The last Star wars movie became one of the most divisive films in the series’ run, if not in all of the history of cinema. People either loved or hated the Last Jedi and there did not seem to be anything in-between.
To me, Solo: A Star Wars Story feels very divisive within the film. There are scenes/moments that I really loved about the film and there are scenes/moments that I really disliked to downright hated which really made the film feel disjointed to me. Was there more that I loved than I didn’t? I have been mulling this over since seeing it. Let’s see if we can work this out. Be warned, I am going into spoiler territory with this review because I feel it is necessary to full express my feelings on Solo.
The film starts with a non-crawl. Unlike the other Star Wars movies, Solo did not have a detailed opening crawl, but it did provide info we need to know to start the film. I liked that use of the non-crawl, which set the film differently from previous Star Wars films, but did not just jump in (like Rogue One did).
However, all of the stuff from Han’s planet Corellia I disliked tremendously. Especially the part with the ridiculous worm-like creature named Lady Proxima. We are introduced to young Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and the love of his life Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). This intro felt clunky and ill-paced and just dragged the beginning of the film down.
As Han is trying to escape the planet with Qi’ra, we learn how he got his name “Solo”. This is perhaps one of the worst parts of the film. There are so many things wrong with this scene that it is hardly worth talking about.
I really enjoyed the moment that Han met Chewbacca for the first time. This moment was truly well done, hearkening back to when Luke Skywalker was tossed into a pit to be killed. The Han / Chewy relationship is perhaps the strongest aspect of Solo: A Star Wars Story as these two characters are very well done.
Although, the moment that Han literally speaks Wookie… well, that was a lowlight in what was otherwise a very strong scene.
I very much liked most of this cast. Woody Harrelson as Beckett, a mentor of sorts for Han, is very well done. Harrelson continues to be consistently strong in whatever performance he is asked to do.
Everyone is raving about Donald Glover’s work as a younger Lando Calrissian, and I agree that he is one of the strongest parts of the movie, but I would not go as far as to say that he stole the whole movie. He was definitely excellent, though.
Lando’s droid, though, L3 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge) is perhaps the worst part of the film (maybe second to the name thing). She is a droid who is in favor of droids’ rights and she is constantly harping on it. It takes everything that the Internet hates about the SJW points of view and doubles down on it. I would not be surprised to find that L3 becomes as disliked a character as Jar-Jar (for different reasons).
The Kessel Run stuff that we go in the Millennium Falcon was good, but most of the stuff on the planet of Kessel itself felt like a boring distraction. It felt very much like the casino world scenes from The Last Jedi. This was where the movie really slowed down its pacing to a crawl.
The film had some predictable twists at the end that you see coming. The entire film, everyone keeps telling Han that he should trust no one, and, who would have guessed, that turns out to be true. This was not a good stretch for the movie, but the whole “Han shot first” movement should be happy after seeing this film.
One of those twists that made no sense was Beckett’s rival group led by Enfys Nest (Erin Kellyman), who earlier in the movie was directly responsible for the deaths of Beckett’s love Val (Thandie Newton) and friend Rio (Jon Favreau)- two characters vastly underdeveloped, turns out to be heroic and wanting to start an arm of the Rebellion. When Enfys Nest revealed herself to be a girl, I was sure she was going to be Beckett’s daughter and that there was a reason she was targeting him. Nope. None of that.
However, I loved the ending reveal that Darth Maul (Ray Parks, voiced by Sam Witwer) is alive and that Qi’ra was in league with him. This played from the animated Clone Wars and Rebel series that featured the return of Darth Maul. Using this character on the big screen was one of the most effective parts of Solo.
One of the problems with Solo was that I felt no stakes. All they showed us was items that we already knew about. We know Han was successful in the Kessel Run. How Han won the Falcon in a card game (although there was a nice swerve with that). We know he and Chewy are friends. We know Han doesn’t die here. I never worried about the character once.
However, I do want to mention that I think Alden Ehrenreich does a wonderful job as Han Solo. This had to be as difficult of a task that any actor will take up considering how iconic the Harrison Ford version of this character is. Ehrenreich nailed the role and never once felt, to me, that he was just doing a Harrison Ford imitation. I stopped thinking about the other version of the character early on and that is an accomplishment.
The story feels very underwhelming, with nothing much more than surface level story telling and character development. I do not know how much that is because of the well publicized behind the scene troubles this movie faced, replacing original directors Lord and Miller with Ron Howard and then reshooting most of the film. The fact that this film is not a total mess is a testament to the group of people working on it.
Last week I did the top 10 Star Wars movies list, and Solo:A Star Wars Story would probably fall into that list at #7ish. It does not come close to the top 6 on that list, but it was not without its enjoyable moments. It does feel too long and suffers a lot of negatives, but, in the end, I was entertained by most of it. Honestly, as soon as Han meets Chewy, the film gets better. I am going to slightly recommend this though I can understand if Star Wars fans have trouble with the film. There is fun to be had here if you go in with your expectations at a reasonable level.