Just five months after the release of The Last Jedi, Star Wars is back with Solo. The second-ever Star Wars spin-off dials back the clock and puts the spotlight on the galaxy’s fan-favorite smuggler Han Solo in his younger days as he sets out to become the infamous swindler we know him as from the original trilogy.
Ron Howard has achieved an incredible feat, having taken over directorial duties from Phil Lord and Chris Miller at the eleventh hour and finishing the film in time to hit its scheduled release date. Howard has put together a thoroughly engaging adventure film that recaptures the whimsical spirit of Star Wars: A New Hope. Solo: A Star Wars Story manages to stands on its own far more than the franchise’s previous spin-off Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. At the same time, Solo weaves in plenty of deep cut easter eggs both big and small that will have hardcore fans of the franchise jumping out of their seats. There are some great surprises in this film that you won’t want spoiled.
The plot of Solo is fine but the film’s biggest strength is its characters. Stepping into the boots of Han Solo is Alden Ehrenreich, who delivers an impressive performance that both feels like Harrison Ford’s take on the character while simultaneously making him his own. Ehrenreich brings a level of immaturity to Han’s arrogance that we haven’t seen before. The biggest compliment that I can give Ehrenreich is that his performance felt genuine. Having been a Star Wars fan all my life, I thought it was going to take at least the first act of the new film for my brain to adjust and accept Ehrenreich in the role but it didn’t. The actor’s presence and performance are so strong, I almost immediately let go of any reservations I had. I expected for Donald Glover’s younger Lando Calrissian to steal the movie but he doesn’t. Ehrenreich owns both the role of Han Solo and the movie itself.
As for Glover’s Lando, he’s as charming and smooth as you could imagine. Glover does a fantastic job at bringing the swagger of Billy Dee Williams to his performance while the script gives him the opportunity to bring to life some dimensions not seen in his predecessor’s take on the character. Glover and Ehrenreich have a chemistry that allows for a great back and forth between the two, making it easy to see why these two iconic characters could become the friends they are later on. But as much as things change over time as people grow, the first scene with Lando and Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra proves that the dynamic between Lando and Han’s women will always be the same. Lando also has an interesting relationship with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3-37, his first mate on the Millennium Falcon, who is sassy, to say the least. If you liked Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO, you’re going to love L3-37.
Clarke herself delivers a solid performance as Qi’ra. She does a good enough to keep you interested and plays Qi’ra with enough mystery to keep your eye on her character. But the romance between Han and Qi’ra is something that is already established within the universe at the start of the film, so the relationship itself doesn’t feel earned and you’re left with no choice but to accept it for what it is if you’re going to be on board for the rest of the film. Rounding out the rest of the supporting cast is Woody Harrelson as Beckett, the criminal mentor to Han, along with Beckett’s lover Val (Thandie Newton) and the friendly flying Ardennian Rio Durant, voiced by Jon Favreau. This trio serves as the first crew Han and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotomo) join after they meet, which will not disappoint. Han meeting Chewie is absolutely brilliant and the new spin-off gives the Wookiee much more to do than the sequel trilogy has so far.
On the villain’s side, we’re introduced to both Enfys Nest, the leader of a gang of Swoop riding pirates known as the Cloud-Riders, as well as Paul Bettany’s Dryden Vos. Enfys and the Cloud-Riders — who I can’t say too much about to avoid spoiling it for you — work mostly as a monkey wrench to the plot in a very Winter Soldier-esque fashion, so don’t expect to see too much of Enfys. While seeing an actual Swoop gang in live-action had me overjoyed, I was much more fascinated by Dryden Vos, the leader of the Crimson Dawn syndicate who operates out of his yacht.
Dryden Vos is no doubt evil, but Bettany plays him with such likability and eloquence that I thought he stood out as more than just a generic villain. Through Dryden Vos, we also get to see a much more glamorous and luxurious side to the criminal underworld of Star Wars which is something we’ve never seen before. The Empire also has a presence in the film. While it’s a minimal one, Solo manages to show a new side to the Empire. Since Disney has taken over the franchise, there has been an effort to humanize the Empire in both the films as well as the new canon books. Not only do we get to see Han recruited into the Empire, but the film also reveals some corruption within it pretty early on.
Going into this film, Star Wars fans are no doubt going to be most excited to see two things: the Sabaac game in which Han wins the Millennium Falcon fair and square from Lando, as well as the Kessel Run which Han is famously known for having made in less than twelve parsecs. So how does seeing these two events in live-action stack up? Well, both managed to be full of surprises. I found the Sabaac game to be satisfying, but I felt a bit underwhelmed with the Kessel Run. As we’ve seen from the movie’s marketing, Han and company unexpectedly come across a giant monster when making the run and I ultimately felt the movie got distracted by this when it should have been focused on Han making the run itself. The pacing of the entire sequence on Kessel itself is also rushed, making it easy to get lost in the action.
The film’s third act and the finale is full of predictable twists and turns but the characters have been so great up until this point, it’s all still enjoyable to watch unfold. But while you can see most of the beats coming from a mile away, the final act holds some of the film’s biggest surprises that are going to have Star Wars fans buzzing for quite a while. Leading up to the film’s release, Star Wars fans have already made it clear they would be lining up for a Lando-centric spin-off but the final moments of Solo will have you ready for another adventure with young Han and Chewie as well.
5 Reasons To Be Excited (And 5 Reasons To Worry) About ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’
It’s been roughly five months since The Last Jedi came out, which means it’s time for another Star Wars movie! The second anthology film that explores the Star Wars universe’s past, Solo follows a young Han Solo as he becomes a smuggler. Before he had the Millennium Falcon or considered Luke Skywalker one of his best friends, Han was still talking and blasting his away across the galaxy.
A new Star Wars film is typically a cause for celebration, but there’s something different about Solo. The posters and print material all look fun and stylized, but the actual trailer looks gray and unsatisfying. There are a lot of things propping this movie up, mainly that it is about Han Solo, arguably the most popular character in the entire franchise, but there are also a lot of things dragging it down. Hopefully Solo will kick butt, but without Harrison Ford at the center of the action, it’s hard to say!
Hit Next to learn 5 reasons you should be excited (and 5 reasons to worry) about Solo!