Chewbacca and Alden Ehrenreich in Solo: A Star Wars Story

Movie Review: Solo – A Star Wars Story (2018) “I’ve Got a Good Feeling About This!”

Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover in Solo: A Star Wars Story
Anyone who has followed the troubled production of Solo: A Star Wars Story is justifiably nervous about the second Star Wars spin-off film.  Anyone who felt extremely disillusioned by the atonal mess that was Star Wars: The Last Jedi might feel that Disney has gone completely off the reservation with the franchise.  Those are both understandable sentiments.  The spoiler-free nuts and bolts on Solo is that the film feels much more like a Star Wars film than The Last Jedi did, is full of fan service, does justice to fan-favorite characters, has some surprises up its sleeve, and while it takes awhile to get going, is ultimately a fun outing.
Alden Ehrenreich in Solo: A Star Wars Story
Solo follows the adventures of the galaxy’s most infamous smuggler and rogue from his home world of Corellia (finally shown in a Star Wars film) through the events that begin to shape him into the man Luke and Obi-Wan meet in the Mos Eisley Cantina in A New Hope.  Alden Ehrenreich has the thankless task of following in Harrison Ford’s unfillable boots, and Ehrenreich does a surprisingly good job with Solo.  He’s not a Ford double, nor is he trying to do an impression, but he gets the spirit of the character down.  I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say iconic Solo moments like meeting Chewbacca, the first time he sees the Millennium Falcon, Sabacc, the legendary Kessel Run (perhaps the film’s highlight), and meeting his frienemy Lando Calrissian are all done justice.

Donald Glover in Solo: A Star Wars Story

Donald Glover owns this film as a young Lando.  Balancing some impressive Billie Dee Williams channeling with a vibe all his own, Glover is the best thing about Solo.  There’s been talk of giving Lando his own spin-off, and if they get Glover onboard, I say go for it.  The film’s cast is impressive: Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, Jon Favreau, Woody Harrelson (excellent as Han’s gateway into the Star Wars underbelly), Paul Bettany, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge whose droid-liberating L3-37 needed more screen time.

Emilia Clarke in Solo: A Star Wars Story

The cast really is great and they do a fantastic job with what they’re given.  It’s what they’re given that ends up being surprisingly the most uneven thing about Solo and that’s the script.  Lawrence Kasdan and his son co-wrote the script, and it was Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s unwillingness to adhere to it that got them fired as the movie was nearly finished shooting.  Disney brought in Ron Howard, who re-shot nearly the whole film by the Kasdan script, and after seeing it….I kind of want to see Lord and Miller’s cut.  It’s not a bad script, but it is wildly uneven with its pacing and subplots.  The heart of the film is Han and Chewie.  Kasdan’s script starts with a whimper and the first act of the film is rather disappointing.  Once Glover shows up as Lando, things take off, and aside from subplots from the first act bogging the final one down a bit, it’s a good-not great-script.  Kasdan, who wrote both Empire and The Force Awakens, bragged that this was his best Star Wars screenplay and, in that, he is sorely mistaken.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Given how fast Ron Howard reshot this film, it’s kind of astounding how few directing complaints I have.  The film is very murky at times.  A lot of that can be attributed to the settings, but I wonder how much of it can be chalked up to lowering the lighting to hide abbreviated sets.  John Powell turns in a good, not great, score (the highlight being John Williams’ contribution of the main theme and the utilization of Williams’ classic anthems).  The creature work is hit and miss.  There are some good designs, but a few that feel as out-of-place in the Star Wars universe as the lot on Canto Bight did in The Last Jedi.

Alden Ehrenreich and Chewbacca in Solo: A Star Wars Story

Leaving the film, I honestly do hope Disney goes ahead with more Solo films.  I didn’t expect that to be my attitude, and I worry that Disney’s financial expectations for a film it shot twice are unreasonable for the release date landscape in which the movie is placed.  It would take a miracle for this NOT to be the lowest grossing film in the franchise since Disney took over (perhaps the lowest grossing period).  They signed Ehrenreich for three films, and Solo is clearly a first chapter that sets up the next film.  I really want to see that film, and I hope a smoother production with this cast can yield something even more special than this fun, if somewhat forgettable, chapter in the franchise.  Either way, this is a much better place to take a break from Star Wars until 2019’s Episode IX than the end of The Last Jedi.

7.75/10

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16 thoughts on “Movie Review: Solo – A Star Wars Story (2018) “I’ve Got a Good Feeling About This!””

  1. Nice. I would trust you even if you were standing alone (you know that) but your review seems to jive with the consensus among the reasonable. Will it be enough, I wonder?

    How did the audience react?

    Also where do you place Solo in the pantheon?

    And I don’t want to press you on spoilers, but can I ask one question, if you’re comfortable answering? Are there any unexpected cameos in this movie, and how many?

    I’m not surprised the script is not up to snuff. Never take the glowing things they say about their current projects seriously. Dream Factory.

    If you think the lights were turned down to hide sparse sets, that is exactly what was going on. It’s impossible to hide that kind of tactic. The firing of L&M, so late in the game, continues to astonish me. Is Paul Bettany any good? I’m wondering if I’m going to be sitting there, trying to imagine a cheetah monster with Micheal B. Jordon doing mo-cap.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The audience applauded at the end more enthusiastically than I remember my preview night TLJ audience reacting. Got a lot of laughs; people seemed to really enjoy it. I think you’ll actually like it even more than I did. Ehrenreich is really, really good. He does something similar to what McGregor did with Kenobi. He captures Ford’s essence enough without ever trying to imitate him and that rapport with Chewie, who I think has his biggest role in any SW movie, is what makes the film shine. It also is the first Disney film to openly reference the prequels including one cameo you will not expect. There are a bunch of references to small things only fans would apppreciate and I really did after the fan disservice of TLJ. I would rank it 7th out of the 10 films ahead of Episodes I, II and VIII. Bettany is just fine. His villain was not really a huge part of the film, which is one of the weaknesses of the script. He did just fine with what he got. Really, all the actors did. It makes no bones about setting up Solo 2 and I really, really want them to make the film they set up. I think you’re gonna have a good time man. Btw, the Kirk/Lando comparison was very apt. Glover needs his own Lando film. OWNS it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So plenty of time for Han to develop realistically then. I was a little worried this would wind up ending too close to ANH.

        Like

      2. Nope, I think we’re at the point with the Empire that the Clone Troopers have just been cycled out and Stormtroopers have just taken over when the film starts. It’s definitely in charge but still evolving. The film is more interested in the syndicates, crime families, and underworld of the SW universe.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review that is wonderfully written as ever sleeplessdave. I particularly agree with your point about the unevenness of the script, especially in regards to the first act.

    Solo is the first Star Wars film in a long time that made the universe feel as expansive and appealing. I think as an exercise in world-building, it’s as impressive as anything George Lucas or any other filmmaker has done.

    My disappointment with the film comes from the central performance by Alden Ehrenreich. You can find out more in my review below. If time permits, I would appreciate it if you read it.

    https://sgsonfilm.net/2018/05/25/review-solo-a-star-wars-story-2018/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very kind, Sartaj, thank you so much for the thoughtful words. I actually agree completely, and it’s an excellent point, that this FELT more like Lucas than any film Disney has done, both in the good and the bad of the film. It felt very much like a Lucas film, and I think that can be traced back to Kasdan and Ron Howard’s old ties to George. I liked Alden as Han, personally, and I thought the stuff with him and Chewie and Lando was the best in the film. Gonna head on over and check out your take now!

      Like

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