Solo: A Star Wars Story (dir. Ron Howard, 2018) – The early years of Han Solo sees him team up with Lando Calrissian and his Wookie co-pilot for the first time in an exacting heist under villainous orders.
There is fun to be had in the cinematic heist of Solo, even if it adds little to its namesake’s mythos.
On paper, a solo Solo space western looks like it could be a blast. The charismatic pilot is well-loved for one, after forty years of first and repeated viewings. Besides, his reckless nature, unending wisecracks, and fierce loyalty all mark the very requisites of a proper cinematic adventure.
More cheered when Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were tabbed to direct the screenplay, co-written by Lawrence Kasdan himself and his son. It was all starting to look like a worthwhile venture. Then, a worrisome turn of events followed.
Creative differences reared its ugly head once again, when the popular directing pair left the project. Rumours of extensive rumours added fuel to the fire, which did not bode well for the latest Disney property. Fan confidence was hit, hard, and Ron Howard stepping in did little to recover it.
Ultimately, Solo performed poorly at the box office, at least by Star Wars standards. Production woes were but the tip of the iceberg. Star Wars seems to be suffering the accursed fatigue of long-running franchises, where the studio’s plans for a-chapter-a-year have started to tire.
A character like Han Solo never needed a backstory anyway, much less one without the man who made the character who he was. Alden Ehrenreich, while decent as the arrogant smuggler, is no Harrisom Ford. Replicating the natural charm of the old-timer is essential to the essence of the icon, and it was never going to be easy.
Perhaps this would have been better off as a standalone story, left to new unknown characters as Rogue One had done. But so it was, as Solo is re-introduced in his early years with his lover Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), who gets arrested after a theft gone wrong. Solo vows to return for her, a promise that proved futile; Qi’ra has done well for herself and is now the top lieutenant for crime lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).
Instead of earning his awaited reunion, Solo’s three-year attempt to get back to Qi’ra only lands him in deep debt. He is forced to repay it with a daring heist – to steal a shipment of unrefined coaxium from the mines of Kessel. As it turns out, the purpose of which is bigger than his team has ever imagined.
This is by no means a bad plot. It is simply an unneeded one that fails to give the Corellian rogue a heist worth his time and efforts. Along the way, the reveals underwhelmed, be it how Solo got his last name or his first time aboard the Millennium Falcon. Nor were the attempted twists particularly surprising; the grand Star Wars tradition of betrayed allegiances has always been a given.
Still, one cannot help the thrill in watching Solo’s first encounters with his Wookie first mate Chewie (Joonas Suotamo) and a young Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). In this, Solo delivered a good sliver of space fun, even as his social justice robot L3-37 almost brushes Jar Jar Binks territory. Some of our expectations may be felled, but hell, it was still great entertainment, and we will always have A New Hope in permanence.