After Disney bought the rights to the Star Wars franchise and reinvigorated fan interest in it, it was only a matter of time until they expanded the universe. As successful as The Force Awakens was, there was no way they would settle for just one every couple of years. The solution? Spinoffs! The first was 2016’s Rogue One, which filled in some gaps in the setup to the original trilogy. Now comes the first of what is sure to be many spinoffs filling in the background of a beloved character. Solo, which offers a look into Han Solo’s life before he met Luke Skywalker, is a reasonably entertaining movie that never makes itself feel necessary.
Solo focuses on Han figuring out what kind of man he is as he attempts to make some big money so he can buy a spaceship and prove himself as a pilot. It brings several important new characters into Han’s world, most notably Woody Harrelson as the brilliant thief Beckett and Emilia Clarke as an old friend of Han’s. It also features a couple of fan favorites in Han’s loyal sidekick, Chewbacca, and smuggler/con-man Lando Calrissian. Lando is played by Donald Glover as a cunning survivor who uses his charm to stay one step ahead of everyone else. Although he is not fully developed here, there is enough of him to make you wish there was more.
One of the major questions fans had during Solo’s production was what would the tone be? It was originally directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller of The Lego Movie fame. During production, they were fired due to differences in creative vision and Ron Howard was hired to replace them. One of the many rumors is that Lord and Miller were making a slapstick action/comedy, far removed from the normal style of the Star Wars franchise. In the end, the Solo that has made it to theaters falls in line with what you would expect from this series. When you have a property this successful, there is no need to take a risk with it while the formula is working.
Another rumor was that the star, Jewish actor Alden Ehrenreich, was so bad that an acting coach was brought on-set to help him through his scenes. Though Ehrenreich is not going to win awards for the role, he does a pretty good approximation of Han Solo as he was becoming Han Solo. It is a tricky performance because he cannot just ape what Harrison Ford did. That persona is in its formative stages at this point in his life. Yet it is still easy to contextualize this version of the character with the one still to come.
No, the biggest issue with Solo is a distinct lack of purpose. While the film is mostly enjoyable, it never feels like the filmmakers figured out why it needed to exist. Why tell Han Solo’s story? What can it add to the Star Wars Universe, either story-wise or from an artistic perspective? I still do not know the answers to those questions. Solo is a perfectly acceptable film with solid action and performances, some amusing moments and an occasionally clever screenplay by Jewish father-son writing team Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan (Lawrence, a Star Wars veteran, also worked on the screenplays for The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens). It is a thoroughly forgettable, if decent enough, use of a couple of hours. But it does not contain the wonder or originality of the best of the franchise.
3¼ out of 5
By Ben Pivoz
Ben’s Movie Reviews
Read Ben’s last movie review on Deadpool 2.