Movie Review – If Adventure Has A Name, This Time It’s SOLO!

by Richard Woloski

I would like to start this review by answering the question that has been on everyone’s mind. Can Alden Ehrenreich convincingly embody the role of Han Solo? The answer is YES! He is fantastic in his portrayal of one of the most iconic heroes in cinema. From the start he makes you forget there was ever a question if someone else could fill Harrison Ford’s boots. There. Now let’s start this spoiler-free review….

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY

Alden Ehrenreich is Han Solo and Joonas Suotamo is Chewbacca in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY.

A long time ago, in fact 41 years to the date that the original Star Wars opened, we get a stand alone film of fan-favorite and everyone’s favorite dashing scoundrel – Han Solo in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY. If you thought Star Wars was a fun roller-coaster adventure then you will happy to know SOLO continues that tone and takes you on a hysterical ride of twists and turns. The only bump the casual filmgoer needs to get over is knowing that this takes place before 1977’s Star Wars. So if you are wondering where Rey, BB-8 and Kylo Ren are, well they haven’t been born (or built) yet. SOLO doesn’t have the vast scope of the previous films, but it is not needed since there is just one character whose point of view we follow and that is Han Solo and his personal mission that brings so much depth to his character.

We first meet Han as he and his companion Qi’Ra (Mother of Dragons from Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke) are making ends meet on the mean streets of Corellia. When things go wrong and they are separated while evading henchmen from the underworld, Han vows to do anything and everything to find her. Even if that means joining the galactic Empire so he can get off Corellia and search the galaxy. In his quest he meets his future best friend, Chewbacca the Wookiee (played by Joonas Suotamo who has been taking over the role since The Force Awakens from Peter Mayhew)!

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY

Emilia Clarke is Qi’ra and Alden Ehrenreich is Han Solo in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY.

While in service to the Empire, Han meets up with Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his team of bandits. Beckett becomes a mentor to Han and tells him something that will change his life forever, “If you come with us, you’re in this life for good.” Up until this point Han just wanted to prove that he can be good at something that matters, he never intended to take this road to the underworld. Here is where we get to see Han develop as a character and see he’s not as two dimensional as when we see him in Star Wars.

If any casting was to be a problem, Woody Harrelson would have been it. Since he’s been franchise hopping from Hunger Games to Planet of the Apes and now Star Wars, would the film have been better off with a less recognizable face? Nope! He has a way of playing a character that makes you forget his other roles including the off-center bartender on Cheers.

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY

Woody Harrelson is Beckett and Alden Ehrenreich is Han Solo in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY. (c) 2018 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Joining Beckett’s team leads him to meeting a character we first met in The Empire Strikes Back, Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Lots of praise has been been given to Donald Glover’s portrayal of the pansexual Lando Calrissian, which at times borders on being a caricature of Billy Dee Williams who originated the role. Glover never lets the scene get away from him and when he’s giving the role his original take, he is on point. He sells the cocky attitude just right so we don’t ever get tired of him. Besides who can ever tire of someone who has a room just to hang up all of his capes? Audiences knew when they first saw Lando in the trailer that they were going to see the story element of how Han won the Millennium Falcon in a Sabacc match. We’ve been waiting to see since Han told Lando in Empire, “You lost her to me fair and square.”

It would be hard to steal a scene from Lando but his droid, L3-37 (given life by Phoebe Waller-Bridge) does a great job keeping up. We’ve seen human-cyborg relation droids in the Star Wars saga from C-3PO to Rogue One’s K2-SO, but L3 astonishes by never replicating what has been done before. She has high standards for herself and others like her and has an unusual agenda that includes equal rights for droids. There is a very funny, maybe even unsettling, moment where she tries to figure out the bottomline relationship between she and Lando.

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is L3-37 in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY. (c) 2018 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Paul Bettany (good guy Vision in Avengers: Infinity War) is the scar-faced crime boss, Dryden Vos who shines so well that it is almost impossible to hate him. If it weren’t for the director shuffle we wouldn’t have had the pleasure in his performance since it originally went to Michael K. Williams. Since the prolonged shooting schedule conflicted with other commitments, he had to drop out. Seeing an opening, Bettany sent this tweet to Ron Howard, “Have you ever spent long winter evenings wondering why you’re not in the Star Wars franchise? I have.” Luckily for him and us, the world works through social media.

If you’ve seen the trailers and commercials then you know that the style of Solo harkens back to the the western with it’s train heists, stand-offs and betrayals. Writer Lawrence Kasdan has developed the character of Han Solo since The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (he also shares writing credit on Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Force Awakens). This time he splits screenplay credit with his son Jon to help give the character and story and younger feel. SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY fits perfectly into Lawrence’s wheelhouse having written some of the best westerns in recent memory with 1985’s SIlverado and 1994’s Wyatt Earp.

A younger feel is what Disney was going for when they originally hired the directing team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller in 2016. However there were problems including the direction of the comedic tone. They wanted an improv tone that leaned more in the direction of Guardians of the Galaxy than Star Wars. When they were let go June of 2017, the public opinion was that there just wasn’t enough time to start all over again and release the film in 11 months. Seeing the film you would never suspect there was a problem. Ron Howard and his support team of writers, actors and Kathleen Kennedy pull SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY together seamlessly.

Ehrenreich is not the only one who has very large shoes to fill, soundtrack composer John Powell (Shrek, Antz and How To Train Your Dragon) takes over for the legendary maestro, John Williams. Like Michael Giacchino who was the first composer to take on a live action Star Wars theatrical film with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Powell also has to play in world where his themes need to sound fresh but also fit in with what has been established. And they do! However, Williams does get to compose and conduct the track, ‘The Adventures of Han’. It’s been four decades and the closet Han ever got to his own theme is ‘Han and Leia’ from The Empire Strikes Back. So there was no way he was going to let someone else write that! The remaining themes by Powell are spot on with a lot more choir than we’ve heard since The Phantom Menace.

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is literally everything you will want in a Han Solo origin story. Some may say, why would we need to see these character building points, but I say why not!? We’ve heard about Han’s infamous stories about how he made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, how he joined the Empire then saved Chewbacca from Imperial imprisonment now we get to see these exciting adventures. Each character beat is as fun as the next. The behind-the-scenes drama should not keep anyone from seeing SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY. This is what every Summer film should strive to be!

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About Richard & Sarah Woloski

Richard and Sarah Woloski are the co-hosts and creators of the Disney / Star Wars Podcast Skywalking Through Neverland. The husband and wife team strives to create a polished, positive and fun weekly show celebrating fandom. They also love writing for Adventures By Daddy. Find them @SkywalkingPod