Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story (M)
Directed by Ron Howard
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Paul Bettany, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton
Much like its main character, Solo is something of an enigma. Despite being one of the better Star Wars films in the post-prequel era, it seems buried by its scheduling and marketing. With a May release (that was somehow not the 4th) and a long lull before the trailer was released, it seemed as though Disney had a flop on their hands and were trying to mitigate the embarrassment. This, however, is not the case.
Perhaps it was the controversy surrounding the firing of the film’s previous directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, because Solo exceeds early expectations. Beyond sheer novelty, it contributes to the broader Star Wars story and sets up new characters and storyline directions (in ways that Insights will not spoil).
Solo follows a young Han Solo, who abandons his post in the imperial army for a life of crime. With a big job offering him all the money he could need, we see him transform into the iconic character that fans love. In an atmosphere of corruption and the selling of human beings for profit, Solo brings up interesting discussion points about human trafficking, ethical decision making, and belonging.
Longtime Star Wars fans will undoubtedly get the most out of Solo, with numerous references, call backs, and Easter eggs from other parts of the franchise. The way the film shows the Millennium Falcon in its pristine, new state is an impressive piece of setbuilding.
While unexpectedly strong, Solo is far from perfect. At points, it neglects the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule of storytelling, with dialogue dominating scenes where visual cues would suffice to explain what is happening. This is especially evident in the first act, but does not occur much thereafter.
With names like Woody Harrelson and Emelia Clarke, Solo’s cast is strong. Alden Ehrenreich does not look like Harrison Ford’s version of the character, but he manages to portray a younger Han who is still developing many of his trademark mannerisms. In much the same way that she does as Game of Thrones’ Daenerys, Clarke portrays a woman of many guises in Qi’ra, whose complexity means that she should be included in another film. Donald Glover is a revelation as a younger Lando Calrissian, taking Billy Dee Williams’ character and making it his own. Paul Bettany portrays the major villain, Dryden Vos, with equal parts charm and menace. Not to be outdone, Harrelson brings his best performance in some time to his role as Tobias Beckett, who is something of an early criminal mentor to the young smuggler.
With James Mangold tipped to direct Boba Fett, an Obi-wan Kenobi film reportedly on the way, and the potential there for a Lando spin-off, Star Wars’ anthology series continues to show the galaxy has more stories.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor