This review is spoiler-free.
Despite plenty of behind-the-scenes problems, Solo: A Star Wars Story has finally made it onto the big screen. But with so much baggage and the weight of legacy on its shoulders, was the film a success?
To be honest? It’s a mixed bag.
There are many outstanding moments in the movie, just as there are awful ones. Good writing, bad writing. Great characters, awful characters. It succeeds and it fails in equal measure. Ultimately this is very frustrating because, with a better script, this film had the potential to be something special.
So let’s start with some of the negatives.
This film has a really bad start. Just like the Falcon is prone to breaking down, this film stutters its way through the first act. The pacing is crazy. The first act is incredibly rushed. It’s too fast, the characters we meet during this time are completely underdeveloped. They try to follow the blueprint of Rogue One, but the execution is simply awful. No ‘key moments’ are earned, the story presents these characters to you and expects you to care and invest emotionally in their individual arcs. But because they are completely underdeveloped these moments are never earned. This goes for a lot of the characters and the story in general, nothing feels earned, just rushed.
Continuing with the characters, Solo contains some real stinkers. Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) is the leading lady and the woman who has captured Han’s heart. She did not command the screen, her character choices were predictable and she just was not engaging enough. Clarke may be getting the plaudits for her Game of Thrones work, but this was another example of how she fails to deliver on the big screen. As for L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), she is possibly the new Jar-Jar Binks. The writing for the character was cliched and dreadful. It was very telling that her role was written by two men. We’ve had the sassy robot, K-2SO, and this was just an annoying, watered-down version. As for ‘the big bad’ Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), he had his moments, but this was more down to Bettany elevating the character than the actual script. Val (Thandie Newton) was criminally underused and I would have swapped her for Emilia Clarke twice over. As for Enfys Nest (Erin Kellyman), say hello to the new Phasma.
Like I said at the beginning, it’s a mixed bag, so while there are some awful characters in this movie, there are also some great ones. Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) is everything you could have wanted from the character. Glover not only replicates a younger Billy Dee Williams, but he also makes the character his own, expanding the role even further. We just needed a little bit more of him. The stand-outs, however, are Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). I didn’t think I would take to Ehrenreich, but he is one of the biggest surprises of the film. Just like Glover, he does more than simply mimic his older version. Han’s journey and growth throughout the film were truly authentic. As for the relationship between Han and Chewie, there were some truly ‘goosebump’ moments. Their first meeting? Perfect! Probably one of the strongest scenes in the film. Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) was also relatively strong here. We’ve seen Harrelson in this type of mentor role before, and he does a good job overall.
Away from the characters, the practical FX and production value is very high. From the off, it felt like Star Wars. The costume design was very good and the sets and locations feel authentic. The look of everything was on point and even seeing the Falcon all shiny was actually quite refreshing. In a very brown film, there were some nice bits of colour that just added a little vibrancy to proceedings. The music was pretty solid, with one clear standout track. The ‘Marauders Arrive’ theme was something very special indeed. It reminded me of ‘Yuriko`s Theme’ from Red Alert 3: Uprising. Good work John Powell!
Ultimately, it’s the writing that let the film down. The Kasdans made some very poor choices with the story direction and with a lot of the characters. But again, they did pull off some great moments. So it comes back to the fact that this film is a mixture of the good and the bad. We get the horrendous origin of Solo’s name, but we also get Chewie and Han in the cockpit for the first time. Some things worked, some things didn’t. And there lies the frustration because with some key changes this film could be been something special. In the end, it’s a good entry into the Star Wars universe.
I had low expectations going into this movie, but as I left I felt that those expectations had been surpassed. I didn’t come out disappointed, nor did I come out beaming. It’s a decent Star Wars movie, but it had some big issues. Yet my final feeling on Solo: A Star Wars Story is one of ‘hope’. In the final act, seeds are planted that may hint of better things on the horizon. I think with a change of director and more importantly, writers, Solo may be able to deliver a GREAT Star Wars movie in the future.
As always, we will do a spoiler-talk follow up article, so keep your eyes peeled on the website for that.
And, if you are interested, here are my rankings as it stands:
1 – Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
2 – Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
3 – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
4 – Episode IV – A New Hope / Episode VII – The Force Awakens
5 – Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
6 – Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
7 – Solo: A Star Wars Story
8 – Episode II – Attack of the Clones
9 – Episode I – The Phantom Menace
Solo: A Star Wars Story is visually strong, with very pleasing practical FX. The relationship between Han and Chewie is perfectly executed, while Donald Glover comes close to out-shining Alden Ehrenreich. The story is ambitious but fails due to lightning-fast pacing and severely underdeveloped characters. While the force may not be strong with Solo, the seeds have been planted for a potential sequel that looks a lot more appetising.