In 2002 a little show called Firefly hit the airwaves. It followed a group of space smugglers on their adventures, bouncing from place to place trying to outrun the law and survive. Full of heart and humour, the show was cancelled after just one series, but thanks to a growing number of fans it was finally continued with a movie named Serenity in 2005. Take that premise, remove a little of that heart and humour, set it in the Star Wars universe… and you get Solo: A Star Wars Story.
We follow a young Han Solo as he escapes his home planet of Corellia, befriends Chewbacca the wookie, and bluffs his way through several smuggling missions under the watchful eye of the murderous Dryden Vos. Portraying Han was never going to be an easy task, with Harrison Ford being the only other person to portray him, and thus becoming synonymous with the character. The initial backlash to the casting from fans certainly seemed to demonstrate that nobody was willing to have a new Han Solo. Luckily, Alden Ehrenreich pulls it off. He isn’t simply doing a Harrison Ford impression, instead he becomes the same suave arrogant Han Solo that we have come to know. There are also some wonderful performances from Woody Harrison as a grizzled, skeptic old smuggler, and Donald Glover as the ever-charming Lando Calrissian. These three bounce off each other exceedingly well, and keep you invested enough in the characters and plot that you’re curious as to what might happen next.
These happenings all occur under the watch of the mysterious Crimson Dawn, who you’re not sure is a person or an organization until the film’s final moments. It turns out that Crimson Dawn is a criminal organisation headed by what remains of Darth Maul. After being sliced in half in The Phantom Menace, it appears that Maul refused to die and got himself a pair of robot legs. I am aware that all of this was dealt with in the television show Clone Wars as well as Rebels but many people, myself included, lack the time or resources required to keep up with it all. While those shows are considered canon (part of the official Star Wars lore) this is the first time that his survival has been mentioned on the big screen and therefore makes his survival known to the general public. I found his inclusion to be a highlight of the film, along with Han and the crew partaking in the famous Kessel Run, explaining away that whole “parsecs are a measurement of distance not time” thing that most Star Wars fans have been explaining for years.
Solo‘s biggest weakness lies in the character of L3-37, who seems to exist only for a continual Female Rights gag. There are much better ways to get a feminist message across without using a one-note character, especially in a franchise that already has such strong female characters. The humour in general is a bit hit-or-miss, with the banter between our leads proving to be better than any of the quippy one-liners. It’s also guilty of laying on the nostalgia a bit thicker than it needs to, showing how Han came to own his belt and blaster among other things. I don’t particularly mind the nostalgia, the film doesn’t rely entirely on it, like some kind of crutch supporting a lackluster film. If you take out the not-so-subtle nods, I think it would still be just as good.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a good film. It isn’t great by any means and it isn’t award worthy, but I certainly don’t mind watching it. Eldenreich, Harrison and Glover all give solid performances and, as always, the score is great. It is perfectly adequate.
Until Next Time…