When I think back to 2012 when Disney acquired Lucasfilm from filmmaker George Lucas for 4 billon dollars, I remember the first thought I had was they were gonna cram so much Star Wars down our throats we wouldn’t be able to breathe. So far as far as the films go since they began in 2016 with “The Force Awakens” we have had and will have a Star Wars movie every year…forever. What I was looking forward to the most was the every other year films, aside from the Skywalker saga I wanted to see sub-genre films set in that galaxy far, far away. The first was “Rouge One” a prequel of sorts that told the story of how the Rebels got their hands on the Death Star plans. Now the next film is also a prequel taking place before the original trilogy and telling us the origin of everyones favorite smuggler/scoundrel, Han Solo.
Growing up but ready to escape the desolation of Corellia a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) is looking for a new life as a pilot with and with the lady in his life Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). Things do go exactly as planned and Han ends up fighting for the Empire as they forcibly take control of planet systems. Again looking for a way out he meets the wookie Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), together they join up with a band of criminals led by Beckett (Woody Harrelson). Soon after Han and Chewie are deep in the mix of the smuggling underworld, as they take dangerous jobs and fall into debt with gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). They then take a high risk job that brings them into contact with Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and his sidekick droid L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and together they plan the most epic of heists to save their skins and make them rich.
Now I was only able to slightly look past the troubled highly publicized production “Solo: A Star Wars Story” suffered as they lost their co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller 3/4 of the way through filming due to “creative differences” with Kathleen Kennedy and others at Lucasfilm. But I can’t shake the feeling that this film when it was taken over by legendary director Ron Howard (Willow, Apollo 13) had to be rushed to meet it’s Star Wars a year schedule that was promised to us. It certainly seems like a film-by-checklist if you know anything about the history of Han Solo from the previous films. There is Coreilla, Chewie, Kessel Run, Lando and the Millennium Falcon which are mostly pretty fun. And the things you don’t know like the girl (Clarke), the mentor (Harrelson), the villain (Bettany) and the mission, those unfortunately are all pretty disposable. Written by screenwriting legend in his own right, Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark) and his son Jonathan Kasdan the film has its grin-worthy moments as well as the eye-rolling kind. The saving grace lies in its performances which makes sense since most of the actors got 10 months of playing these characters when normally it would be closer to 6 months. So Ehrenreich ends up by the end of a film a really good Han Solo, and Glover is dare I say a better Lando that the originator of the role Billy Dee Williams. And L3-37 (Waller-Bridge) continues the trend of lovable droids, like K2-SO from “Rouge One” voiced by Alan Tudyk, and BB-8 from the new trilogy. The film moves right along at a brisk pace with the lowest of stakes and a love story that means little to nothing as the chemistry between Solo and Qi’ra doesn’t work like it was meant to.
Still I did enjoy “Solo” overall as an origin despite its many flaws including a Marvel Cinematic Universe style set up to a future film. I relished every scene with Lando and I completely bought the relationship with Han and Chewie. I think it would have benefited a plot that affected them both instead of just centering on Han’s future with Chewie in tow. I think they missed a few opportunities by not creating a more cynical and shoot first version of the Han we meet in the Cantina on Tatooine in 1977. They instead chose the route of fun adventure thorough space with little substance. But we as fans knew at the outset that these would not all be winners. Such as the polarizing effect “The Last Jedi” had and the retreading of storylines like the more (in my opinion) successful “Rouge One”. However, and as advertised, the Star Wars train is in constant motion, we will still be getting a film a year and there was never a promise that they would all be eventual classics, just that they would take place a long time ago.