WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo befriends his mighty future copilot, Chewbacca, and meets notorious gambler Lando Calrissian.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Solo: A Star Wars Story had many challenges before it could face the scrutiny of a fanbase known to show vitriol whenever a Star Wars movie tries something new.
An acting coach had to be hired for the lead because the studio wasn’t impressed with his direction, and the original duo-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were fired four-and-a-half months into filming because they reportedly wanted it to be a comedy and was going off script too much. Ron Howard was brought on board, who ended up re-shooting 70% of the film and ended up with the final directing credit. All these dramas smack of other films (*coughDCcough*) which ended up being box office disasters, and my optimism for an origin movie I never really wanted was at an all-time low when I entered the cinema.
But let me tell you, somehow Disney sprinkled their magic fairy dust combined with the Force to deliver a Western spectacle that fits perfectly with the cowboy character of our favourite scoundrel – a film so entertaining and endearing that you end up falling in love with this naïve, yet still charming Han Solo before he becomes the jaded Harrison Ford smuggler.
Howard proved once again why he’s an Oscar-winning director (A Beautiful Mind) with the way that he propelled this movie into something a little different from the franchise but retaining the core of a beloved character. It’s still hilarious with some killer lines all around, but if the studio had stuck with Lord and Miller, that over-the-top comedy style of their previous films (21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs just to give you an idea) would really have ruined the charm that the characters exude on-screen.
In this movie, we see Han (Alden Ehrenreich) as a young adult trying to escape his impoverished circumstances with his childhood friend (Emilia Clarke) and pursue his dreams of becoming a pilot, but after being separated with his love he makes plans to return for her with cash and a ship in tow.
Being a die-hard fan of Han and Leia’s relationship, it’s a little hard to see him so in love with someone else, but after a while you understand that it’s important in developing the character into the one we know from the Harrison Ford days. He’s brash and runs into things head-first without thinking, unsure of himself but tries to mask it with youthful optimism and a sprinkle of arrogance, which we know only grows in later years.
The one key difference though between young and older Han is his penchant for helping people willingly instead of reluctantly. This might irk some fans, but give Ehrenreich a chance to make you completely fall in love with him. He’s always had that old Hollywood charisma in all his movie roles, which is why I think he was cast in the first place, and it’s great that Disney decided to rather invest in making him better rather than just cutting him.
Chewbacca also finally got the story he deserved, becoming more than just a sidekick you see in the earlier movies but a rounded character with his own motivations. This was one of my favourite parts of the film and the audience will be thrilled at seeing so much of Chewie.
As for the new characters, Woody Harrelson always ends up as the mentor of the lead in most movies, and his brilliance continues to shine opposite Ehrenreich as the scoundrel father he never had. Clarke does what she does best, and there are a couple of twists in her character that will just keep you guessing the whole way through.
But the real scene-stealers were the young Lando Calrissian, played by Donald Glover, and, of course, the droid L3-37 voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. You can’t have Star Wars without a smack-talking robot and they outdid themselves with L3. Her zingers can be heard on the other side of the galaxy, and you might snort-laugh in every scene she’s in. Glover was also a perfect casting choice for the smooth-talking and fashionable Lando, where we finally get to see how Han pried away the Millenium Falcon from his hands, and the two actors’ chemistry was a bit rough at first but they get comfortable with each other fast, even though it was a hate-hate relationship.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is quite different from the main franchise, but like Rogue One the standalone movies give Star Wars a chance to do something else and its fans should afford it that opportunity. Although it might feel different in style, remember that Star Wars has always had that space Western feeling to it, and in Solo, it's more focused than before.
Whereas Rogue One was about sacrifice, Solo is about trust – when to give it to complete strangers and when to withhold it from people you’ve known for years, as well as trusting in your own capabilities. “If you don’t trust anyone, you’ll never be disappointed,” says the seasoned smuggler to the young Han, and it’s something that will stick with him forever, even though it doesn’t completely jade him. I am definitely looking forward to the next movies in the rumoured trilogy - if it does not succumb to the sludge of a toxic fandom.