Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Review

The first failure in the Star Wars live action franchise. Misstep after misstep after poor decisions overall. This movie may be the most complicated and the hardest to pinpoint how I feel about it. Ever since the new movies started coming out after the Disney purchase, I have made it a point to go see the new movies either on the day of release or at the very least the day after. I waited almost a week before going to see Solo. A lot of things come into play when it comes to my reasoning for waiting so long, such as the whole director debacle of firing Lord & Miller halfway through production or the fact that nobody really asked for a prequel movie about Han Solo, not starring Harrison Ford. Overall it just seems like something that should never have been greenlit for the simple fact that there’s too much working against them. Now I know that they shouldn’t listen to fans because if you listen to fans long enough you’ll become one and out of a job. Fans don’t know the business as well as those who run it, but I do think the writing was clearly on the wall that this movie was going to have the hardest uphill battle of possibly any Star Wars movie. A week after release I finally made my way to the theatre to give this movie a chance because of course I’ll watch anything “Star Wars” that comes out, but is there anything that made this movie not just a total failure?

I have absolutely no idea how to place this movie in my own personal list. This movie has some truly awful moments similar to that of the prequels, but has enough fun adventure and great moments that make it not as bad as the first two prequels. I would say it feels similar to Revenge of the Sith as far as quality goes. It has bad moments, but makes up for it with some truly awesome moments, but still leaves you feeling like you didn’t really need it. When I say awful prequel like moments, I mean moments that just make you want to roll your eyes or cringe hard. The comedy for example is difficult. While there are moments where the comedy works, but there’s other moments where it just doesn’t feel like something that would be said or done especially buy the character of Han. What hurts in this instance is that you have a fairly new actor, Alden Ehrenreich, having to play a character that’s so beloved that it almost wouldn’t have mattered if he pulled off an Oscar worthy performance as Han, people still would’ve been against it. I admit that for the most part he did really well, but struggled from what I see being the writing and the directing. The directing becomes a problem where you had two different directing visions with some footage and scenes from both. What this does is it puts a different perception of how they want Alden to come off playing the character, but as a performance for a character in this space adventure story I found him to be pretty great, but as a younger Han Solo, it gets a little iffy.

With that whole actor/character situation out of the way. Let’s get into the actual moments in the movie that just made me scratch my head and think “why?”. The first moment hits you in the first couple of minutes when we find out how Han gets his name. Without getting into every detail, it’s basically just given to him in such a random moment and situation that really makes me wonder why there was even a point in putting it in there. Why was it necessary to have that in there when you could’ve easily ignored any reasoning behind explaining it and him just say that that’s his name? It’s extraordinary some of the decisions made in this movie. Another point is when they get the crew together for the first mission and we’re introduced to Thandie Newtons character, Val who is actually pretty interesting and has a curious relationship with Woody Harrelson’s Beckett character. We also get introduced to Jon Favreu’s Rio Durant character who is a new alien with a funny personality. The group with Han and Chewie added makes for an entertaining group of rogues that I would’ve enjoyed spending time with for the whole movie, but unfortunately Rio and Val are killed off almost as soon as we meet them. Yet another questionable moment. The final major moment is the cliffhanger at the end, showing that Darth Maul is behind everything. In what world did they think that was a good idea? For me, I loved it and thought it was cool, but for the mainstream audience, Maul has been dead since The Phantom Menace. Most people don’t know about the animated TV series where they decided to bring him back and say that he survived and while I, myself enjoy it, I just feel like it was a misstep by putting it in one of the live action movies as a tease. Not only that, but was there not a point at all during production where they thought “this might not make us money back”? Did they really think the franchise name was that impenetrable? They were very wrong and now we have a setup for a sequel with many questions that will likely never get answered because of its performance. It’s absolutely frustrating some of the choices they made, but with that said. I did not hate this movie.

There are many redeemable, excellent, and fun moments in this movie. How Chewie and Han met might not have been what I imagined, but it works well enough for you to really feel the bond they formed between each other and care about every moment with the two. I also greatly appreciate the straight up adventure feel that instantly reminds me of the Indiana Jones movies. What struck me the most and might have saved this movie for me was the perfect casting of Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian. Every single moment he was on screen was a highlight of the whole movie. I also felt like Alden was his best as Han in every scene where he was interacting with Glover’s Lando. I feel that while the Solo concept could work on Disney+ to further the adventure with these actors and characters, I think their best bet would be going forward with a Lando series instead. It may not have been as controversial having to recast for Lando as it was to recast for Han, so Glover had an edge on Ehrenreich, but it does help that Glover seemed to embrace his character more than Ehrenreich. I don’t know if that comes from the directing, writing, or acting, but it is very noticeable how much better Glover is than Ehrenreich even though both actors I would say are on the same level in their other work. Again it’s almost a study going into this movie and trying to understand everything about it. Thinking about it more now, there’s not a whole lot of depth going into the things I like about this movie other than Lando. I really enjoyed a lot of this movie but that seems to lean back on the general space adventure that it is. It almost feels like it was an extra-long episode of a TV series.

I feel like I could go on forever trying to study and understand how I feel about this movie. It’s almost a love/hate relationship but not as much as some other movies I feel that way about. This movie has some great moments and is a good entertaining movie that you can turn your brain off and watch, but if you try to look any deeper into it, like we Star Wars fans tend to do, you find all of the problems which there are a lot of. It’s hard to recommend this movie to someone because of it not really being anything essential to your experience of the series. I think The Phantom Menace is a far weaker movie compared to Solo, but I would recommend Menace before Solo in a heartbeat. That comes down to the overall importance of each movie. I guess Solo is a fun space adventure movie but not essential to the series overall and won’t hurt your experience of any other movies if you don’t watch. This has been my toughest review so far to pinpoint how to go about explaining what this movie is and isn’t.

Grade: C

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