No matter how entertaining something might be, you’ve only got so many times you can legitimately go to the well.
While I can’t honestly say that Solo: A Star Wars Story is a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination as it makes for a safe little sci-fi romp through space but it ultimately suffers under the weight of its franchise and plays out a little too softly at times considering the scoundrels that we are dealing with.
Before he was cinema’s most notorious scoundrel, Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is just trying to get out from under and start a new life for himself with his best girl Qi’ra (Emila Clarke). However things don’t go as planned, they get separated and Han embarks off on an adventure that starts with him joining the Imperial Army, then subsequently befriending Chewbacca, hooking up with notorious smuggler Beckett (Woody Harrelson) which lands him in partnership with the suave Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and to the place that’s he’s always belonged; in command of the Millenium Falcon.
Had this not been saddled with the ‘Star Wars’ moniker this movie probably could have been good for an extra half star with critics across the spectrum, but given the initial drama around the production with Phil Lord and Chris Miller being replaced by Ron Howard in the director’s chair at least gave it all a sense of genuine stability to the proceedings. It’s fun, but also pretty safe and doesn’t push any kind of storytelling limits like Rogue One did.
Howard is a steady Hollywood hand and knows how to craft big action set pieces as well as move a narrative along. While the script from Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan that forces us to slog through a painful opening we get the rhythms of the characters and the story that is trying to be told down.
The timeline in which this story happens is a little vague (and there’s a cameo at the end which will make it even more confusing) but that’s OK because this really is more about the journey then it is the destination. Howard gives the film some genuine flow that feels like it was breaking away from the more comedic styling’s that you get the feeling Miller and Lord were trying to shoehorn into a narrative that quite frankly is already being shoehorned into another narrative. It doesn’t always succeed but it gets enough right along the way to make sure like we don’t feel like we are wasting our collective time either as we get the call back moments we need along with some fresh storytelling beats.
As our new star, Alden Ehrenreich pulls off Han Solo with relative ease and genuine skill as he’s being smart enough to not to try and mimic Harrison Ford flat out but rather ease in some small nuances from the man who played this iconic character before him. The movie is filled with characters and so frenetic at times that he thankfully isn’t required to carry the load of the narrative or the action but he’s good enough that you really can’t wait to see him actually get the chance to carry an entire film. Emilia Clarke plays opposite the Solo character quite well and gives him a sense of depth since we already know that he’s isn’t JUST always about the money, while Woody Harrelson & Paul Bettany provided some flavour along the way.
That being said the genuine star of this show is Donald Glover as Lando. He exudes the cool of Billy Dee Williams while playing it all up with the kind of sexuality that is borderline comedic as his swagger is dripping all over the floor. Glover commands the screen and makes every line he delivers a moment. We’re getting so many spin off movies from the Star Wars Universe these days that quite frankly I hope we get a film about the continuing adventures of Lando Calrissian with Glover in the driver’s seat.
At the end of the day, there’s really nothing wrong with Solo: A Star Wars Story except for the fact that there’s actually nothing wrong with it and while it doesn’t hit the high bar of pedigree that most people wanted of it…it’s still better then the Lucas prequels.