Solo: A Star Wars Story is a film that gives us Han Solo’s cinematic origin story while staying true to the original Star Wars trilogy.
WHILE I TRIED MY BEST TO AVOID THEM, THERE ARE POTENTIAL SPOILERS…SO READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
What is known about where the film sits within the Star Wars canon is that the events take place between that of Thrawn and Tarkin. It’s also set before the events of A New Dawn. All in all, we’re looking about 11-14 years before the start of A New Hope and well after the rise of the Galactic Empire.
How did Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich, years before Harrison Ford) become one of the most beloved figures in the galaxy? It starts with a backstory that takes us to Corellia for the first time in a Star Wars film. The planet is the Venice of the Star Wars universe with lots of water. Han dreams of escaping the planet to become a pilot with only White Worm clan leader Lady Proxima standing in his way. Han was looking to do so with his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), only she got left behind. With her behind and Han needing a way off of his home planet, he turns to the Imperial Navy.
Following a time jump, we learn that the Navy didn’t work out for Han. He’s been assigned to be an Imperial Mud Trooper and not having any of it. It’s on Mimban where he learns of Tobias Beckett’s (Woody Harrellson) plans and wants in on it. Unbeknownst to Han, Beckett isn’t working for the Imperials. Instead, he’s a smuggler working with Val (Thandie Newton). No wonder where Han got it from! All it took was this one move to set in motion the events that would later place him in the Mos Eisley Cantina!
With Chewie now with the gang, Han finds himself reuniting with his former girlfriend, who is now the top lieutenant under Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). The Yacht plays host to Easter Eggs! Han suggests going to Kessel to make up for the lost cargo. Sound familiar? Anyone? They’re going to need a ship if they expect to get the job done. I wonder how they’re going to get that. This brings us to the major plot points that we expect to see develop on screen: how will Han come into contact with Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and win over the Millennium Falcon? Will it involve the Sabaac game that’s long been discussed? What about the Kessel run in less than 12 parsec? We’re introduced to Lando’s droid, L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), and she sure knows how to make an entrance! L3 may just be the first droid rights activist on screen.
When it comes to boarding the Millennium Falcon, audiences are going to discover areas of the ship never before seen in five previous films. Mostly, this is because of the financials involved. We’ve got a better idea thanks to books containing artwork for The Force Awakens but that’s about it…until now.
Alden Ehrenreich’s performance is not impression of Harrison Ford. But for the film to succeed, he doesn’t necessarily need to do an impression. All he needs to do is convince us that he’ll become the scoundrel we’ll all love some day in the near future. The same goes for Donald Glover when it comes to Lando Calrissian and Billy Dee Williams. Glover manages to make the role his own with some surprises thrown in. We all know just who the two will become in the future. Hell, the whole point of Solo is to tell us how they got there and it does. Oh, does it ever!
The first meetup between Han and Chewbacca is going to go down as one of the all-time classic meet-cutes. It may not be what fans have expected. Because of the whole Star Wars Legends alternate universe (the classic Expanded Universe) and the current canon universe, there’s some move for changes to be made in the movie and not to play spoiler, they change it up from the previous novels. With Solo, there’s now an opportunity to re-write the history of their travels together.
It helps that Lawrence Kasdan was on board to write the screenplay. If somebody is going to tell Han’s origin story, let it be the person who was there in the beginning years of the character. Kasdan knows that there’s an interesting story to tell before we see Han in the Mos Eisley Cantina. There’s some irony that he was also the guy who was there when he died in The Force Awakens.
Production designer Neil Lamont did a great job in shaping the design. It’s one that gives off a late 1960s/early 1970s vibe. This makes sense given the timeline. The design fits the heist and western genres.
Outside of Alden and Donald, it was composer John Powell with the largest shoes to fill. Powell had to weave in music from Star Wars composer John Williams while also making the score his own at the end of the day. There’s the themes for the Millennium Falcon, TIE fighters and the Empire, not to mention the Williams-contributed theme for Han himself.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fun time, even for those feeling like they may be developing Star Wars fatigue.
DIRECTOR: Ron Howard
SCREENWRITERS: Jonathan Kasdan & Lawrence Kasdan
CAST: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, and Paul Bettany
Lucasfilm released Solo: A Star Wars Story in theaters on May 25, 2018. Grade: 3.5/5
This review originally ran in 2018.