I was rather taken aback when a Han Solo origin film was announced. Not only is the character greatly tied to the actor, but the character’s introduction in A New Hope already provided every important aspect and trait we needed to know, and he had a complete arc throughout the four films he appeared in. If that wasn’t concerning enough, Solo: A Star Wars Story underwent production woes, as directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired after interfering with the screenwriters, causing Ron Howard to step in and reshoot roughly 70% of the film. My expectations were rather low, and while the end product is much better than it could’ve been, it’s not great.
Solo is a very middle-of-the-road film, while boasting some nice surprises, it ultimately falls short in many areas and can’t justify its existence. However, I expect casual audience members to feel differently, so I’ll provide my own opinion while acknowledging that most will not mind it. The greatest strength is the cast, made up of certified stars and exciting newcomers. Alden Ehrenreich, in particular, captures Harrison Ford’s tone and mannerisms quite well. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t allow Ehrenreich to make the character his own; if there were any signs of production problems, it’s in the writing and pacing. Characters aren’t as fleshed out as they could’ve been and the storytelling makes it easy to predict the twists and turns. Some may be carried by the performances well enough, but I never feel a good performance makes a good character. Han and Chewbacca’s relationship falls victim to the pacing, as their friendship, which should be a central focus, doesn’t evolve as naturally as it should.
Action scenes do the job fine, but apart from one sequence with the Millennium Falcon, none of them stick with me. They’re just more or less the same shtick you’d expect from a Star Wars movie with a bit of a western twist which would be great but nothing is really spectacular. References are handled a bit more subtly than expected. There are quite a few eye-rollers that may please longtime fans but not me. Moments like the introduction of the Falcon and one surprise cameo should’ve been out of the franchise’s system after The Force Awakens, but Disney seems keen on keeping Star Wars in a nostalgic state for the next several years at least.
Visually, Solo leaves a lot to be desired, as a rushed production may have hurt the lighting of the picture. At times, you can barely see the actors’ faces making it hard to appreciate the sets and production values. The set pieces are still visible but not given the right pallet. The Last Jedi, a tonally darker film, had a more pleasing pallet than this lighthearted adventure.
At no point did I feel Solo justified its existence, offering so little new to the character than what we already knew about him. Sure, we learn more about his background, his great feats, and how he learned to be a smuggler. In terms of characterization, layers, and a new perspective, however, we get zilch. Nothing is really fleshed out that well, no new perspective is given; it’s just Han learning how to be Han and nothing more. I understand that most of what I’ve said in this review is not what audiences tend to look for in a Star Wars movie. Most just want a fun space adventure with charismatic actors, and the film will offer your fill of that. As for me, though, I left the theater a bit depressed thinking that this overly nostalgic phase of Star Wars would be here for years, and considering how the last one had a meta-commentary of the franchise moving forward, I feel it’s time for Disney to take more ambition with this series. But hey, maybe it’s another case of snobby Andrew Jenck just can’t have fun at the movies? I also didn’t like Rogue One.