I’m a natural born skeptic. I get excited for movies and then I get prepared to be let down. This movie was no exception. So let me start out by calling out all the beefs I had with SOLO: A Star Wars Story before I even went to see it.
Issue #1: It’s a filler piece.
Let’s be honest, It’s another “Star Wars” movie meant to keep interest in the franchise while we’re waiting for the next installment. And it’s another set of spaceships and characters that LEGO and the rest of the toy world can capitalize on. At best, it would be a nice, neat standalone story like Rogue One. At worst, it would be a cheesy caricature of our beloved Han Solo.
Reality Check: It’s absolutely a filler piece. We didn’t need this movie. But, man, am I glad they made it. It definitely works as a standalone story. It takes place a good 15 years (by my estimate) prior to Star Wars: A New Hope. It’s far enough in the past that we don’t necessarily need to have seen any other movie in the franchise for this to make sense. And it stays far enough in the past that it doesn’t really lead in to any of the other series.
Issue #2: It’s going to be the same old good vs. evil, dark vs. light story rehashed.
Whether it’s the Empire vs the Rebels or Luke vs Darth Vader or Rey vs Kylo Ren, there’s definitely a theme throughout the Star Wars movies. Sometimes the conflict lies entirely within one person. But there’s always a conflict. I’m not complaining. I was just wondering if we’d get more of the same.
Reality Check: If you know anything about Han Solo, you know that he’s always been very dodgy with the terms “good” and “evil.” Han looks out for Han and we love him for it. He’s the reluctant good guy. This story stayed true to Han. Sure, there’s talk of the Empire and there might be a surprise appearance by a certain “bad guy” but overall this is not a good vs evil story. It’s really Han’s origin story.
Issue #3: How can anyone but Harrison Ford play Han Solo?
Harrison Ford, that sexy beast, was, is, and always will be Han Solo. He created that character and defined that character. When he finally died in The Last Jedi (spoiler, sorry), the audience wept, both literally and figuratively. And the most heart-wrenching scene for me was watching his longtime companion, Chewbacca, grieve over Han. Anyone who attempts to step into that role will simply be imitating Harrison Ford.
Reality Check: This was actually my biggest concern. How can you play a character that already exists? How can you make it your own without bastardizing the role? I suspect that a combination of good writing, good directing, and very careful acting allowed Alden Ehrenreich to create a young Han Solo that didn’t feel like a caricature.
Issue #4: This movie doesn’t have any stars.
Much like Rogue One, this movie is going to focus more on the CGI, the sets, and the epic battle scenes and less on the people. We’ll see a bunch of names and faces we don’t recognize and do our best to welcome them into the Star Wars universe.
Reality Check: Okay, so maybe I’ve never heard of Alden Ehrenreich (even after I looked him up on IMDb) but geez, there’s plenty of star power. We’ve got Oscar-nominated actor Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Emilia Clarke (I don’t watch Game of Thrones so she’s new to me), Donald Glover, and Paul Bettany (Vision from Avengers: Infinity War). Oh, and there’s even Phoebe Waller-Bridge voicing the droid L3 for those of who you are fans of Fleabag. Plenty of star power but NOT stars so big that they detract from the storyline.
Let me just shut up already.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I went in with low expectations and came out with a smile on my face. This movie was made for people like me. People who experienced the original Star Wars and fell in love with it way back in 1977. It felt authentic and nostalgic at the same time. It made us understand the beginnings of how Han Solo came to be the man he was.
He started as a poor, misfit youth living on Corellia and foolishly in love with Kyra. With desperation to leave the planet for a better life together, they’re separated and Han begins his relentless pursuit of the big score that he thinks will ultimately allow him to achieve happiness.
Ah, young Han. You will learn so much.
If there was such a thing as a light, fluffy Star Wars, this would be it. Sure there are battles. Sure people die. But the charisma of Han Solo (whether played by Harrison Ford or Alden Ehrenreich) shines through. And my favorite part of the movie is the relationship between Han and Chewie. From their unexpected meeting to their lifelong, forged bond, Chewbacca was the unchanging constant from the 1977 film to now that brought it all together.
And I have to give special props to Director Ron Howard. There were many subtleties and not-so-subtleties that paid homage to the original film and foreshadowed the man that Han Solo would become. Also, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian is delicious.
If you had or have any misgivings about what this movie will do to the Star Wars franchise, suspend them. Buy yourself a big bucket of popcorn, splurge on the IMAX ticket, and sit back and prepare to be entertained.