‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ (2018)
20th Century Fox
Directed by: Ron Howard
Written by: Jonathan Kasdan & Lawrence Kasdan
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Joonas Suotamo, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton & Paul Bettany
‘Solo: A Star Wars Story‘, the newest entry into the Star Wars franchise, hits theaters this weekend. For those of you keeping score, this is the 10th movie in the film’s 41 year franchise, the 4th since Disney bought Lucasfilm but only the 2nd “non-trilogy” film in the group. Disney purchased George Lucas’ company in 2012 for $4 billion and has already made over $4 billion back just from the worldwide box office takes of ‘The Force Awakens‘, ‘Rogue One‘ and ‘The Last Jedi.’ Anything ‘Solo’ does is now just icing on the cake or extra feathers in the cap, depending on whether you prefer cakes or caps, I suppose.
From what I saw, it seems that they will more or less have yet another hit on their hands. For the two or three of you out there who somehow don’t know who Han Solo is, we were first introduced to the character in 1977’s original ‘Star Wars‘ (now known as ‘Star Wars IV ‘or simply as ‘A New Hope’). He’s a lovable smuggler who ends up helping Luke Skywalker and The Rebels rescue Princess Leia and destroy The Death Star. There have been novels and comics devoted to some of Han’s back story but now that Disney owns the rights, all things previously thought to have been known about Han are no longer canon. THIS is now his origin story and, for the most part, I feel like director Ron Howard and writers Jonathan & Lawrence Kasdan did right by us.
As the movie opens, we see Han and his friend Qi’ra attempting to escape their hardscrabble life on Corellia and the events that led to Han enlisting in the Imperial Navy to be a pilot as well as his getting kicked out of the academy for “having a mind of his own.” These aren’t spoilers, but pieces of the back story we’d all previously known and that the writers correctly decided to keep in play. We also see how he meets his sidekick and stalwart co-pilot Chewbacca (also first seen in the original film). From this point on, the writers do a great job of weaving a brand new story for our reluctant heroes while also including necessary parts of what we all hoped would be present in this tale along with several clever Easter Eggs for those of us who live and breathe all things Star Wars (anyone still have their original PlayStation “Star Wars Masters of Teras Kasi” video game?).
We truly have an all-star cast in this film including Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, Emilia Clarke & Jon Favreau. The two stand out performances for me were Donald Glover who was able to perfectly capture the essence of Billy Dee William‘s smooth but shady Lando Calrissian and Woody Harrelson who portrayed the new character of mastermind / thief / smuggler Beckett with a world-weary determination that commanded attention. As for Alden Ehrenreich‘s Han Solo, he gave us a young, hungry and energetic rendering of our favorite scruffy-looking nerf herder, but he never seemed to be able to muster the easy, roguish charm that Harrison Ford gave us throughout his run in the franchise. He tried…. but it just fell slightly short of the mark, for me.
For my money, ‘Solo’ does a rather solid job of navigating between what hard core Star Wars fans will expect and what newcomers and younger generations will enjoy with fresh eyes. The cast is sharp, the story is clean and the action is never too slow nor too far outside of what we have seen from previous Star Wars films. My biggest complaint was the attempt at giving us a similar-ish droid character to ‘Rogue One‘s stand out K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) in the form of Lando’s co-pilot L3 and not pulling it off as well (through no fault of voice actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Nothing more can be said there without spoiling a few things, so I’ll just leave it at that. I have no doubt that this movie will be successful for Disney and, given the movie’s ending, I definitely see the need for either a sequel or a direct spinoff for at least 2 or 3 of the characters involved in this film. On a scale of 1 – 10, I give ‘Solo’ a respectable 7.5. Get out and see it in a movie theater near you!!