Solo: A Star Wars Story delves into the young adult version of one of the franchise’s most beloved characters, Han Solo. The events in this prequel take place in a galaxy far, far away 10 years prior to Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. While Harrison Ford’s Han Solo was a swashbuckling charmer, Alden Ehrenreich‘s younger Han is more rash and impulsive, and miles behind Ford’s Han in the charming department.
Does this Han Solo origin story offer up enough new details on the roguish pilot to warrant a full-length feature film? Do we need a backstory to a character we’ve gotten to know well over the past few decades? The PG-13 movie answers those questions by revealing a few fun tidbits of info regarding the origin of Han’s name, how he became best friends with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and how he hooked up with Lando Calrissian (the scene-stealing Donald Glover). Unfortunately, the story surrounding those revelations isn’t anything special.
Solo shows Han evolving from a rebel without a cause into a young man who learns to put the needs of others above his own. It’s a fairly basic redemption story minus any suspense since we know the ultimate outcome for the lead character. His short journey from miscreant to hero puts Han in contact with Beckett (Woody Harrelson) who mentors him in the art of the steal. Audiences also get to meet Han’s first love, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), who truth be told is a far more interesting character than the titular hero.
Key to the story is the villainous Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) who forces Han and his new criminal cohorts to pull off a dangerous heist to pay off their debts. Dryden’s the standard cruel mob boss character from any of a dozen crime films plopped into an outer space setting.
Among the other new characters introduced in this prequel is L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), a character some fans have labeled Solo’s version of Jar Jar Binks. I disagree. At least L3-37’s dialogue adds a spark of life to an otherwise flat production. L3-37 is all about drone empowerment while Jar Jar Binks served no discernible purpose other than to annoy the audience. Jar Jar Binks is the most ridiculed sidekick in the Star Wars franchise, but Solo’s weird spider-monkey creature who hangs with Lando could give him a run for his title.
Harrison Ford’s presence as Han is sorely missed. It’s telling to note the most compelling characters are Donald Glover’s Lando and Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra in a film that’s supposed to be spotlighting Han Solo.
Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan takes a standard heist setup and transplants it into the Star Wars universe while failing to give this latest in a lengthy list of new Star Wars projects a compelling reason to exist. It’s a disappointing addition to the revived film franchise and feels like the cash-grab it is. Even the familiar Star Wars musical cues aren’t capable of more than a momentary blast of joy at the thought of better films.
Solo: A Star Wars Story’s also the worst lit production in recent memory. Struggling to follow the action in unnecessarily dim lighting is distracting and frustrating. There’s no justifiable reason for releasing a film that disengages viewers due to bad lighting.
Solo isn’t the Star Wars movie you’re looking for. Move along.
Release Date: May 25, 2018
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Directed By: Ron Howard