There is absolutely no doubt coming into this film that the expectations are lower than usual; if you’ve been following what fans of the Star Wars franchise feel about this film, you’ll know precisely what I mean. Solo: A Star Wars Story is perhaps a case-study example of fandom deciding they don’t like a movie before it even releases. I however, prefer to retain a default attitude before I enter any film – and in many ways, this attitude has been rewarded, as I found Solo: A Star Wars Story to be a splendid movie-going experience.
Solo: A Star Wars Story follows the origin story of the famed smuggler Han Solo, a young man with a dream to become a pilot, eager to prove his worth.
There is no doubt that the stakes were high for this film to deliver on just one thing, ensure the production issues did not destroy the film itself. Ron Howard does his job and does it well; taking on another director’s film and steering it in a direction that did not spell disaster. In fact, if you’re in search of an adventure sci-fi, Solo: A Star Wars Story may be exactly what you’re after. Characters that were likable was essential for this film to function, avoiding the overly sappy emotions that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) developed and deciding to push more toward an adventure driven experience was both suitable for Han Solo as a character and for the benefit of the films narrative. While you don’t see much of the cynical Solo that fans would be accustomed to, the version we do get is likable enough to convince me that he could become the Han we know.
This film does not make an effort in developing the Han we know today, merely laying out the foundations for that version of Han, if ever they wanted to make future installments, whether you see this as an attribute or not is up to you – personally, I view it as a perfectly valid storytelling decision. While this film is not short of the classic Star Wars callbacks and story elements, they are both slightly more suppressed in some ways yet more exaggerated in others.
The possibility of a potentially inaccurate representation of the character Han Solo was no doubt a large concern when film was announced. The suave, cocky, and bad boy attitude that is practically iconic with Han Solo certainly raised the stakes for Alden Ehrenreich to, at the very least, provide a performance that would not lead to fans grabbing their pitchforks and boycotting cinemas. Ehrenreich goes in guns blazing, puts in his all, and comes out with a performance that more or less works. He remains consistent in his personality as the character, ensuring not to overstep his bounds in comedy or sappy emotion; he even musters the courage to take a shot at Harrison Ford’s mannerisms, often hitting the target with his classic smile. Though for many of the successful moments, he had a fair portion of misses, specifically the one-liners that hinge on the boundary of funny self-awareness and forced callbacks.
The addition of Woody Harrelson and Emilia Clarke certainly would have made this film feel cluttered had they been agitating in their respective roles, fortunately this was not the case; Harrelson’s character is rough, quick to a witty response, and experienced; whereas Emilia’s role holds a more emotionally unsure and complicated air about her. We also get the addition of Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, without a doubt offering up the overall best portrayal in the film – his stylish attitude and cocky bravado emulates many of the qualities that we see in Lando later in life.
Visually this film treats us to some of the best cinematography and production design Star Wars has done thus far – above all, this film has sunk its teeth deep into the roots of practical effects more than any of the recent Star Wars films have – only utilizing CGI backdrops when necessary and turning whatever it could into a real set or environment made all the difference for making the locations feel real and less Hollywoodized. Unfortunately the muted color-grade throughout this film degraded many of the beautiful visuals on-screen; it really was displeasing to the eye. In terms of sound, John Williams returns to compose and brings forth a respectable soundtrack, calling back themes and building its own sound without constantly referring back to the main Star Wars storyline.
Ron Howard has done work at taking over the directorial job in spite of this entire situation, the film manages to entertain and will be a hit or miss in terms of how it will grab different people in terms of what they’re looking for out of it. This film is primarily built for entertainment and if you go forth expecting a complex balance of morals between the dark side and the light then you’re setting yourself up for the wrong film. Take it or leave it this film managed to work despite the production hell it went through. Solo: A Star Wars Story holds its own in entertainment value, focusing primarily on the aspects that make it an entertaining adventure film rather than a hefty narrative.