“Never tell me the odds.”
Who knew that a single line from Han Solo in a film released almost 40 years ago would so perfectly sum up a movie based on the character released in 2018?
Despite acting concerns and director changes throughout the production of the film, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” was a fun — albeit imperfect — addition to the “Star Wars” universe, detailing the backstories of familiar characters while still offering surprises and great moments throughout.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” focuses on the journey of a young Han Solo, chronicling his adventures during his formative years, including how he met his trusted copilot Chewbacca and good friend Lando Calrissian, as well as how he entered the life of smuggling. The film does a great job of showing how these events in his past help form the character we came to know and love from “Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.” While it seemed predictable going into the theater, director Ron Howard added enough twists in the story while still respecting the source material to make this adventure one that certainly belongs in the “Star Wars” universe.
One of my favorite things about the film was the way that it connected other media in the “Star Wars” galaxy, thus making it feel more lived-in and real. Short lines that may seem unimportant to the casual viewer reference planets or characters featured in the other movies, as well as in comics and books that are considered canon in the “Star Wars” universe. These types of references have not made their way into any of the three previous Disney-owned “Star Wars” movies, meaning “Solo” does something that no other “Star Wars” film has done so far. Whether it be a short mention of a planet from one of the novels, a bounty hunter from “The Phantom Menace” or a huge reveal of an unexpected character (you’ll know when you see it), it is nice to see that Lucasfilm is putting the time and effort into creating a cohesive universe that rewards fans who consume the media outside of the films.
In terms of acting performances, I thought both Alden Ehrenreich (Han Solo) and Donald Glover (Lando Calrissian) did a fantastic job and really felt like their characters. There was a lot of pressure on the two to feel like the characters we already know and love but who were portrayed by different actors in the previous films.
Ehrenreich brilliantly captures the witty and often overconfident nature of Han Solo, and also does well in making sure the audience can see the progression of the character into the one we know as the events of the narrative shape his personality and development. While his performance gives us many answers to questions most fans have always asked about the character, there were moments that I felt were ultimately unnecessary — especially the scene where Han Solo is basically given his surname. Even with a few cringeworthy moments, Ehrenreich still manages to be the Han Solo I grew up loving.
Glover steals the show as Lando, bringing all of the charm and personality that the character exuded in the original trilogy of films. If I am being honest, I think I enjoyed Glover’s portrayal of the character more than the original, which speaks volumes about just how well Glover did in the role. The actors of new characters also impressed for the most part, with Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett and Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos particularly standing out.
While the acting performances all around were solid, the characters themselves were more of a mixed bag. As I just mentioned, Han and Lando were great throughout, feeling true to the original versions of their characters for the whole film. Unfortunately, not every character felt like they added to the movie in the way that they could have.
Lando’s sidekick droid L3-37 was one of my least favorite aspects of the film. The character essentially felt like a less funny K2SO (from “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”), constantly complaining about “droid rights” among other not particularly funny jokes. While the idea of a droid fighting for the rights of its fellow machines could have been interesting, it felt forced and poorly done in this film.
I was also disappointed by the character of Val Beckett, played by Thandie Newton. Newton is a terrific actress, but was criminally underused in this film, essentially serving as a simple device used to move the plot forward rather than an interesting and fleshed-out character.
Lastly, marketing in the lead-up to the film’s release hyped up Enfys Nest as an intimidating female villain, something that we haven’t seen much of in any “Star Wars” film so far. Her character was definitely a letdown, as she was barely featured in a villainous way, instead working to emphasize Han’s true nature as the “good guy.” Rather than characters saying every 20 minutes or so, “We have to do this before Enfys Nest can get here,” I would have preferred that the villain be more involved in the film.
Overall, the film was a blast and probably one of the most fun and exciting “Star Wars” movies yet. Rather than focusing on big themes and mystical Force users, “Solo” gives us a more intimate adventure across the galaxy that doesn’t have galactic implications — and that’s okay. Don’t go in expecting something exactly like the traditional episodes, and you’ll be sure to have a great time.
As more and more “Star Wars” films come out that are not part of the Skywalker saga, we are going to see films of different genres that give us something a little different than what we are used to. The fact that “Solo” was such a fun adventure for the whole two-plus hours while belonging more towards the western genre than space-fantasy bodes well for the future of the galaxy far, far away.