A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away….
Lucasfilm/Disney are now 4 films in on their revitalized Star Wars plans. The plans so far have been clear: Honor the past while looking toward the future and a new generation. Star Wars purists have had mixed reaction to the new canon, but there is no denying that the franchise is bigger today than ever before. A few years ago, they took a risk for a standalone story that fell within the timeline but introduced us to a band of new characters. Rogue One proved to be a very good to great film (or neither, depending on your view) that both felt like Star Wars but also stood on its own merit. The film worked on many levels and gave us new characters to love. It’s success certainly opened the door for more risks and standalone films.
Bring on Solo: A Star Wars Story, the next standalone film set within the timeline. Solo brings us the beginning of everyone’s favorite scruffy-looking nerf herder that helped save the universe and married the princess. The film introduces us to how Han became a smuggler, his first encounter with Chewbacca and how he got his ship from the stylish cape-wearing Lando Calrissian (and, of course, finally shows us the Kessel Run). The film itself is fast-paced, action-filled and, at times, even inspirational. However, it’s also forgettable and didn’t really knock it out of the park. It has several plot issues and character development issues that never quite move the film’s overall quality from decent to good (or even great). Solo is a heist film, mixed with a little Mad Max, set in the Star Wars world. It’s fun, but that’s about it.
“Let the past die, if you must, kill it…” Kylo Ren, Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Ren’s quote really resonates within this film. As a big Star Wars fan, I am in the camp that believes that, as much as I love nostalgia, Star Wars needs to move on from the status quo in order to last another 40 years of love, it . Rogue One got that right, understanding that we could stay in the time era as the originals and still feel new and fresh. Solo is a step backwards and mainly I believe that the issue in its execution. Outside of Donald Glover (who was amazing as Lando), the characters fell flat. It is hard to capture the essence of Harrison Ford, but Alden Ehrenreich tried and, unfortunately, fell kind of short. He just didn’t feel like Han Solo. I understand it’s hard to imitate someone else–and this is way before the scruffy nerf herder we meet in Episode IV–but everything seemed forced, trying to recapture his essence while trying to be different. There are moments where he shines, but the overall performance felt like a different character other than Han.
Going into the film, Q’ira (Emilia Clarke) was one of the characters I was most interested in seeing. To finally show Han Solo’s love interest before Leia, it seemed like there’s no better story to tell. Although their story is nothing out of the ordinary, it is the character’s development that is by far the most disappointing. From the moment we first meet her though, it seemed forced and really hard to believe. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that love is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. No matter what we’ve done or been forced to do, love finds a way. When used without conditions, love is patient, kind, forgives and gives itself up for others. Sin corrupts, and can make the heart go cold but love always penetrates deeper and burns hotter. Love even reminds us that, maybe, the “bad guy” is really good, and can change others as well. Q’ira’s arc defies this belief but, without proper development, it was hard to see how she could. (On a side note, her arc ends with a cameo appearance of a character that even canon wise, the films, books, animated shows, just doesn’t make sense in the timeline, especially if you are one who watched both The Clone Wars animated films and Star Wars: Rebels. I feel this character was nothing but fan service that did the writing a disservice.)
Still, the one character that offered a true representation of what it means not judge a person is Enfys Nest. This is the only character that I want to see more from (outside of maybe a Lando film). I want this character’s story to be told, either before or after Solo. This character was one of the most interesting parts of the film and the film leaves us wanting more of their story.
Overall, Solo: A Star Wars Story is an ok film that could have been better, but won’t rank at the top of the Star Wars franchise. In the end, it’s a fun ride with some good inspirational moments.