“A Welcome Anthology” – ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ REVIEW

In Solo: A Star Wars Story, we see the return of Han Solo to the big screen. Portrayed by Alden Ehrenreich, the film depicts a young man discovering his place in the galaxy. With a strong ensemble of actors including, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Paul Bettany, Emilia Clarke, and many more, this new take on the iconic smuggler proves to be an entertaining, although occasionally flawed, addition to the Star Wars franchise.

This review is free of spoilers. 

Well into production, the Han Solo film lost its directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, best-known for their work in the Jump Street and LEGO Movie franchises. When they were fired from the project, many were unsure what that would mean for the future of the film. Not long after, Ron Howard took the mantle in hopes of creating a more cohesive, serious narrative and did a great job of reaching for this goal and maintaining order. It was very well directed, and also had a stellar script. Although a few one liners felt unnecessary, Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan penned an overall-charming screenplay. Behind the camera, production for Solo was carried out quite well. 

This film explores the journey of a boy, raised in a broken system, who longs for his destiny. While Han Solo wishes to fly among the stars, a dream currently unreachable for humans, the message is timeless and relevant: everyone dreams of doing something big with their lives. The oppressive empire Solo is ruled by, which enslaves, abuses, and tortures its civilians, represents the social limits all humans feel. Han Solo’s journey to becoming the galaxy’s greatest pilot is an empowering tale. Viewers are treated to display after display of Solo’s extreme talent and brilliance as he strives to prove the status quo wrong. And save his own life. 

As the theme of luck comes up several times throughout Solo, an underlying message is uncovered. Luck is a choice, whether we believe in it or not. Some people, like Lando Calrissian, make their own luck. Some people, like Beckett, Han Solo’s mentor figure, choose not to believe in luck. Others, such as Solo’s love interest Kira, choose to believe. No matter how extraordinary, whether or not to believe in luck itself is a choice, and it’s intriguing to see how luck—and these characters—shape Solo’s destiny. 

One of the more unexpectedly refreshing elements of Solo was the exploration of Han Solo’s origins. This solo vehicle offers audiences a better, more personal understanding of his complex, occasionally irritating personality. The film has received a great deal of backlash from fans ever since its announcement, who felt it a disgrace to Harrison Ford’s legacy to recast him. Though concerns about Ehrenreich’s ability to play a “good” Han Solo grew throughout production, one of Solo’s greatest triumphs is this casting choice. He inhabits the role so organically, it feels as if are watching Han Solo, not Ehrenreich portraying Han Solo. He captures the essence, charisma, and rugged personality fans adore, while also exploring the adolescent side of this iconic character. 

The supporting cast for Solo is phenomenal. Donald Glover, who plays Lando Calrissian, is a scene stealer. He perfectly captures the character Billy Dee Williams established long ago, embodying all the confidence and swagger that is expected in a wealthy, young smuggler. The relationship between Han and Lando has seemed complicated since The Empire Strikes Back, and Solo offers welcome backstory. 

Additionally, Woody Harrelson displays his usual excellence as Han Solo’s mentor figure, and Paul Bettany was born to be a Star Wars villain; his soothing-yet-ominous voice and intimidating stature are perfection. Although some more scenes with Bettany’s character would have been great, the narrative works well as is. Emilia Clarke does a fine job in her role, although her character is hard to connect with. Solo also introduces another new excessively vocal droid, which is both unnecessary and somewhat obnoxious. Although this female robot helps develop the story, the comedic relief she brings is not needed. The film also pairs together the titular character with his co-pilot, Chewbacca. The Wookiee completes this film’s overall-solid roster of characters. 

In the realm of storytelling, Solo makes a pretty strong effort, but remains predictable. Considering there are several major plot points that are referenced in other films, the outcome of of the main story and several subplots are all predestined. Overall, the story is entertaining; just don’t expect any major revelations or twists. Besides one. The narrative also drags on at some points, creating several empty moments. Unfortunately, this effects the overall experience more negatively than any other component. That said, Solo stays true to the tone and aesthetic of traditional Star Wars films, and one scene in particular will please fans universally. 

Finally, some smaller negative aspects. The visual effects in Solo can be pretty poor, especially when used on a character or Storm Trooper. However, the film presents otherworldly landscapes, space monsters, natural phenomenons, enormous space ships, and explosions, which are all beautifully developed. For whatever reason, the Star Wars franchise seems to never get its CGI characters quite right. The score in Solo breaks tradition from other Star Wars films in that it is both unmemorable and does not strive to incorporate any of the familiar, now-iconic themes. 

Despite a few negatives, in all, Solo: A Star Wars Story is an entertaining, satisfying film. With a strong ensemble of characters, a fun plot, and plenty of little surprises, Solo: A Star Wars Story pays homage to the original saga and is a welcome addition to the Star Wars universe. 

CineMajors Score: 7/10

Solo: A Star Wars Story opens Friday, May 25th, 2018.  

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