Now a whole four films into the brilliantly reintroduced Star Wars universe, one could potentially expect the wheels to begin to fall off as the franchise continues to churn out more and more films. With arguably Disney’s most ambitious foray into a galaxy far, far away, an anthology film entitled Solo: A Star Wars Story, expectations were potentially at the franchise’s lowest, perhaps due to apathy towards the continuous cycle of Star Wars films or potentially apprehension regarding the film’s subject matter. Bringing to the silver screen the origin story of the Galaxy’s favourite scoundrel seemed like a mammoth task already, such can be the hostile nature of the franchise’s fanbase, and with countless production problems and rumours of behind the scenes unrest spreading, anticipation only ceased to dwindle further. However, the end product has resulted in a stern act of defiance against many of the doubters and will surely be seen as a welcome addition to this now ever growing franchise.
Old faces in new places
If you’re a Star Wars fan, then there’s probably a (slight) chance you’ve heard of Han Solo. Taking up the mantle of the younger version of Han was Alden Ehrenreich, a surprising dead ringer for a young Harrison Ford, who does very well to nail the character’s trademark mannerisms and charm, as well as doing his best to give his iteration of the character a unique voice, a feat made slightly more impressive given the rumours circulating about a coach being hired to improve his performance. As the young, more ambitious Han looking to make his way as a pilot in a galaxy where he struggles to find his place, Ehrenreich is charming, likeable, and certainly does justice in portraying a different side to Han than the rugged outlaw we’re ever so accustomed to, and for that he deserves plaudits in not allowing the pressure of taking on such an iconic role to affect his performance.
One aspect of Han’s life not explored in the original trilogy or The Force Awakens was just exactly how he and his partner in crime, the loveable wookiee Chewbacca actually met. Solo sheds light on their history in a way that really feels like it does their friendship justice, and in detailing the beginnings of their unshakeable loyalty to one another, the events of The Force Awakens are made to feel that little more poignant. Chewbacca and Han command the screen when they’re together in this film, and their interactions both feel fresh and nostalgic at the same time, with Han as ever playing translator for his furry friend.
Another old face introduced and undoubtedly one of the film’s highlights is the addition of Lando Calrissian, played effortlessly by the effervescent Donald Glover, who as always oozes charm and wit without breaking a sweat. Lando and his first mate, robot L3-37, voiced by the fantastic Phoebe Waller-Bridge, steal many a scene with their humorous partnership, but arguably that is not their most important role. As any true Star Wars fan would know, it was Lando whom Han got his iconic ship, the Millenium Falcon from. Witnessing Han’s first encounter and piloting of his beloved ship was truly satisfying, a moment of pure nostalgia that will leave any fan of the franchise with a child-like grin on their face.
Low-risk, exciting reward
When original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller parted the film over creative differences, Disney brought in Ron Howard, one of Hollywood’s safest pair of hands when it comes to blockbusters. Though Howard may not have taken as many creative risks in comparison to the original directors which resulted in action sequences of comparatively lower ambition to previous films, that is not take away from the fact that the film is certainly a lot of fun. The introduction of the criminal underworld into the franchise injects a different kind of feel into the film, not a simple good vs. bad narrative but a questioning of characters’ motivations and morals, such is the nature of the new characters introduced.
Notably, there is Woody Harrelson effectively playing another rugged mentor role as Beckett, who takes Han under his wing and teaches him the unforgiving ways of the galaxy, as well as the smooth, villainous gangster Dryden Vos whom Paul Bettany portrays viciously. As Qi’ra, Han’s first love, Emilia Clarke brings conflict and questionable motivations, though she is certainly the film’s most forgettable character, due to the fact her dialogue is perhaps less notable compared to the other characters. Appearances from Thandie Newton and Jon Favreau as Beckett’s crew members Val and Rio both leave their respective marks on the film, thanks to good on-screen chemistry and good scripting.
Technically speaking, there isn’t much to criticise, but equally not much to applaud either. Many sequences are fast-paced and exciting, however visually there isn’t anything that particularly stands out like in many of the franchise’s other films, bar the scene with Lando that was much talked about following the first trailer. The score fits well with the film’s themes and the sound of Han’s DL-44 blaster brings a great deal of nostalgia to the table, but coupled with the unambitious visual effects, there is certainly a lot to be left desired. The script at points has moments of effortless humour, however such is the way of Disney’s creative control, many lines of dialogue bordered on vomit-inducing cheesiness which has been a permanent hinderance with the recent releases.
Despite the lack of anticipation for Solo in comparison to the other recently released Star Wars films, there is no denying that throughout its 2 hour 15 minute runtime that the viewer is taken on a nostalgic, fun-filled journey through a galaxy far, far away. The highlights are surely the exploration of Han and Chewies’ relationship, Donald Glover’s Lando and the reintroduction of the Millenium Falcon which take away from the way in which Ron Howard perhaps played it a little too safe with his directing and a script littered with cheesy dialogue. Overall though, it is certainly a welcome addition to the franchise and fans should struggle to find many things to complain about in the way Han’s origin story was handled, as it may not have been the story we needed, but certainly the one we deserved.
Words by Elliott Jones