Daniel Mayes, Editor-in-chief
First of all, I’ll give a little disclaimer.
I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and I’ve loved all the new movies with Disney at the helm (including The Last Jedi).
So, if you want to dismiss my opinion now based on that knowledge and go about your day, then I wouldn’t blame you.
Still here? Cool.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a dang good Star Wars movie.
I came into the movie with minimal expectations. With questions about a change in directors to Ron Howard halfway through production, the necessity of a backstory for one of the most iconic characters in all of the history of storytelling and said iconic character being played by someone who is (gasp) not the great Harrison Ford, I, along with most people of the Star Wars persuasion, were cautiously skeptical going into the film.
Solo delivers with a fast-paced, fun adventure that isn’t held back by those numerous limitations.
Alden Ehrenreich, the young actor who was heaped with the expectations of an increasingly hostile fanbase, brings an admirable performance as the younger, more naïve Solo. No, he isn’t Harrison Ford, nor is he fan-favorite Ford impersonator Anthony Ingruber, but Ehrenreich brings a Solo that is, for me at least, a believable younger version of the classic Ford performance. Ehrenreich’s misguided confidence, swagger and hubris is there, along with a more optimistic, aspirational side, building a definitely plausible image of young Han.
The man who knows Han Solo probably better than any save George Lucas, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi writer Lawrence Kasdan, returns to weave a fun “heist movie” story along with son Jon Kasdan. The tale of Solo is a relatively low-stakes (when you consider the usual “save the galaxy” motivations in the saga) adventure that is a remarkably fun backstory for one the character of Solo and one of his most famous previously-unexplored escapades, The Kessel Run.
Introductions of Han to Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian, who is wonderfully acted by Donald Glover, give the tale a grounded base in nostalgic familiarity, while new characters Qi’Ra (Emilia Clarke), Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) bring surprising new context for the shaping of Han. The film makes enough references to the classic trilogy to reward long-term fans, but shows enough restraint to avoid ham-fisted heavy-handed fan-service. A cameo of a certain classic character is sure to bring joy to fans of the Star Wars animated adventures Clone Wars and Rebels. (It certainly did for this one.)
The music of Solo is great (it’s a Star Wars film, it’s going to be great). The legendary John Williams makes a cameo long enough to compose a remarkably-hummable new theme for the titular character, and composer John Powell weaves Williams’ work in with his own to create a score that fits in with the traditional Star Wars aural aura while making some new, percussion-heavy departures that lend themselves to the action-packed film. (Sidenote, if you’re a Star Wars fan, go listen to “Reminiscence Therapy” from the Solo soundtrack. It’s admittedly a nostalgia fest, but it’s beautiful and I love it.)
Of all the post-Disney Star Wars films, Solo does the best job of recreating the look of the original trilogy. Most of Solo takes place in dirty, grimy, mud-filled, lived-in climates, giving the movie a visual continuity with the events of the classic films that will occur just years later. Cinematographer Bradford Young does some beautiful things with this film, combining more natural lighting with the darker color pallet to create a dark film that gets brighter as Han’s future does.
After an uninspiring performance at the box office, Solo: A Star Wars Story released on Blu-Ray and digital in late September.
If you consider yourself a Star Wars fan, and you didn’t catch Solo in theater because of some hesitation or prejudice (be it The Last Jedi related or otherwise), do yourself a favor and watch this movie. You might be pleasantly surprised.