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Review – Solo: A Star Wars Story is a Breathtaking Roller Coaster of Fun

The Star Wars community has been divided of late to say the least. You could say that of the three films released by Disney in the last three years, the one most universally well received by fans was Rogue One, the standalone spin-off. The mainstream films have been the source of much ire and infighting, particularly since the release of The Last Jedi.

 

This means that Solo: A Star Wars Story, the second spin-off announced by Disney years back, had an unenviable task. Not only did it have to prove that it was worth telling Han Solo’s origin story instead of a brand new story with a new lead (not to mention prove that someone other than Harrison Ford could convincingly play the role of our beloved scoundrel), but it also needed to reunite the Star Wars fandom. It needed to be something that every fan can praise and adore.

 

Well, I can safely say that Solo accomplishes all of these things. This film is a breathtaking roller coaster of fun, in a way that The Last Jedi and Rogue One never could be. Solo is essentially a heist movie, with a splash of Western added for good measure. If you used to think that Star Wars can either be fantastical tales about the Force or grounded, gritty war stories, then be prepared to see a Star Wars story that you never knew you needed.

 

 

In just under two and a half hours, you will be treated to car chases, train robberies, daring getaways, double (and triple) crosses, all within a film that feels unmistakably Star Wars. While the Empire plays a relatively minor role in the story, they still seem to pop up and cause trouble for our heroes when they least expect it. But what really makes the film feel like Star Wars is down to the performance of the film’s leads.

 

This film really all hinged on Alden Ehrenreich’s performance as Han Solo. Thankfully, the actor nails it. Every time he opened his mouth, he had me utterly convinced that I was seeing the same character that I first saw in the original trilogy all those years ago.

 

 

He gets everything spot on; his mannerisms, wit, and charm are all the things we recognise in Ford’s classic performance, but as this is an origin story, he gets to play a slightly different version of the smuggler than we’re used to seeing. This is a greener Han than the one we met in A New Hope, a man who is too dumb to be smart but too smart to be dumb, who hasn’t yet seen the galaxy and accrued the smarts that we know he will someday possess.

 

Alden Ehrenreich made me laugh more times than I can count; not just because his dialogue was good, but because there were so many moments that were so unmistakably Han, that I couldn’t help but chuckle when greeted with such welcome nostalgia. It even got to a point when I stopped thinking about Harrison Ford, and that is an accomplishment in itself. It happened far sooner than I expected too.

 

 

Qi’ra is a great addition to the Star Wars universe. Emilia Clarke works very well not just as a love interest for our hero, but as a badass who is more than capable of both talking and fighting her way out of any situation she finds herself in. Despite her background and the company she keeps, you can’t help but like her. Of course, you know that the film won’t end with her and Han walking off into the sunset together, but there are enough twists and turns that you’ll be constantly guessing what exactly will happen to her in the end.

 

I will say that her motivations don’t always feel entirely earned, and that’s because the film is determined to keep her backstory covered in mystery. I found myself wondering why she made certain decisions, and that’s because the story doesn’t give you much of an opportunity to learn too much about her.

 

 

Tobias Beckett is another character who I really want to see more in future spin-offs. If you were worried that Woody Harrelson was going to be playing the same mentor role you saw in The Hunger Games, then you’ll be glad to know that this character and that one are nothing alike. Truth be told, Beckett is far more honest and likeable than I ever thought he would be after watching the trailers. Like Qi’ra, you’re never quite sure exactly where his loyalties lie, and it makes for some intriguing interactions.

 

The rest of his crew aren’t quite as fleshed out; Val (Thandie Newton) loves Beckett and is a bit of a badass, but that’s all you really get out of her. Rio Durant (Jon Favreau) is a light and funny pilot who wants to earn enough credits to open a cantina someplace warm, but the film doesn’t delve any deeper than that. But that’s okay; both are very entertaining and make welcome contributions to the story.

 

 

Chewbacca is still a supporting character as always, but he definitely has more to do than he’s had in past films and is done right by this film. He definitely gets his share of crowd-pleasing moments. Lando, however, is a little more disappointing. The only purpose he really serves is to explain how Han got the Falcon. Other than that, the film really could take place without him.

 

Donald Glover plays the character perfectly and he gets some great moments to shine, but ultimately Lando’s contribution feels lacking. His droid companion L3-37 also gets plenty of amusing moments, but her role is also far too small for it to be particularly memorable, and I suspect some will find her a bit too preachy to be likeable.

 

 

It’s worth pointing out that Solo also does its bit to increase our knowledge of the galaxy. The story takes you to certain planets that fans have been eager to see for decades now, and the things you learn about these locations makes them all the more tantalising. There are certain other reveals the film has in store that will make fans gasp and sink into their seat, like I did on one occasion.

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t a perfect film by any means. While the overall script is great, some of the dialogue came off a little bit cheesy and came dangerously close to being an example of fan service gone wrong at certain points. It’s a minor criticism though, as it never comes close to ruining the film.

 

I also felt that while the film has many twists and reveals that you won’t see coming, there were still some that were pretty predictable and robbed some otherwise tense scenes of their drama. There’s no real emotional arc for Han either. He starts off the same wise cracking rogue with a heart of gold that we met in A New Hope and stays that way to the end. There’s no change in that regard, and no arc to suggest that he was ever anything different.

 

 

However, it may be the film that Star Wars fans need right now and most importantly, it left me wanting more. I wasn’t particularly excited when the film was announced, but having seen Alden Ehrenreich play Han, I want to see more stories with him. I want more adventures with him and Chewbacca, and I want to see his relationship with Lando develop further, so we can see how they became such old friends. I want to see more of the characters we’re introduced to here. I’d happily watch a sequel, or another spin-off with Qi’ra or Lando set in this underworld that we spend so much time in.

 

This film gives you back that sense of fun and adventure that you remember from the original trilogy, while also offering enough twists, turns and entertaining action scenes to keep you on your toes. If that isn’t reason enough for fans to unite behind a new Star Wars film, then I don’t know what is.

 

 

 

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