Han Solo is one of the most popular characters from the original 1970’s Star Wars trilogy. The slick talking, charmer and his furry, temperamental partner Chewbacca, are two of cinema’s greatest outlaws. So, there is perhaps no characters worthier of a spin-off movie. With Harrison Ford far too old to reprise the role that launched his career, Aldin Ehrenreich has the lofty task of portraying the character in this prequel adventure.
Solo: A Star Wars Story introduces Han as a young, wannabe pilot, looking to free himself and an old flame (Emilia Clarke) from a life of servitude. Han’s mission to procure a ship and escape life working for the Empire, leads him to his future partner Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and a crew of thieves (Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Jon Favreau). Eventually, Han finds himself working for a vicious gangster (Paul Bettany) who needs him to pull off a virtually impossible heist. To accomplish the job, Han will need the help of famed hustler Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), his droid L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), and their impressive ship… the Millennium Falcon.
Ron Howard stepped in to take over directing duties for Phil Lord and Christopher Miller after most of the film was already shot. The changes in direction are a bit noticeable in the film’s overstuffed plot. It takes a while to get going, and newcomers will likely find themselves scratching their heads at the many unexplained plot elements that Star Wars purists will fully understand. But when Solo manages to find its footing, it is actually one of the most fun, visually appealing, and exciting Star Wars films.
The set pieces and action sequences make the film feel like a cross between a gritty western and a space age, heist caper. As for Ehrenreich, he holds his own in a role that is essentially impossible for anyone to truly embody better than Ford. He brings enough charm, and the script gives him enough moments, to make the entire journey feel like an organic Han Solo story, even if the absence of Harrison Ford makes things feel a tad off.
The new characters in Solo don’t quite do enough to become memorable. L3-37, a witty droid hell bent on freeing her fellow robotic brothers and sisters from servitude, is easily the most enjoyable. But she doesn’t get the screen time to quite steal the show. The rest of the faces all feel like stock counterparts only there to further the plot, with the exception of Glover’s fantastic embodiment of a young Billy Dee Williams. The movie also succumbs to the popular prequel problem of trying too hard to weave in threads from other movies in the series.
With plenty of charm and some exhilarating action to counterbalance some obvious flaws, Solo is a movie that will entertain most casual fans of the genre, even if we all wish Harrison Ford was a few decades younger to breathe more life into it. Solo won’t be considered a top shelf sci-fi entry, or even an upper echelon Star Wars film. But for a film that isn’t holistically necessary, it deserves credit for having some incredible moments.
FINAL GRADE: C, Not bad, but highly flawed.