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Jordan’s Spoiler Review – Solo: A Star Wars Story Put a Smile on My Face

In a fandom divided after The Last Jedi, the new Solo movie might just be the balm that we all need to bring us back together again. Of course, every movie will have its haters, and this one will certainly be no exception. However, even though I do have some minor complaints about the movie (as with any movie), there was a lot about this film that I really enjoyed, and I can’t wait to see it again. I’ll be moving forward in this review under the assumption that you’ve seen the movie, so if you haven’t seen it yet, turn back now…Okay, let’s talk Solo

 

The movie begins, as fans of the character might expect, with a young Han surviving the day to day on the streets of his home planet. Corellia is a very important and prominent world in the Star Wars mythos, known for producing flying aces like the rebel pilot Wedge Antilles and top notch starships like the Millennium Falcon. Although it has been mentioned multiple times, this movie marks its first appearance in the official Star Wars canon.

 

The writers of the movie (father and son duo Lawrence and Jon Kasdan) chose to take this opportunity to showcase Corellia as more of an industrialized urban environment, in contrast to the sprawling snow-capped mountains and various other terrain that we’ve seen in other non-canon stories. That doesn’t mean that these places don’t exist on Corellia, but what we get in Solo is a more gritty and lived-in cityscape versus the vast landscapes that we’ve seen before. I got the feeling from the movie that the planet has become even more of a slum since the Imperial occupation, and witnessing Han and his childhood girlfriend, Qi’ra, trying to escape the undesirable atmosphere evoked images of refugees trying to escape Germany during its Nazi occupation.

 

 

The overall tone of this movie was spot on for me, and with everything hinging on Alden Ehrenreich’s performance as Han Solo, I thought the young actor nailed the role for the most part. He was smooth, he was arrogant, and as a viewer, I could see through his charade from the start. Here is a kid, who is very much the Han I know from A New Hope, but a little less cynical, and a lot more naïve. The Kasdans never compromised on Han’s character in this movie. As an audience, we already know this scoundrel has a heart of gold, and you see it come through in this movie multiple times, but in the end, he still cares more about making a name for himself than saving the galaxy from Imperial tyranny, leaving him that natural room to grow in the classic films that take place years later.

 

Although it takes a few minutes to really get going, once Solo kicks into gear, it doesn’t let off of that gas pedal until the ride’s over, and it was tons of fun from start to finish. Sure, it has its cheesy moments and fan service that is, at times, a little too on the nose. But the movie nailed that classic Star Wars vibe that I had been missing in some of the other movies of the Disney era, giving me a good dose of familiarity while still keeping things fresh and different. Solo is not an epic film, nor is it a genre-defining masterpiece, but I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun watching a Star Wars movie.

 

 

There’s nothing really that surprising about the movie’s admittedly generic heist plot, but there’s something to be said about entertainment that keeps a smile firmly planted on your face for two plus hours. The characters were engaging, and the little surprises / easter eggs were a blast to discover along the way. Where the movie succeeds the most is in reminding its viewers that Star Wars was always meant to be a fun adventure ride with silly aliens and high-stakes shenanigans. Solo reminded me to not take things too seriously. The movie doesn’t care about your fan theories about Rey’s parents or Snoke’s identity. It just wants to take you on a swashbuckling pirate adventure in space, which oddly enough plays a lot more like a movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise at times than Star Wars, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion.

 

There were some things I didn’t care for in the movie, so I want to take a moment to air those things out now, before I finish with some of the things I really enjoyed and talk about a few of the movie’s more surprising elements. As I mentioned before, the movie’s plot is not very surprising and has very few major twists and turns. Thanks to the recent onslaught of clips and tv spots, a lot of the movie’s story can be pieced together quite easily before watching it. I guess that’s my fault for watching them, but it’s a common complaint that the promo material for movies nowadays show a little too much, and that holds true here as well.

 

 

There’s a moment in the movie where Han’s mentor, Tobias Beckett, tells Han not to trust anyone. And go figure, Beckett himself turns on him in the end, which you can honestly see coming from twelve parsecs away. Even up to this point, Han maintains that not everyone is like Beckett, and he continues to have faith in people. It’s only when Qi’ra runs out on him that you begin to see the naivete start to slip away and the cynicism begin to set in. But Qi’ra’s actions are not all that surprising either as they were also foreshadowed heavily throughout the story.

 

There were a couple of decisions that were made by the creative team that I thought missed the mark a little bit, but nothing was ultimately too distracting from the otherwise good story. I thought the introduction to Han’s boss, Lady Proxima on Corellia, was a little off putting at first. They took the time to make this fantastic looking worm creature who menacingly snakes up out of the water, set up her threatening sounding alien language through her lackey Moloch, only to ultimately have her speak Galactic Basic (English in Star Wars) in an old lady voice that sucked all of the deadly vibes right out the window.

 

 

I also didn’t much care for how the movie revealed how Han got his name. Yes, “Solo” is not his real name. Han mentions his father in the movie, stating that he used to work on YT-1300 freighters like the Falcon, which explains Han’s skills as a mechanic and provides the background for his skills as a pilot (which he possesses from the start), but we are never told Han’s actual family name. When Han attempts a last ditch effort to leave Corellia, he does so by enlisting in the Imperial military. The recruiting officer asks him his last name, and Han responds that there is no one else left in his family – that he is alone – prompting the officer to assign him that oh-so-clever surname.

 

Although it makes sense, it’s kind of weird to me that Han would continue to use the name after his exit from the military, given his self-made man mentality. The fact that some Imperial idiot randomly gave him his name kind of let the air out of the proverbial tire when I was watching it, but the transition is very quick from his Imperial service to his life as a smuggler, so I get that he didn’t really have time to explain that his name is not actually “Solo”. Who knows, maybe after going by the name for three years it had grown on him, and he just never bothered to change it. I admit that these are nitpicks, but I wanted to get them out of the way before I talk about the things that really work in the movie.

 

 

I’ve already talked about Alden Ehrenreich as Han, but that’s not the only thing that needed to work for me to buy in to this movie. What about the chemistry between Han and Chewie? What about Lando? I have heard a lot of people mention that this is just as much Chewie’s and Lando’s movie as it is Han’s, but I have to say, these people must have watched a different film from the one I did. Yes. Chewie is great. That Han and Chewie chemistry that we all hoped would be there is fantastic in the movie, and Chewie’s introduction to Han is one of my favorite moments in the whole film. Han speaking Shyriiwook back to Chewie was a little weird, but it was pretty comical, and I loved the fight scene that they had together on Mimban. Their relationship began as one of convenience, working together to escape Imperial imprisonment, but it grew into something more, playing out beautifully from beginning to end.

 

Donald Glover was also great as Lando. His performance was near perfect and was more “Billy Dee Williams” than Alden’s performance was “Harrison Ford”, but he also succeeded in making the character his own. Sometimes when he would speak though, it was really amazing just how much he actually sounded like classic Lando. So I can say that the movie delivered on these elements and then some, but in the end, Chewie and Lando are still very much side characters in this movie. After all, it is a movie about Han Solo, and Alden handles the weight of this role very well in my opinion. He is the star of the movie, no doubt about it.

 

 

This Star Wars story was absolutely loaded with easter eggs. From planets like Scarif and bounty hunters like Bossk casually being name-dropped to crime syndicates from the Clone Wars animated series like the Pykes playing a part in the story, there are a lot of juicy nuggets for the more dedicated fan to take in. This may be the first Star Wars movie without R2-D2 or C-3PO, but look out for Anthony Daniels’ cameo during the droid uprising on Kessel. This scene was a ton of fun and the spirit of the droids made an appearance even if the classic duo are nowhere to be seen.

 

Along with the many easter eggs in the movie, there are also a ton of nods to the other films. Beckett’s disguise on Kessel was the same one Lando uses at Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi, and Han’s ruse with a “thermal detonator” was a blatant nod to Leia’s threat to the slug-like crime lord in the same film. Speaking of Jabba, he’s not in the movie (nor is Boba Fett), but if you’ve seen the trailers (any of them), you’ll remember Beckett talking about a “big-shot gangster putting together a crew”. This gangster is on Tatooine and is no doubt a direct reference to Jabba the Hutt. At the end of the movie, after winning the Falcon from Lando, Han and Chewie head to Tatooine to meet this notorious gangster looking for work.

 

 

It is revealed in the movie that Lando is a cheat. He keeps a device literally up his sleeve that can change a card in his hand to one of his choosing. He uses it to beat Han at sabaac earlier in the movie, and Han realizes pretty quickly what the scoundrel had done to win. When they rendezvous in the film’s final moments, Han challenges him again, this time giving him a dose of his own medicine. I absolutely loved this scene. It looks like Han is going to possibly attack Lando, and then he pulls him into a hug (the same hug Lando gives him on the Cloud City landing platform in The Empire Strikes Back). It is at this moment that Han slips the device from Lando and uses it against him during the game to win the Millennium Falcon.

 

 

The first big out-of-left-field surprise in this movie is no doubt the reveal that the crew’s rival, the leader of a group of marauders named Enfys Nest, is actually a teenage girl. Her “marauders” are really just a bunch of rebels aiming to stick it to the Empire. The reveal made for a pretty interesting turn of events, shifting the focus to Crimson Dawn as the true antagonist in the movie’s third act, as Han’s crew works together with Nest to get the stolen hyperfuel out of the hands of Vos and to the group of rebels where it can do some real good. It was neat to see a younger Han working with the rebels, but in the end, he makes it clear that he has no interest in continuing to aid them in their revolution after the job is done, staying true to character.

 

The other big surprise in the movie was the reveal of the big boss behind the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate. After Dryden Vos’ death, Qi’ra contacts the mysterious crime boss via hologram, and it was pretty freakin’ cool. In a move I wasn’t expecting (but one that made perfect sense), the villain is revealed to be old Darth Maul himself, cybernetic legs and all. Now, I actually knew about his reveal going into the movie, but I was very surprised when I heard about it, and I heard many audible gasps in the theater when they showed actor Ray Park under the hood (voiced by Sam Witwer who played the character in the animated Clone Wars and Rebels series). The fact that elements from other media are being seamlessly blended into the films really shows the Lucasfilm Story Group’s dedication to making Star Wars one massive cohesive story playing out across various comics, novels, television shows, etc.

 

Maul in Star Wars: Rebels

 

I was worried that this would be confusing to the movie-going only audience, but I thought they did a good job subtly explaining the fact that he survived his bisection by revealing his metal legs. And if there was any doubt it was actually him, he ignites that two-bladed crimson lightsaber removing all doubt. I thought it was a little bit too much to have him ignite the saber, but I see why they did. I think it was more to help the general audience realize who he was, but I still thought it was a little silly that he randomly lit up his saber. Still, it was a very cool scene, and all the pieces begin to fall into place after the reveal. “Crimson” Dawn…get it?

 

Overall, I thought Solo: A Star Wars Story was a fantastic Star Wars adventure. It’s more of a summer action movie than an event film like one of the saga movies or the recent Avengers: Infinity War. The stakes are a little bit smaller and the story is a little more contained. But I think it works in the movie’s favor, giving us a tighter story with a more straightforward presentation. Solo is a nice little origin story and possibly the best pirate movie since The Curse of the Black Pearl. It’s a heck of a lot better Indiana Jones movie than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and feels more like classic Star Wars than any of the other three Disney era movies in the franchise. Solo is a great ride at the cinema, and it’s one I’d gladly hop on again.

 

 

Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he’s not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.

 

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