MOVIE: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY
STARRING: ALDEN EHRENREICH; WOODY HARRELSON; EMILIA CLARKE; DONALD GLOVER; PAUL BETTANY
DIRECTED BY: RON HOWARD
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
For all of these Star Wars films we're getting, it is the prequels that continue to stretch the limits of our love for the George Lucas universe. Rogue One felt slightly fresh, introducing us to a new collection of characters and Episodes I, II, and III left me asking if they were even necessary? Prior to its release, Solo: A Star Wars Story was hit with a blaster shot from producer Kathaleen Kennedy, who made the shocking decision to fire directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller midway through production. Typically, that's not a good sign, but in enters Ron Howard, with a script from Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan, telling the origin story of the gun slinging scoundrel. This new installment casts newcomer Alden Ehrenreich of Hail, Cesar! Fame as the snarky Solo. It is a role he could never truly succeed at. How could he? Harrison Ford made it his own, but Ehrenreich does leave his own mark. Ranging from spectacular to the painfully awkward, Solo: A Star Wars Story may be rocky at first, but when it finds a groove it's an adventurous heist film, worthy of the character it represents. Give this Han Solo kid some time to warm up, I think you're going to like him.
Early on, Han's stealing speeders on the junk planet Correlia, alongside girlfriend Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke), with hopes to get out from under the thumb of a worm leader named Lady Proxima. Those dreams are dashed when the two are separated at a security post, forcing Han to join the Imperial Navy as his only means to escape the planet. His goal is to get back to Qi'ra, but our heroes path is a winding one, which leads to the introduction of a friendly Wookie named Chewbacca (by far one of the coolest moments in a Star Wars movie), followed by the two teaming up with a group of smugglers- Val (Thandie Newton) and Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) taking any job to make enough money to get their own ship.
The opening sequences of Solo are visually ugly, which is one of the weaker parts of the films experience, but early missteps begin to fade, with a collection of well-paced, high-action set pieces. This is where Ron Howard's history of action films, such as Willow or In the Heart of the Sea comes into play, especially during a kick-ass train heist, which reminded me of action films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark or Skyfall. And then theirs Donald Glover's Lando Calrissian and his droid sidekick L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) who walk off with the movie. Every moment of witty charm comes from the smooth talking card shark, who makes an argument for getting his own Star Wars Story installment one day. He's the real star of it all.
On the surface, Solo: A Star Wars Story is fan service to the highest degree. I guess I'm a fan, because I was entertained by large chunks of that, including the reveal of the Millennium Falcon. The plot eventually makes its way to the legendary Kessell Run, which we've heard so much about in A New Hope, and that does not disappoint. The other half of the plot feels like various boxes checked off for die-hard fans to enjoy finally seeing a younger Han come to life. Ehrenreich does a good job of not trying to be Harrison Ford, but keep that Solo swagger. It's weak in developing depth for other characters, the conflicted Qi'ra (Clarke, who is much better here than she was in Terminator: Genysis), Harrelson's mysterious Beckett, or the films villainous Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), who's more of a villain from afar. They all feel secondary to the guy whose name is on the marquee.
Is Solo one of the great Star Wars films? It's middle of the pack. The action sequences are up there with some of the best. It's visually murky with a few exceptions, but Ron Howard and crew succeed at salvaging what could have been an even bigger disaster. Solo: A Star Wars Story is good, but don't get too cocky. I expect the next one to be more of a massive hit.
Written by: Leo Brady