Solo: A Star Wars Story, directed by Ron Howard, is certainly a fun summer blockbuster film. However, in the context of Star Wars, it feels largely unnecessary. There were certainly points in this film where I was wowed by the action and was fully engaged in the fun of it all, but there were still those moments where I wanted to do nothing more but plunge my head into my hands and try not to let my eyes roll fully out of my head. I’m conflicted when it comes to this film, but hopefully my review will help to clear up how I feel, while also letting you know if this is a film worth your time. So, let’s get on with the review.
In this film we meet a young Han Solo – played by Alden Ehrenreich – and see what it was that led him into a life of crime and smuggling. Along the way we meet some familiar faces – people who will go on to become constants in Han’s life – and we also meet some of the nefarious characters who will help shape Han into the man we all know and love.
I was in he same kind of mindset that a lot of other people seemed to be in when it came to this film, and that was that I didn’t really want it – I didn’t see a point to this film being made. All those years ago when I watched the original trilogy, I never found myself wanting to know all the details about Han Solo’s background; where he acquired his blaster or what led him to become the man we first saw in the cantina. I liked not knowing. I liked only getting little comments here or there that hinted at a man who had led a dangerous and exciting life. But now here we are, with a Han Solo standalone film that gives us his origin.
Here’s the biggest problem though: Han Solo is perhaps the weakest element of the film. It’s nothing to do with Alden Ehrenreich’s performance – I thought he was… fine. Nothing remarkable, but I didn’t find myself actively disliking his interpretation of one of the most iconic characters in pop culture. In fact, I think Ehrenreich has taken on an impossible task and done an okay job.
So, it’s not Alden Ehrenreich that’s the problem, it’s that the film itself does a really bad job of developing Han in any meaningful way. There isn’t any point in this film where I think they explored a side of Han Solo or revealed something that adds a new layer to the character, that in turn justified this film existing. If you’re going to do a standalone film of a character this popular, then I think you need to do something bold or really interesting with them. Instead we learn inconsequential things like how Han acquired his blaster or where his surname originated from – a point in the film I really didn’t like and felt was more harmful to the legacy of the character, than anything else.
Han Solo felt like a character that was in limbo. He was someone who from the first scene and beyond never felt like a person who evolved or showed a side to himself that was never before seen. Going off what this film gives us; Han Solo has been the exact same person throughout his life and never changes until he joins up with the rebellion in ‘A New Hope’. Also, in the latter parts of the film, Han never felt like a character who had earned the moments he was a part of. There was no significant moment where Han felt like he had overcome some impossible hardships and was now achieving the epic moments he deserved. What you’re then left with is a standalone Han Solo film where Han Solo is the least developed – and I’m sad to say – least interesting part of the film.
It was instead all the other people around Han Solo that I was interested by – that I was eager to learn more about. Characters like, Beckett – played by Woody Harrelson – Qi’ra – played by Emilia Clarke – or Dryden Vos – played by Paul Bettany – and of course, Lando Calrissian – played by Donald Glover – were all characters who were infinitely more interesting and far more deserving of a standalone film exploring their stories. Other than, Lando (who this film should have centred on, rather than Han Solo, who I think should have been a very minor character in it), I know the rest won’t warrant a standalone film, but there’s enough to all those characters that they could easily support one.
There were many points in the film where I would forget I was watching a Han Solo film and instead be much more enamoured with the secondary characters, who were all filled with backstories that peaked my interest and had influences on the larger galaxy that I was far more interested to explore. Again, I want to stress: I don’t think Alden Ehrenreich is the problem here, it’s that he was given a script – a weak script – that didn’t give him anything worthwhile to work with. Meanwhile the other characters around him were given a lot to sink their acting teeth into and play around with.
It’s why I always thought a Han Solo standalone film – or any standalone film focusing on an iconic character from Star Wars’ past is pointless. Because you can’t really do anything new or substantial with them because they have to remain in-line with a set of films and storylines that can’t be messed with. Branch out and find new, original people to fly around the galaxy with and tell stories unconnected to what has come before. Except for L3-37 – played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge – who is perhaps one of the most annoying and unlikeable characters in a Star Wars film in quite some time.
So in the context of Star Wars, this film doesn’t do anything substantial with its title character that I felt to be worthy, but it does do something that all of the new Disney Star Wars films have done a great job of (particularly Rogue One): and that’s show us other sides to the galaxy that we’ve not experienced on the big screen before. One of the most interesting aspects of this film that isn’t directly touched upon is that it’s a galaxy in which the Empire exists mostly unchallenged. Their tyrannical rule is the norm. I found it really interesting to see this aspect of the Star Wars galaxy – one where there were no rebels. There wasn’t a lightsaber wielding hero to save the day. Instead people largely accepted and worked around the constraints of the Empire – with there still being pockets of resistance here and there.
This is one thing I feel the new set of films have done a great job of; expanding our view of a galaxy that sometimes can feel a little too small and for some reason revolving around a handful of the same characters. I loved Rogue One’s eye-opening look at a galaxy very much in need of hope. I found it really interesting in this film to see how far the Empire’s reach was and how normal it seemed to be that they had such unmatched control. This is something the new Star Wars films do great.
What else they do great is offer some really exciting action. Take away the Star Wars aspect of this film and you have a really fun space western that when it was at its best, had me wowed and excited by what I was watching. Han’s first outing as a smuggler sees him helping to rob a train and it was one of the most enjoyable moments of the film. It had me smiling, it had me wowed and it had me fully engaged in the spectacle. More than anything, Solo: A Star Wars Story is a damn good summer blockbuster film. It offers the exact type of experience that you want from your summer blockbusters. It’s why, despite my gripes with the Star Wars aspects of the film, I still enjoyed my time with the film so much!
Because when the film drifts back into trying to be a Star Wars film, the disparity between fun summer blockbuster and Disney’s desperate attempts to elicit those nostalgic Star Wars feelings, become all the more apparent. When the action is rolling; when you’re swept up in an exciting, well-paced set-piece, it’s easy (and perhaps preferable) to forget about the irritating attempts to force in Star Wars references or easter eggs, etc. When things slow down; when it becomes time to advance the plot – a plot that is simple but well-constructed – it’s here that the truly terrible dialogue comes into play. Characters dropping lines that are purely fan service – something to get the fans cheering in the cinema. They’re nothing but moments that get the eyes rolling.
And it also doesn’t help that outside the action, this film is really poorly paced. Scenes – particularly in the beginning – drag on. When you couple the bad dialogue with scenes that aren’t that interesting and feel really slow; the film suffers. There were absolutely moments in this film where I was having a good time, but they were often followed by scenes that I was eager to be done with.
But perhaps the element I was not expecting to have such a problem with was the cinematography. This has to be the least visually stimulating Star Wars film to come from Disney, yet. The desaturated colour palette, the terrible lighting and the forgettable landscapes, all made for a Star Wars film where my eyes were not given the treatment they had become accustomed to having. Thankfully the score by John Powell helped to elevate the visually disappointing moments, so while my eyes were mistreated, my ears certainly weren’t. Still though, it’s very disappointing, considering the franchise has been knocking it out of the park with their cinematic delights in the most recent films.
I think it’s clear to see that I am really conflicted with Solo: A Star Wars Story. It offered some of the most fun I’ve had during a Star Wars film in a long time. There were moments where I sat there in my chair with a genuine smile on my face, as the fun of it all washed over me. I cannot deny how enjoyable this film is at times. But there would also be those moments where it would then fall back into being the irritating nostalgia infused Star Wars experience that I’m now very much over. I don’t need call-backs to other films. I don’t need characters to say lines that are literally lifted from the original trilogy – or slightly altered. That they don’t have the actors turning to camera and winking at us at this point is surprising. There is fun to be had watching this film but there is also a lot that stands in the way of it being a great experience.
And so… I’m unsure of where to land critically with this film. I’m fully confident that you will have fun when watching this film – I know I did! But I also know that for people who love Star Wars, this film will do a lot to annoy them and perhaps only further their disdain for how Disney continue to handle the franchise.
Here’s what I’ll say as a hopeful conclusion that makes my disjointed review feel a little more coherent: With all the production problems this film faced (of which there seemed to be a never-ending stream of); with how much people did not want this film, and with how impossible of a task, Alden Ehrenreich in particular had – that this film was good at all is something to recognise. I went into this film with extremely low – almost no – expectations, and I came out having for the most part enjoyed myself. This wasn’t a film I found to be insulting. I didn’t leave the cinema angry. I was fine with the experience I had and for me that was enough.
I’m going to recommend, Solo: A Star Wars Story. I’m sure it will divide opinions and either you’ll like it or hate it – no in between. For me, there was enough of an enjoyable experience, plus the fact I have mostly abandoned my love for this franchise, that I was content with the time I spent with it. I don’t think it’s one I’ll watch again but I’m happy with the one time I did.
I’m really interested to know what you thought of this film and my review of it, so please leave any opinions or feedback you may have, in the comments section down below. Also, if you would consider following both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – that would be great. But I’ll bring these ramblings to a close now by offering you my sincere thanks for taking the time to read my review. I hope you have a wonderful day!