There hasn’t been quite as much hype for Solo: A Star Wars Story as there was for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Really, there hasn’t even been as much hype as there was for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. But despite the tamped back fanfare, Solo arrived in theaters around the United States on Memorial Day weekend. The movie features actor Alden Ehrenreich as a 25-year-old Han Solo finding his way in the galaxy, meeting familiar friends along the way.
How does Solo stack up against the rest of the Star Wars cinematic universe? Did the prequel that nobody asked for actually end up being surprisingly good? Let’s look at our list of the four best and four worst things about Solo, including a surprise cameo by an unexpected character (page 7) and an overall review of where it ranks among every Star Wars movie (page 9).
Best: Chewie has a purpose
There was some concern that Chewbacca was going to be shoehorned into the movie with little else to do than simply be there. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. When we’re first introduced to Chewie, he’s nothing more than a “beast” that the Empire has chained up in a muddy pit. The purpose of his captivity isn’t exactly clear, beyond being there to terrify the troops as a potential lethal punishment for stepping out of line.
After Han helps to liberate Chewie from his pit, the pair escape and get involved with Beckett. But as part of their job, Chewie encounters more enslaved Wookiees working in the infamous spice mines on Kessel. Not only does the story reward us with Chewbacca liberating members of his tribe, one of the Wookiees helps the gang escape. Most of the story that involved Chewie was dependent on Han, but not everything.
Next: We didn’t love this part of the movie.
Worst: Too much all at once
One fear heading into Solo was that it would be a major fan-service trip. That was confirmed. Some of it was really good, and some of it was great. No doubt, seeing Han beat Lando at Sabaac to win the Millennium Falcon was really cool. All the other little things are great on their own, too. Han first meeting Chewie, Han meeting Lando, Han getting his blaster, the Kessel run, etc. But put together, it was a bit much all at once.
It would’ve nice if just a little bit of this were left to the imagination, or maybe even another movie — the rumors are that Disney is considering a sequel. It felt like a massive chunk of the movie was callbacks or references to the original trilogy, which makes the movie itself slightly gimmicky.
Next: This character was a hit.
Best: Donald Glover as Lando
The expectation here, based on Donald Glover’s previous work and the early trailers for Solo, was that Glover’s portrayal of Lando Calrissian would be a major positive. That instinct was correct. Glover nailed the look, sound, and tone of Lando in everything he did. He was charming, cool, flirtatious, and most of all he had sexual tension with every man, woman, and droid he got near.
Lando also gets his emotional moment, losing his droid and co-pilot in crossfire during the job on Kessel. Later, there’s an excellent Cloud City callback when Lando tells Han, “I hate you” and Han responds, “I know.” The relationship between the two characters makes the interaction in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back even more believable, given the extra context.
Next: This actor’s performance was less than impressive.
Worst: Alden Ehrenreich as Han
It’s important to be fair here. The task of replicating Harrison Ford’s take on Han Solo is a high bar, and probably impossible for any actor. That said, Alden Ehrenreich isn’t all that believable as a younger version of the galaxy’s most magnanimous scoundrel. Very few times throughout the movie does the tone of voice hit the right spot, and for the most part, the mannerisms miss the mark as well.
That’s not to say that Ehrenreich is a bad actor. He does a good job overall, and at no point is his performance distracting. He brings a level of charm to the character that is fun, even making it his own. But Ehrenreich just isn’t Han Solo. If Lucasfilm had really wanted to hit the mark on this part, they might have considered actor Anthony Ingruber. Not only does he look like a young Harrison Ford, he does a pretty wicked Han Solo impersonation.
Next: Fans loved getting to learn more about this character.
Best: Tobias Beckett, the original Han Solo
Tobias Beckett, the character played by Woody Harrelson, is the original Han Solo. When we first meet Beckett, he’s working a job to steal a valuable and combustible element. For the job, he’s posing as a member of the Imperial military, and through this he catches the attention of Solo — then a grunt looking for direction.
Han is eager for a chance to prove himself as a pilot, and begs his way onto Beckett’s crew. But the coolest thing about Beckett is that we see him as more than just a scoundrel that steals things for bad guys. He’s complicated, much like Han when we’re first introduced to him in Star Wars: A New Hope. Cynical as he may be, Beckett cares about people and passes along life lessons to Han at every stop along the way. Beckett is written to be the original Han Solo, and that’s pretty cool.
Next: This relationship didn’t really work.
Worst: Chemistry between Han and Qi’ra
We’ve never seen Han Solo with any other woman other than Leia, so seeing him with Qi’ra should’ve felt momentous. There should be gravity to their relationship, having grown up on Corellia together. But for whatever reason, the chemistry really just wasn’t there. There is a scene on the Millennium Falcon (that Beckett interrupts) that had some potential, featuring Han and Qi’ra attempting to fight their primal instincts. But it was a fleeting moment.
Further, the scene was intended to mirror a similar scene between Han and Leia on the Falcon in Empire Strikes Back. Comparing the pair with the chemistry between Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher in that movie, Ehrenreich and Emilia Clarke are practically cousins in Solo. Seriously, is there any scene beyond the first five minutes of the movie where Qi’ra appears legitimately happy to see Han?
Next: The No. 1 best part
Best: A major cameo at the end
Probably the best and coolest thing to happen in Solo is a part that seemingly has little to do with Han, Chewie, or Lando. The end of the movie reveals the true villain via a hologram conversation with Qi’ra, and it’s none other than Darth Maul. Yes, that Darth Maul. With the double-bladed lightsaber and everything.
It might be a bit confusing for the average movie-goer, and you could even argue that it’s fan-service to the point of distraction. But Maul’s death had been retconned in the canon cartoon series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and his official story was further carried out on Star Wars Rebels. Probably George Lucas’ biggest non-Jar Jar mistake with the prequels was killing Maul off too soon, so it’s really cool to see him back on the big screen once again.
Next: The No. 1 worst part
Worst: The movie wastes two great actors
We’ll never know what the original version of Solo actually looked like. Under the direction of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, things could have been very different. But when the pair of directors were replaced with Ron Howard in the middle of production, changes had to be made. That meant, for one example, actor Michael K. Williams being cut due to reshooting schedules and Paul Bettany being added.
Regardless of how it happened, the end result is that Bettany and Thandie Newton were completely wasted. Newton (known for Crash and Westworld) appears in the movie for only a few moments before being killed off, while Bettany has just two scenes of importance. His character, Dryden Vos, is a fairly weak villain as well. Overall, Solo could’ve done much better with Newton and Bettany.
Next: Where Solo ranks among Star Wars movies
Overall thoughts on Solo
Solo will forever be known as the Star Wars movie nobody wanted. When it was announced, the reaction was a collective head-scratching. A movie based around Lando, a side character that we received so little of in all the other Star Wars movies, made a whole lot more sense. But Han Solo? It would be an uphill battle from the start, trying to get a young actor to fill Harrison Ford’s shoes.
Outside of the aforementioned problems, Solo is actually a lot of fun. Howard is an excellent director, and the movie plays out like a heist film in the Star Wars universe rather than a traditional Star Wars movie. There is a ton of fan-service, of course, and during several scenes in the movie composer John Powell pays homage to John Williams by throwing it back to a familiar score. But Solo is the first real theatrical step outside the box for Disney.
Of course, the film has its problems. Ehrenreich fails to replicate Ford’s performance, while the chemistry between Han and Qi’ra is seriously lacking. Other elements of the story appear to exist only to explain some bullet point from Han’s life. At any rate, Solo is a Star Wars movie that can be plenty enjoyable for the average movie-goer while rewarding Star Wars diehards with its callbacks and references.
The movie isn’t as good as the OT or Rogue One, but is probably better than any of the prequels. Maybe even on par with the quality of the sequels, depending on your opinion of The Last Jedi. Overall, a worthy addition to the Star Wars universe.
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