Solo: A Star Wars Story
Directed by: Ron Howard
Written by: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Joonas Suotamo, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton
Review by Stephanie Cooke
I’m usually keen to see big blockbusters in the theatre as close to release day as possible. As I grow older, I dislike crowds more and more and that need to be in the theatre with a ton of other people lessens. Still, I wanted to support the latest Star Wars film but I couldn’t quite bring myself to make time for it in the theatre. It just didn’t really catch my attention in the trailers. Having finally gotten the chance to watch it as it arrives on Blu-ray, did I make the right choice to wait for home video?
Any Star Wars film is likely to be a fun time when you see it on the big screen. The special effects are going to be great and there are going to be fun things that will make it worthwhile. I obviously didn’t really get that experience just watching the movie at home but I could still tell that the special effects were fantastic and definitely were a treat for people checking out the theatrical run.
Outside of that, I don’t think that I missed out on much. Solo was a little bit of a mess being made with shakeups to the writers and directors of the film but eventually we wound up with Ron Howard helming the film, which honestly seems like a weird choice to me. Maybe that’s just because I solely associate him with Arrested Development these days but what are ya gonna do…
The film is 2 1/2 hours long and had a lot of potential to be a fun romp. Or more fun. It’s not that Solo isn’t entertaining because it is, but it just could’ve been more and I think that’s a really frustrating thing to see. Sometimes movies like this just don’t seem to know when to cut down. Solo could’ve easily have removed an hour out of the film and tightened up the script to make things more action packed, to the point, and exciting.
It acts as an Original Story Lite for the character of Han Solo and fills us in on fun little tidbits like just how did Han win the Millennium Falcon off of Lando? And other things that we’ve all been dying to know about (sorry not sorry for that sarcasm here).
There’s a fairly lengthy intro to Han which could’ve easily been wiped out entirely. This part serves to introduce Qi’ra and develop their relationship a bit but had she been introduced later on when the two meet again, we would’ve had the same amount of information about her as we did before (aka next to nothing). So right away that’s a substantial part of the film that could’ve been done away with. Solo also suffers a little bit from not knowing exactly what it wants to be. It’s part action movie and part Oceans 11 heist but it doesn’t lean into one or the other enough to really make it stand out. An Oceans 11-esque take on Solo Star could’ve made it the equivalent to Guardians of the Galaxy in MCU. It would’ve given the filmmakers a chance to play around with the characters in a more fun way that we haven’t really seen before in this universe. But they just couldn’t leave all the big action scenes behind and didn’t quite hit those marks with the heist setup and lead-ins.
The characters are the best part of the film, I suppose. It’s a fun-ish movie that’s really riding on the coat tails of the franchise to do a lot of the work.
Alden Ehrenreich is okay in the role of Han Solo but he had big shoes to fill for the character and he doesn’t really get there for me. I don’t know if it was Ehrenreich or if the writing and directing weren’t enough to bring the performance out of him, but I just didn’t feel it. He didn’t feel like Han Solo to me. It was almost like watching a fan interpretation of him on screen where it’s close but you’re thinking to yourself “Ahh this would be so good if they got some great actor for this!”
Honestly, all the big draws to the film were the biggest letdowns of it for me. Donald Glover as Lando was fine, I guess, but I genuinely don’t understand all the people clamouring to have him in a solo film next (or instead). Meh. Meh meh meh. They were trying SO hard with those characters and I just wasn’t feeling it. I really could not have cared less about Solo or Lando and have no desire to see more of them on screen in a continued Solo film series, a new Lando film series, or anything else.
The character that was most intriguing to me was one that got very little screen time. Enfys Nest is a pirate played by Erin Kellyman in the film. She has her mask off for all of a few minutes but she was easily the most intriguing part of the entire film for me. There are many more Star Wars films to come over the years and likely many more solo films (no pun intended). One that should happen but likely won’t is an elaborated backstory for Enfys. People go on and on about Boba Fett and Lando but they’re ultimately pretty boring characters, if I’m being honest. Enfys barely said anything but the lines that her character did have told a better story than the one we spent 2 1/2 hours watching around it. Not to mention that in my head, all I could picture was actress Erin Kellyman playing Aloy (from the video game Horizon Zero Dawn) in a live action adaptation. If you haven’t seen Solo yet but have played HZD, imagine seeing Aloy in the Star Wars universe. Like the absolute perfect Aloy. That is Erin Kellyman as Enfys Nest in Solo.
If I have one request from the Star Wars Universe it’s this: please do more with Enfys Nest. Please.
I’m a big Game of Thrones fan so immediately when I saw the first trailer for Solo, I was curious about Qi’ra. I don’t think I’ve loved Emilia Clarke in anything outside of Game of Thrones but I was hopeful. I was pretty certain she’d be my favourite part of Solo. While there are definitely moments when I’m really invested in what’s going on with her, we never get enough to be hooked. I know they want to tease, leave some of the plot to your imagination and make you guess which side she’s on etc., but I think they needed to throw out more of a bone. It would’ve been more interesting had she given some sort of sob story type thing to Han and co. only to find out she’d manipulated them with a lie for her own gain or something. But she’s mostly beholden to furthering Han’s story along and then working on her own interests. Things didn’t quite align with her character for me…She gets closer to compelling towards the end of the film as she toes the line to the Dark Side, but I’m not sure if it salvaged her character though and makes me interested to see more of her down the line. Emilia Clarke is fine in the role but is essentially Daenerys Targaryen in all the seasons of Game of Thrones condensed into one performance.
This review has largely been character focused and i swear I’ll wrap things up in a sec, but I wanted to bring up one more thing in regards to Lando’s droid, L3. Allison O’Toole reviewed the theatrical run of Solo and I have to agree with her that having the first female droid in the Star Wars film be an exaggerated “feminist” type character feels a bit pointed. BB-8 was originally meant to be “female” but they ultimately decided to make it “male”. I don’t know if this was supposed to be some sort of “sorry about BB-8 but here you go” type thing but I would’ve rather had a droid that was just fun and great and happened to be “female” rather than whatever statement they’re trying to make with L3. She’s obnoxious and it feels like they’re almost stoking the fires around the Star Wars fandom a bit.
Solo: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray Special Features:
- Solo: The Director & Cast Roundtable – Sit down with director Ron Howard and the stars for an intimate and entertaining discussion of the film’s making.
- Team Chewie – See what it takes to bring your favorite Wookiee to life in this lighthearted look behind the scenes.
- Kasdan on Kasdan – Iconic Star Wars screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and son Jonathan share what it was like to write the movie’s script together.
- Remaking the Millennium Falcon – Track the transformation of the most famous ship in the galaxy, from Lando’s swank and impeccable pride and joy to Han’s stripped-down hot-rod freighter with “special modifications.”
- Escape from Corellia – Get behind the wheel for the making of this high-octane chase through the streets of Corellia.
- The Train Heist – Explore the challenges and thrills of creating this action-packed sequence, including its remote location and spectacular effects.
- Becoming a Droid: L3-37 – Meet the newest droid—and the talented actor who helps bring her to life.
- Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures and Cards: Welcome to Fort Ypso – Take an in-depth tour of the rough-and-tumble bar where strangers mix and gamblers risk all in the legendary card game, Sabaac.
- Into the Maelstrom: The Kessel Run – Join Han and Chewie at the controls of the Millennium Falcon to see how this legendary moment in Star Wars history unfolds.
- Deleted Scenes
- The Millenium Falcon: From Page to Park – An exclusive look at the history of the most famous ship in the galaxy, its origin and development, and how it will translate in one of the most anticipated expansions in Disneyland’s history.
If you’re a big ol’ Star Wars fan, the Blu-ray with all its bells and whistles is a Must Buy. If you’re a casual fan who enjoys the Star Wars Universe from time to time, I don’t think Solo is an essential for your collection.
If you take the legacy Star Wars characters out of the equation and do the mental math on the story, the bottom line is that Solo isn’t that great. It’s a so-so heist story with a so-so cast held together by so-so writing. Han Solo is a fun character and while they desperately tried to find that perfect formula that turned Harrison Ford into that scruffy nerfherder we’ve come to love, they just didn’t succeed with Alden Ehrenreich.
It’s not a bad movie but given the resources that Lucasfilm has to access the best of the best, they could’ve done a lot better.