other characters, then its place in the lexicon of Star Wars will be more important than we realize now.

One character that didn't get much to do was Thandie Newton. It is an absolute sin to squander a talent like that. Letting Thandie play Q'ira or the villain role of Dryden Vos would have enhanced the film by a large margin. Nothing against Paul Bettany, who does a fine job as Vos, but the utter waste of a talent like Newton is a shame.

Phoebe Waller Bridge plays Lando's droid, L3-37, and she is the next in a long line of awesome new Disney droids with BB-8 and K-2SO. She is responsible for one of the most emotional scenes in the movie, and has a way larger impact to the Saga as a whole than most people expect.

As for the plot itself, its predictable enough, but has a few surprises thrown in. Its like doing a road trip you do all the time, but a slew of new stores and landmarks pop up. Familiar, but surprising at the same time.

Director Ron Howard does a fine job. He is a tried and true expert at the craft, and you can tell that Solo was professionally shot. What brings it above and beyond a standard fare into truly extraordinary is the cinematography of Bradford Young. The Kessel Run is one of the most beautiful sequences in the movie, and because of that, one of the most memorable. The visuals are truly top notch here, and gives Solo a distinct look that separates it from the other films. The magic though, is that it still feels like a Star Wars film. Like the plot - familiar with surprises, the cinematography does the same. It is unique, yet stays in the parameters of what a Star Wars film feels like.

I do not usually throw the term "popcorn movie" out there. I feel like it is an insult to the film itself. But I also understand the positive way people mean when they use it, and in that sense, Solo can be considered that. Its a fun adventure. It feels like watching Raiders of the Lost Ark or any of the 80's Spielberg adventure movies. There are actually quite a few Indiana Jones Easter eggs in the film, but my favorite one was a great Back To The Future reference.

Overall, there is a lot to mine out of this fun adventure. It has pretty great rewatch capabilities because of its tone. It is not one that you have to "be in the mood" to watch. Solo is a wonderful way to be entertained for two hours, and it when you boil movies down to simplistics - that is one of the most important things.

Between now and Episode IX will be the longest gap we've had between Star Wars movies since The Force Awakens has come out. So make the most of it.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is in theaters everywhere now.


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