“I’ve got a good feeling about this”
Your favorite slimy, double-crossing, no-good swindler is back, though not in the way you expected in Star Wars’ latest anthology film, Solo: A Star Wars Story. Acting as the legendary character’s origin story, Solo delivers a perfect blend of classic Star Wars magic with some truly unique elements that connect the fabrics of the Star Wars Universe in ways that will leave you with plenty to think about.
As the second standalone film, Solo breaks away from the conventional Star Wars line of storytelling. Even with Rogue One, the focus of the 9 films so far gravitates to a larger battle between the Light Side and the Dark whether that be the Jedi versus the Sith, the Rebels versus the Empire, or the Resistance versus the First Order. Solo instead shrinks down the scope towards a more focused adventure that has a Western-like vibe with a dash of a classic heist film. The result is an imaginative story filled with humor and excitement, creating an overall fun ride that gives us enough of what we have guessed at for Han’s backstory while still maintaining the element of surprise that will leave us turning our heads and hungry for more.
The pacing is smooth, going through the necessary world building in the first act, but still going along at a good speed, leading to the climax, and as you all have guessed, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: The Kessel Run. At 2 hours and 15 minutes, the film doesn’t spend too much time reminding you that you’re watching a Star Wars film, and instead uses that time wisely with less blunt of an approach. The only concern is in the final act, as daring as it is, may cause some friction between more selective fans. It’s shocking, interesting, and a wonderful element, but may distract from the overall narrative.
Alden Ehrenreich doesn’t disappoint, as he brings the charm and swagger needed to fill in the shoes of Harrison Ford. Though he does credit his performance to past research and Ford himself, Ehrenreich’s Solo doesn’t feel like a two hour-long impression of Harrison Ford. Instead, he takes the reigns in to show a more idealistic and optimistic side of Han that adds a deeper understanding of the character. There’s conflict, a battle between the unapologetic pirate he is destined to become and a dreamer that wants to be the best pilot in the galaxy. Ehrenreich’s approach compliments Ford’s rather than takes you away from it. It was surprising, as it didn’t appear there was much more emotional depth that could be described with Han Solo. Yet, prepare to be pleasantly turned on your head and have to rethink Solo overall in the grand scheme of his adventures throughout the Star Wars saga.
Don’t let the title fool you though, as this film is not all about Han Solo. The rest of the cast give stellar performances with characters that have strength, charisma, and relatable personality. Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian is phenomenal, though he doesn’t get as much screen time as you would imagine given the trailers and promos released so far. Still, he plays the character as smooth and as clever as those same previews have shown us. Glover is brilliant, and the only wish that can be made is for more time with him on screen.
His counterpart, L3, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, is the standout character of the film in a lot of ways. She is a self-made droid, built up of spare parts and plenty of spunk. Waller-Bridge brought in her own ideas, working with Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan at rounding out her dialogue, all that pack a serious punch. L3 isn’t in distress, but more a force to be reckoned with. She’s a role model, and someone who adds a bit of modern humanity to the film, even if it is set in a galaxy far, far away.
Meanwhile, both Woody Harrelson and Thandie Newton deliver on providing characters that are building blocks to the world Han ends up getting tossed into. Though the end game is the big score and payout, both do a fabulous job at conveying what it really means to be a rogue. There is a lot to be said, as their characters Beckett and Val sacrifice everything for the fleeting idea of freedom and comfort. As the film progresses, you root for these guys, even if their choices aren’t always easy to sit with.
The story’s villain, Dryden Vos; however, doesn’t show any sense of guilt, and generates a total departure for Avengers alum, Paul Bettany. Coming from the purely good hero, Vision, Bettany has the time of his life portraying the dark and calculating crime lord. With power, riches, and muscle, he is the driving force of the film’s heist. Though, there are plenty of unknown factors that play a bigger part. The smoke and mirrors are there, even if Vos himself can’t see them. Vos is the type of villain you would expect in this type of feature, but Bettany definitely pulls off the bad vibe without a hitch.
Still, as said earlier, this film is not strictly a Solo story. The best example of this comes from Emilia Clarke’s character, Qi’Ra. As Han’s oldest companion and love interest, we pretty much have to take what we see at face value. The film drives home that her character is more important than Han’s former arm candy. Instead, Clarke creates one of the most interesting tones in Solo, giving us a complex individual with just as much conflict as Han himself. Her performance and story is worth a close eye, as it is incredibly entertaining.
In the end, Solo is filled with exhilarating moments, clever one-liners, and enough balance to bring it all home in a well-packaged adventure story. In the grand scheme of the Star Wars Anthology, Solo is exactly what is needed to give us all something new without sacrificing the core elements of what makes the franchise so endearing. Solo not only shines, it soars!
This article is written by Maverick Bohn
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