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Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

We’ve all heard the rumors and know the reality that Solo: A Star Wars Story, the latest entry into the yearly Star Wars movie release schedule, was a full on production disaster. Directors were replaced. Rumors of actors unable to do the basics and in need of coaches. A script that was a mess. With all of that you’d expect what has wound up on screen to be an utter disaster. But, that’s the farthest thing from reality. Solo: A Star Wars Story is actually pretty fun.

Is it high art? No. Is it as good as the original trilogy? No. But, it’s a solid popcorn film that has enough new and enough winks and nods to make Star Wars fans and non-fans happy.

If you go into the film expecting what has come before, you’l be disappointed. Solo: A Star Wars Story is a departure from what has been released in many ways. While it is the second stand-alone film, Rogue One being the first, it’s also the first real stand alone film. Rogue One was a prequel to the original trilogy tying directly into it with its final scene and delivering a pretty key story to the adventure. Solo is something different. While the film obviously ties into everything that has happened, it also isn’t a vital tie-in. It’s a film set in the Star Wars universe as opposed to a film that’s a must watch fleshing out the story of the original trilogy.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is interesting in so many ways because of all of this. The film is the right direction for the franchise and while it stumbles at times, it’s entertaining. The story follows Solo as he joins the criminal underworld and we see key moments of his career. There’s his meeting of Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian but there’s also a lot that’s new. There’s also some interesting fleshing out of the Star Wars universe with hints and direct tie-ins that should make long time fans happy.

Solo is a gangster/crime/heist film set in the Star Wars universe. At its heart there’s little that’s new. A job is screwed up and the crew must make up for it with a bigger heist. That plot has been seen before. But, it hasn’t been seen in a Star Wars film. The heist plot has been seen in the animated spin-offs though and this film feels like it has more in common with Star Wars: Rebels, the latest animated television series, than anything else.

The film hits the right notes and at times things feel like a checklist when it comes to that. We get Chewie, Lando, and the Kessel run. None of it is surprising and it’s all fan service. But, it’s a fun ride with some great visuals and a presentation that feels unique.

The cast is all over in their ability. Alden Ehrenreich steps into the role Harrison Ford made as Han Solo and at times he channels Ford and at other times he’s about as far away in delivery as one can get. It’s not bad but it’s also not a star-making turn. Joonas Suotamo repeats as Chewbacca and the character feels appropriately younger and more physical. Woody Harrelson as Becket is the gang leader and he brings his curled smile that he delivers in so many roles. Emilia Clarke is the love interest who is good but something is missing that we get at the end of the film. Where her character goes is what we should have seen more of. Donald Glover steals the show as Lando Calrissian. He channels Billy Dee Williams at times sounding exactly like Williams. Glover’s performance emphasizes how off Ehrenreich’s Solo is at times. Glover is so good it makes every else look far behind (other than Suotamo). Thandie Newton‘s Val is underused and Paul Bettany‘s creepy Dryden Vos is a sleezy mob boss and great on screen. The film’s break out star is Phoebe Waller-Bridge‘s L3-37, the film’s robot compadre. L3-37’s belief in robot rights and being convinced of Lando’s crush is the thing of entertainment and delivers something special to a film which would be so much less without.

As I mentioned, the film visually is great and the characters and sets look fantastic. This is a grittier film in many ways showing the coldness of space and the Empire’s machine. This is a Star Wars universe I want to see more of. We can have stories set in the world that isn’t just an extension of the original trilogy’s story. We need spin-offs that can stand on their own.

The film isn’t perfect, far from it, but it is fun and entertaining. There’s some great sequences and it’s possible my lowered expectations due to the on-set drama may have had me expecting very little. While it may nit be as good as the original trilogy it’s definitely better than the prequels and well worth the price of admission. And, the film has me wanting to see what’s next.

Overall Rating: 7.0

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