A Surprisingly Enjoyable Film
Solo: A Star Wars Story may not be the best Star Wars film released, nor is it particularly innovative in its execution, but what this sci-fi thriller lacks in originality it more than makes up for with enthusiasm and tenacity, acting as a reminder of how fun these films can be. The acting all round is very good too with both Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover nailing their portrayals of Han Solo and Lando Calrissian respectively. The inclusion of a female droid and some questionably developed supporting characters do hold this back from being a better film but there’s no denying that the charm and excitement emanating from Solo is unrivalled in a lot of the newer Star Wars films.
The main bulk of the plot chronicles Han Solo’s journey from a nobody in the slums to one of the Galaxy’s most infamous smugglers and while this tale has been told through expository dialogue in other Star Wars films before, Solo brings this action-packed story to life for the first time. After a brief adrenaline-fuelled chase to begin the film, Solo slows its pacing down to build the character relationship between Chewbacca and Han Solo who meet for the first time after Han is captured. What follows is an uneasy alliance with fellow smuggler Lando Calrissian as they, along with Qi-Ra (Emilia Clarke) and Beckett (Woody Harrelson), embark on the infamous Kessell Run to repay their debts.
Unlike Rogue One which benefited from the element of unpredictability surrounding the fate of its original cast, Solo: A Star Wars Story’s familiar, colourful characters abandon tension in favour of action-packed thrills. While the character relationships are excellently developed and the film features some impressively shot action throughout, the lack of suspense does work against the film during some of its tenser moments; we know these characters survive so they feel devoid of tension and lose their appeal slightly. To try to shake things up, Solo does have some well worked plot twists late on but there’s never a moment that you worry for these characters’ wellbeing given that we know their fate before the film has even begun.
Visually, the film looks spectacular. The beautiful, wondrous areas in the endless darkness of space contrast nicely with the dark, gritty underbelly of some of the cities the group explore, reinforcing Han’s desire to become a space pilot. The slow trickle of prequel elements to accompany this film is a really nice touch with one particular cameo at the end sure to surprise and shock a lot of people. It is worth noting that those not accustomed to The Clone Wars series or the extra canon in the Star Wars universe beyond the films may well be left incredibly confused here but suffice to say, it’s easily one of the biggest highlights of the film. There’s numerous little nods to the other Star Wars films too, handled with far more subtlety compared to Rogue One’s obvious homage to A New Hope. The slight tease for a possible sequel and a satisfying but relatively open ending do ask some questions around the future of Solo as a stand-alone Star Wars adventure series but if they’re developed half as well as Solo is, we wouldn’t lament a second run with these characters.
Much like The Last Jedi’s contrived political agenda, Solo: A Star Wars Story follows suit with the questionable inclusion of a female droid for the first time in the series’ history. Obviously unbeknownst to the show creators, droids have no gender in the Star wars universe so the incredulous inclusion of L3-37, Lando’s sassy female co-pilot droid, is an odd one and clumsily handled throughout the scenes it features in. In many ways it feels more like a political statement than anything that moves the plot forward in a meaningful way and winds up detracting from the appeal whenever it shares the screen time with the other characters.
With the stakes already established and a distinct lack of tension throughout the story, Solo: A Star Wars Story relies heavily on its charismatic characters to drive the narrative forward. For the most part Solo succeeds too and the relationship between Han, Lando and Chewbacca is really the main attraction with this adventure film and is perfectly balanced throughout this 2 hour film. While there are better Star Wars movies out there, there’s certainly far worse too. Solo comfortably places itself somewhere in the middle of the Star Wars spectrum and while it’s unlikely to be anywhere near the most memorable Star Wars movie released, it’s far from the train wreck many predicted this may have been.