Solo: A Star Wars Story is quite good. Yeah, there it is. I said it. It’s not half bad.
It’s a film with some heart to it, at least compared to the safe-as-houses ‘The Force Awakens’ and the cool but slightly characterless ‘Rogue one’. Alden Ehrenreich is everything I could have expected from a young Han Solo – He’s got the looks to pull off Han Solo’s roguish handsomeness, he’s got the attitude down to a T, and his physical acting – Especially in scenes of high action – Is excellent. Alden Ehrenreich topped some of Harrison Ford’s own portrayals of Han. He’s on par with ‘A New Hope’, and I mean that sincerely – He is young Han Solo.
The same goes for Chewbacca. The chemistry between him and Han, and the portrayal from new actor Joonas Suotamo (The same actor who played Chewbacca in ‘The Last Jedi’) match the old perfectly. This is Chewbacca as you remember him.
And finally, Lando Calrissian. Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian is fantastic. He may even top Billy Dee Williams. Glover steals every scene he’s in, portraying young Lando as a warm, self-assured, and powerful character, whilst still retaining some of the cockiness Lando would naturally have had in his Youth. In fact, my main complaint about this film is that it is so concerned with the newer characters that it misses the brilliant opportunities for a three-way bromance film between Lando, Chewie, and Han. Instead, Lando is simply a supporting character who nonetheless steals the show. Think Jack Sparrow in the original ‘Pirates of the Carribean’, but less weird, and you’re not far off.
Speaking of the newer characters, they’re all OK. Mediocre, they didn’t detract from the film but they weren’t my favourite characters either. That said, there is a noticeable increase in personality between this film and ‘Rogue One’. The crew can sometimes come across like a Star Wars-themed ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, if some of the characters were more important than others.
The strongest is probably Woody Harrelson’s portrayal of Tobias Beckett. Supposedly Han’s mentor, he misses the obvious trap of becoming an outlaw version of Obi-Wan. Instead, he has some genuinely touching moments of emotional development, some obvious character flaws, and moments of absolute weakness. Ultimately, Tobias may just be the perfect type of mentor for Han Solo – He’s not a wise old Jedi, he’s just some guy who’s been in the business for a while longer, and he doesn’t so much take Solo in as a Protege, but rather simply agrees to let him help out because he needs an extra pair of hands.
Emilia Clarke’s character of Qi’ra, Han’s first love, is perhaps the most mediocre character in the film. She’s not offensively bad, but she hardly steals the show. She performs her purpose within the plot without making a fool of herself, has an engaging enough role in the action scenes, forms someone around whom Han’s character can develop, and then exits the film gracefully. Whilst there was no expressly negative impact on the film, Qi’ra could have been acted by just about any attractive actress in Emilia’s age range, unfortunately, and I don’t think Emilia Clarke really got much chance to show off her abilities.
And finally, L3-37, Lando’s droid companion; portrayed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who you may recognise from Fleabag. And that exactly reflects her character – She’s got a killer attitude, an uncaring swagger, and is chock full of sexual humour. She’s a character completely unlike what we’ve ever seen in Star Wars – You will either love or hate her. Personally, I loved her, but if you’re not the kind who’d enjoy such a character, know that she doesn’t play such a massive role that it’d become tiresome.
Ultimately though, these new supporting characters simply do what they needed to do: they let Han Solo shine. They give him adequate space to show off his unique charms and skills, providing him with banter for him to bounce off of and develop his character against. He learns lessons from each, and they all support his story in some way.
And ultimately, the core appeal of this film is in two parts: the characters and the action. The characters are entertaining, with a strong lead and supporting cast, some of whom work very well as partners to Han and others who do their job and get out of the way. The plot itself is rather basic, with no a few strong enough plot twists to prevent things from getting boring.
And so, the action. The action is exactly what you’d expect from a modern star wars movie, but on the smaller scale that the film’s premise demands. There are no giant space battles, no lightsaber duels. There are shootouts and fistfights and car chases, everything one could expect from a Heist movie set in the Star Wars universe. It’s fast, fun, and it’s driven by the characters within them.
But it’d be remiss of me to ignore the issues that ‘Solo’ does have. Namely, the direction. ‘Solo’ was originally being directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and it shows; the first twenty minutes and a few scenes later on in the film are simply dreadfully directed. The lighting is the major problem – Neither me or my dad, who I saw the film with, could figure out what the hell was going on at several points. Whole scenes are shadows drenched in dark blue or orange light, making it nigh-on impossible to determine what the hell was going on. Which works well for some scenes, but some of them were supposed to be tense standoffs or high action scenes, and I honestly couldn’t tell who was shooting at who, or indeed who anybody even was. Whatever artistic effects are gained from such stylised, dark settings, should have been proven not worth it by the test recordings.
The opening 20 minutes of the film are Dull. Really dull. It’s the weakest scenes of the film, full of uncharacteristically poor dialogue, and all tied together with scenes set on a dull grey background. It’s boring, and I did see at least one person leave the cinema. As a Star Wars fan, I wanted to stay and see the whole film, but unfortunately for some this weakest of weak openings could sour the whole experience. It’s really only when Han meets with Tobias Beckett and Chewbacca the first time that the film really gets going- that should have been the opening, not what we got.
Ultimately, ‘Solo’ is a fun adventurous heist movie starring a strong lead, and engaging support cast that doesn’t crowd things, and enough action and plot twists to keep things going. A star wars epic it is not, but as it’s own standalone story, it shines as an inoffensively enjoyable film with a few fairly major, but ultimately forgivable flaws.