They should have called it “Scoundrels: A Star Wars Story”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed this movie; I just don’t think it should have been called “Solo”. I didn’t love it, but I liked it and felt it was a good way to spend a lazy afternoon. However, I feel like it does better without the Solo name attached to it. I purposefully went into the theater trying to forget the Han Solo I knew and the original trilogy. I did not want my opinions of Han Solo as a character to color the movie. Nobody can replace Harrison Ford as Han Solo, so I made a point of separating Alden Ehrenreich’s Character from Solo entirely in my mind. On that level, it really works.
As a science fiction heist film it plays fairly well, but check your expectations of a Star Wars film at the door. There are several moments of heavy fan-service, but other than that, the film works best when you let yourself forget that it’s Han Solo or the Star Wars universe. After a few minutes or so of trying not to compare it to the Star Wars characters I know and love, it was easy to slip into the story at hand.
On that point, the story is pretty solid. It’s nothing special, but it’s still enjoyable. A couple heists, a raving villain, some double-crossing shenanigans… you get the picture. It may be what people expect, no more and no less, but that’s part of the fun. Sometimes you just want some crowd-pleasing simplistic entertainment; the same viewer mentality of Saturday morning Kung Fu movies. As long as you go into it knowing what you’re in for, you might actually find yourself enjoying it!
There was a lot of fan service, even more so than Rogue One. But, besides from a few hammy and forced moments (The Imperial March playing in-universe, weird droid crushes, and Han’s gurgling linguistics as a few examples), these didn’t interrupt the flow of the movie very much. In my opinion, casual fans will have no problem getting into this movie as it doesn’t alienate them, and yet there are enough inside-jokes for the super-fans to feel special. A previous knowledge of the Star Wars canon isn’t really needed to jump in and enjoy the story. It truly is a standalone movie, with very little impact on the larger Star Wars Universe, and with very little interference from it in return. In fact, it’s actually a little crazy when you remember that there is no mention of The Force at all in this movie (something that has never happened before in a Star Wars film); an impressive feat when you realize how iconic the Force is to the Star Wars mythos.
The movie has good design and special effects, something that you can always expect from Star Wars, and the cinematography is solid. The writing is competent, even if it’s nothing particularly memorable. The score is average, as is always the case when John Williams is not the composer for Star Wars, but it performs well for it’s purpose. The performances are actually surprisingly good for what the actors have been given, and as long as you separate Alden Ehrenreich from Harrison Ford in your mind, his performance is just fine. The real standout performance for me was Donald Glover as Lando (you probably saw that one coming); he really nails the charisma and confidence of Billy Dee Williams and does the character justice. A more surprising performance was the eccentric and creepy Dryden Voss (Paul Bettany) who really leaves a slimy impression with comparatively little screen time.
Of course, some of the characters are little bit…extreme…for my taste, with some being unique in a good way, and others not so much. There was one character that I felt was a little bit preachy. I felt like the droid, L3-37, monologued about her political ideals a little too much. she could have gotten the same message across with little more subtlety, but that’s just my personal opinion. I freely admit that I’m very picky when it comes to subtlety in characters; preferring actions to speak louder than words when it comes to motivation.
However, even with this personal preference, I wasn’t bothered by the character and still enjoyed her antics. So no harm done in the end I guess. In the end, all of the characters fit well with the tone of the story.
That’s another thing; the story could be better, but It’s a miracle that it’s not awful. Let me explain! Now, I’m just speculating, and I could be completely wrong, but I believe that we almost got a very bad movie! In my opinion, Lucasfilm seemed to abandon hope over Solo as soon as they fired Christopher Miller and Phil Lord. They released Solo a mere month after Infinity War, and had Incredibles 2 come out not long after, which bespeaks a fear that Solo wouldn’t do so well at the Box Office. Usually a company will only plan releases so close to each other if they expect one of them to be a failure. It’s no secret that Ron Howard is a ‘safe’ replacement and reshot 60-75% of the movie not long before its release.
In my opinion, this was because the previous directors’ work was so bad that Lucasfilm was in emergency mode and made last-minute changes to try and salvage the situation; not even expecting someone as competent as Ron Howard to fix it. Now this is all speculation of course, but there are enough irreverent “21-Jump Street style” Jokes in the movie (They are awful and my least favorite part of Solo) which feel too much like Lord and Miller’s style for us to ignore this idea. Imagine a whole Star Wars movie of cringey wink-at-the-audience and fourth-wall-breaking jokes. I believe this sophomoric humor was the direction the film was going, and that’s why the directors were fired so disgracefully. If this was true, it’s a miracle that Ron Howard managed to make anything decent out of it.
But all that speculation aside, what we got wasn’t that bad at all! Solo is a solid film and not the complete disaster everyone was expecting it to be.