I’m just going to set this straight for the record, if ANY of you think SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY has more depth, energy, and stamina than either Empire, A New Hope, or Last Jedi, I won’t exactly disown you, but don’t ever tell me your opinion on a film again, because I am more than likely will not believe it. No, Solo isn’t a bad movie, in fact, I thought it was a tad bit better than the very underwhelming (with repeat viewings) Rogue One. Why can’t we have a Star Wars Story other than the original and sequel trilogy where we have no idea of even an inkling how it is going to go? I guess they can do that with the recently announced Boba Fett film, but ONLY IF IT TAKES PLACE AFTER THE SARLAAC PIT. But yeah, we need more originality with these spin offs. They lack the depth, intensity, and uniqueness of this new sequel trilogy. It even lacks all those things when it comes to the canonical novels, comics, and television shows, and even those take place in a timeline we’ve seen before! But I digress, SOLO isn’t terrible by any means. I know that this has been said to death, but it is a completely unnecessary Star Wars film, even if it is decently entertaining throughout the entire film.
But just entertaining films can sometimes be forgettable. The only way I truly know how to compare Solo to the other Star Wars stuff you’ve seen or read is to compare it to the only other spin off we have thus far (unless you count the beyond and above all shitty Clone Wars animated movie that hit theaters a decade ago), Rogue One. Yeah, I know you are probably shocked I don’t think much of Rogue One anymore. I put it #3 on my top ten list of 2016, and I wish I hadn’t. With repeat viewings, Rogue One doesn’t even come close to greatness. It has a couple of great scenes, (the only truly memorable one being the 2 minute Vader scene at the very end of the film), but that film, when viewed closely has absolutely no characterization. When all those characters meet their fates near the end of the film, I just didn’t really care who lived or who died. And that’s not good for a movie. Rogue One, in my sometimes outlandish opinion, is just a retcon film. If you don’t know what retconning is, look it up. All of Rogue One was just to say, hey, this flaw in the Death Star here, it wasn’t an Imperial mistake, and here’s why. Plus, CGI Grand Moff Tarkin…yikes.
Anyway, enough about Rogue One, I’m here to talk about Solo right? The difference between the two is that while Solo has a ho-hum story and MacGuffin, just like Rogue One had, Solo has characterization going for it. I cared about most of the characters in this, even the ones that are brand new to the universe. I’m glad that Alden Ehrenreich didn’t just do a Harrison Ford impression and kind of made the character his own, with a few of Ford’s quirks thrown in for good measure. I thought he was believable and did a very good job with the shoes he had to fill. Same goes for Donald Glover. While he wasn’t the scene stealing showman I thought he was going to be in this, he nonetheless makes Lando Calrissian his own while not outright copying Billy Dee Williams. And like the rest of the society, yes, I would’ve rather just seen a Lando movie with Donald Glover as the star than this. And holy shit let’s get to Emilia Clarke. This is the first project outside of Game of Thrones that I have seen where I actually liked her and enjoyed her performance. Makes me wash the bad taste of Terminator Genisys out of my mouth. Woody Harrelson does a good job as always, so does Thandie Newton, so does Phoebe-Waller Bridge as Lando’s robot L3. The real scene stealer of the movie is Chewbacca. This is the best use of Chewbacca since Empire Strikes Back, easily. The only really wasted person here is Paul Bettany. He has limited screen time and while he was okay, I expected more out of him as the villain.
Let’s see, where too next. Ah yes. The story. I won’t ruin the ultimate arc but let’s just say it is really underwhelming. They use a Energy MacGuffin to make some sort of hybrid western/heist film, and while some parts of it was entertaining, it really lacked and depth or perspective to really care whether they finished the job or not. None of the action scenes are really that memorable, the closest one being the moving train part of the heist. Part of the movie’s problem is the prequel problem. In two hours and 15 minutes the film tries to cram too much origin into this origin story. We get Han meeting Chewie, Lando, while also having a love story with Emilia Clarke. Han is supposed to win the Millennium Falcon, get his infamous blaster, and also make the Kessel Run in less that twelve parsecs. Whew, that’s a lot and the movie kind of displays how a little bit too crammed it all feels. Do any of you remember the first twenty minutes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with River Phoenix and him playing a Young Indiana Jones? And in that twenty minutes we learn how Indy gets his fedora, scar on lip, whip, fear of snakes, all in the span of one tiny adventure? It was overload, and the movie finally gets great right after that scene ends. Character development and where they get or obtain everything that makes the person we know and love today doesn’t happen with the snap of your fingers. It should take more time. While the Solo movie is more than just 20 minutes of origin, it still feels crammed and with the snap of your fingers.
Let’s get back to the action. I said the train heist was probably the most memorable thing about the film, but you know what should have been and wasn’t? The Kessel Run. That infamous line uttered by Han in A New Hope to display just how great and fast his ship really should be memorable. It isn’t. I won’t ruin anything about the run, but suffice to say you don’t see all that much, it’s too dark, and it is too fast. It should’ve been a race, kind of like the pod racing sequence in Episode 1. If Episode 1 did anything correctly other than Dark Maul, Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson and the last lightsaber fight, it was that awesome pod racing sequence. But nope, that isn’t what the Kessel Run is and I couldn’t help but feeling disappointed. Even though it wasn’t a race it could’ve been more exciting and memorable.
Now, remember how I said Rogue One’s best and most memorable scene is the Vader scene near the end of the film? Well, this one has a 2 minute scene like that, except it has no action. It is the best scene in the film, and it is also near the end. This one 2 minute scene brings together and acknowledges all the canon television shows and novels that some of us Star Wars fanatics have watched and read since 2015 when the Expanded Universe Started over (except for the Clone Wars television show, that, with the prequels, were the only pre 2015 things that were kept in canon.) It acknowledges the things beyond the films, and it really made me happy and smile. I won’t ruin anything, but YOU WILL ABSOLUTELY KNOW WHEN THIS SCENE HAPPENS. It unmistakably brilliant. You might just write it off as a fan service cameo, but it is so much more than that to people like me, you have no idea.
So while I didn’t care much about the story, the movie is still a little fun and entertaining to be sure. It isn’t terrible and it isn’t the train wreck it could’ve been. It is Ron Howard’s best film since Cinderella Man easily. I’ve found him to be on autopilot for the past decade but in this, he shows some of his old visual flair that he is known for. It looks like he really wanted to work on this, and it shows. Now I’ve heard that 70% of the film is his and the other 30% is footage that the infamously fired directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller shot. There are some scenes where I though, ok, this is definitely Lord and Miller, looks like improv here, but other than that, everything felt pretty seamless, as it should. You don’t know how badly this could’ve been a disaster. And while it is a completely unnecessary film, I can see myself watching it a couple of more times, and that ain’t bad.
So I had a bad feeling about this but came out with an “ok, not so bad” feeling. This film won’t make my top ten at the end of the year, but that’s okay, I didn’t really expect it to this time. The characterization tips this one over the edge for Rogue One for me. It might or might not for you, but like I said, if you think this is better than the original trilogy or Last Jedi, you probably need to stop watching Star Wars, or at least telling me your opinion about the saga. I’m really just happy it wasn’t a trainwreck, but I’m really hoping in the future that these Star Wars Stories/Spinoffs have more depth and substance than this or Rogue One, or it is going to get very tiring, very fast. Lightspeed fast.