With a troubled production and a poor box office performance, is Solo worth your time?
As far back as 2013, not long after they had purchased Lucasfilm, Disney announced a series of spin-off films that would be set within the Star Wars universe. The first two were to be based upon Han Solo and Boba Fett.
Now in 2018 after The Force Awakens, Rogue One and The Last Jedi, we finally have the first of those aforementioned films. However, there were several problems getting to this point.
Filming had begun in January 2017 on Solo: A Star Wars Story but rumours started to leak onto the internet about the production of the film. The most worrying rumour for me was the story that Alden Ehrenreich, who was cast as the young Han Solo, needed an acting coach on set and was underperforming.
Various other titbits leaked out but the big shock came several months later in June. The original directing team of Lord and Miller, who successfully bought The LEGO Movie to the big screen, were leaving the project due to “creative differences”.
Apparently, their filming style was very improvisational, they often filmed takes that didn’t match the script and filmed with fewer angles. This meant for fewer choices when editing the film together.
Ron Howard was announced as the new director and allegedly reshot up to 70% of the final film and still managed to finish on time to meet the May 2018 release date. This has reportedly pushed the final budget up into the $250 million range, making it one of the most expensive films of all time!
After all these problems and troubles, how does the final film hold up?
Young Han Solo finds adventure when he joins a gang of galactic smugglers, including a 196-year-old Wookie named Chewbacca. Indebted to the gangster Dryden Vos, the crew devises a daring plan to travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal a batch of valuable coaxium. In need of a fast ship, Solo meets Lando Calrissian, the suave owner of the perfect vessel for the dangerous mission — the Millennium Falcon.
On the shipbuilding world of Corellia, young orphaned children are forced to steal for a criminal gang. This is where we first meet a young Han and his girlfriend, Qi’ra.
They both manage to escape from the gang with a small sample of coaxium, a rare element that powers hyperspace drives.
On the run from the criminal gang who are chasing close behind, Han and Qi’ra flee to a local spaceport in order to escape from Corellia. They bribe the Imperial officer at the checkpoint with the coaxium, however, only Han makes it through the gate and has to leave Qi’ra behind. He promises to come back and save her.
Han realises the quickest way off the planet is to sign up for the Imperial Academy, boasting he will become the best pilot ever.
Fast forward several years and Han has been expelled from the Imperial Flight Academy and been demoted to a foot soldier. He’s currently involved in a firefight on the muddy planet of Mimban.
It’s here that he runs into Tobias Beckett, who along with his criminal gang, are posing as Imperial soldiers. They are planning on stealing some Imperial hardware to help them complete a heist. Han tries to blackmail himself into the gang but fails.
Han is thrown into a pit to be dealt with by the “beast”! However, the “beast” turns out to be a character every Star Wars fan is going to be very familiar with, a creature more commonly known as a Wookie.
I have to admit that with all the production problems this film has, I went into the screening with quite a bit of trepidation.
Solo: A Star Wars Story does bring nothing new to the saga. Everything that happens in this film has been mentioned in the original films to some degree and expands on those ideas.
A young Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) and Han (Alden Ehrenreich) speed through the streets of Corellia.
Han and Lando will meet for the first time. Han and Lando will play the card game of Sabacc and the ownership of the Millennium Falcon will change hands. Finally, we’ll witness Han make the infamous Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.
But that doesn’t matter as the film is such an entertaining adventure I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
My biggest fear was the performance of Alden Ehrenreich. Would he be bad? Would he be trying to pull of a Harrison Ford impression?
Ehrenreich makes the character of a young Solo his own. Soon after the film had begun, my worries about him had disappeared. He was a great younger Han and once he has teamed up with Chewbacca the Wookie, they have several great moments together.
Another great performance came from British actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I’d previously only seen her on a great series called Fleabag which aired here in the UK on BBC3. Unfortunately, you won’t get to see her in Solo as she plays the android L3-37, a computer-generated character.
L3-37 is Lando Calrissian’s companion and navigator on the Millennium Falcon as she has the best star maps in her data banks allowing the ship to safely navigate through hyperspace. Despite the CGI, Phoebe’s mannerisms still come through in the animation and L3-37 has a great part in the story combined with some truly great dialogue.
Emilia Clarke lends another British voice to the cast as Han’s love interest, Qi’ra. Despite that connection, the events in the film will make you wonder whose side she’s really on as the film progresses as she works for the crime boss, Dryden Vos.
Dryden Vos is played by Paul Bettany. He portrays an evil creature whose face is covered in scars that glow the angrier he becomes. You know he is bad just from his performance and you know he’ll be saving his action moves for the end of the adventure. He also has rather big boots to fill as this is the first Star Wars film that doesn’t feature the Imperials or Darth Vader as the enemy.
The leader of the criminal gang who starts the trouble for Han is Tobias Beckett, played by Woody Harrelson. Another great solid performance from a seasoned actor.
The young smuggler, Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover)
The biggest praise that I’ve been saving for last is for Donald Glover as the young Lando Calrissian. Donald isn’t performing a straight-up impression of Billy Dee Williams portrayal of Lando but you’ll believe you are watching a younger version of that character. His performance was fantastic, he really is the highlight of this film.
We’ll never know how the Lord and Miller version of Solo: A Star Wars Story was shaping up but considering the majority of the film was reshot under the control of Ron Howard, he’s done a great job.
There was never a dull moment and the action set-pieces were great with maybe an exception for the Kessel Run at the film’s climax, which wasn’t quite as great as I’d hoped.
Obviously, the film is filled with a lot of CGI but there were also a lot of great visible practical effects, especially when it came to the strange alien creatures. It’s a regular comment from me but this is something I champion for.
Solo has underperformed at the box office and I think it’s a shame that many have stayed away from what is a great fun-filled adventure. Is the general public over-saturated by Star Wars so soon after the release of The Last Jedi? Did the marketing campaign come too late?
We’ll never know the answer, but do yourself a favour and catch Solo: A Star Wars Story on the big screen now.
A Solid 4.5 stars! A thoroughly entertaining adventure in the Star Wars universe!