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Solo: A Star Wars Story is a light pleasing dip into the Star Wars universe. But it lacks the stakes of its predecessors, and the analytical approach to storytelling will leave many disappointed.

Solo is certainly not a terrible film. There’s competent writing, the actors are good, it’s directed by Oscar-winning director Ron Howard, and the special effects and music are great.

Where Solo suffers the most is in institutional mediocrity. There’s nothing in this film that feels fresh, exciting, or compelling. Solo is a big budget film, made by highly-competent artists, who are doing everything they can to not take any risks at all.

In A Galaxy…

Solo: A Star Wars Story tells us about how Han Solo got his name, how he met Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian, and how he first got to sit in the pilot’s seat of the Millenium Falcon.

If you’re a Star Wars fan you’re likely to get a kick out of seeing the backstory on some casual dialogue from the original trilogy. If you’re not a rabid fan of Star Wars, I’m not sure there’s much for you here.

The Filmmakers

Ron Howard took over as director for this project from Phil Lord & Christopher Miller who still get an executive producer credit. Howard’s a good actor director, he’s solid with action scenes, and all of that is evident here. I’m surprised that emotional scenes didn’t hit harder though, that’s something that Howard is particularly good at.

There is a lovingly-created amount of detail including the brutalist architecture and ships, the costumes, droids and sets. Everything just feels right here, and I’m going to say that this film captures that the best since the original 1977 film. I shopped for the Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story last night and I’m looking forward to reading it.

The script by Star Wars alum Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan was a smaller and tighter effort, which I appreciate, and feel like is closer to the path these standalone Star Wars films should take. This is a standard Hollywood-style script that you can set your watch by. It’s not bad writing, but it is incredibly safe.

The Actors

After all the pre-release hand-wringing over lead Alden Ehrenreich and his ability to bring a young Han Solo to the screen, you know what?… he’s pretty damn good in the role. He’s got the mannerisms down. His charisma is off-the-charts. He’s incredibly likable. He probably won’t get the credit he deserves anywhere else, but I’ll certainly give him kudos for nailing a tough role.

I got to see more Chewie this time out, which is something I always complain about. And, as always, Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) is awesome.

Donald Glover was equally charming in his take on Lando Calrissian. I’d gladly pay to see a movie that focused on him and some of his adventures.

Many of the actors turned in unremarkable performances. They were competent, but average.

Rio Durant, a monkey-like creature with four arms, voiced by Jon Favreau, was fun and a standout to me. I also really liked the badass maurader Enfys Nest played by Erin Kellyman.

There’s one brief appearance by a classic Star Wars character near the very end of the movie that was a thrill. This was one of the few genuine surprises in the film and left me wishing they had invested much more in this character throughout.

I can’t help but think how much some more comedy would have helped this movie. Since we know that Lord and Miller bring the laughs, it might have been a serious misstep to not let them finish the film they started. I also realize that Ron Howard was brought in to reign in the chaos, but in this case, some chaos would have improved the film overall.

They don’t make Star Wars fans any bigger than me, and I enjoyed this film. It has good action, and it’s well-constructed, but it’s middle-of-the-pack when it comes to the sort of thrills than modern audiences expect.

If this film had been released 20 years ago it probably would have been universally-lauded. For some people, it might be one of their favorite Star Wars films. Solo is much lighter in tone than what we’ve seen lately and it’s smaller in scope.

Unfortunately for Solo, it’s 20 years later, and it’s being released weeks after an epic Marvel Studios blockbuster that really wowed audiences, and a smaller superhero film that’s one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.

There’s a built in audience for these standalone Star Wars films, but if Lucasfilm wants to engage new fans, and keep the entrenched fans on the edge of their seats, then it’s going to require some of the same risk-taking antics that we see the Star Wars characters portray on the screen.



All images are copyright by Lucasfilm and used here for the purpose of education and review.

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