A Pilot, a Smuggler, a Scoundrel, a General, a Hero
One man’s name grew to a legend in a galaxy far, far away. Some characters live only in their story while some grow beyond their existence. Some attain a legendary status where everyone seems to know the name but not necessarily the face. Sometimes the legend fades, but once in a while, it grows beyond the boundaries of the fictional world in which the character resides.
Han Solo is a name many in the Star Wars universe recognize. In fact, many people in this galaxy have heard about him. How did he attain such a status? Where did he come from? Who was he before any of this? Solo: A Star Wars Story answers many of these questions. It tells the tale of a poor boy who dreams of a better life. It demonstrates the courage and charisma he has to capitalize on those opportunities presented to him.
This movie is a solid film. It may not be the best of the franchise but it certainly was not the worst. The fans can debate that one until doomsday which distinguishing film holds that dubious honor. Solo: A Star Wars Story collects most of the big, life-shaping events in Han Solo’s life that have been either spoken about or relayed in some written form over the past 40 years. This film is about a young man working in slave-like conditions. He has plans to escape that life and to pursue his dream about becoming the best pilot in the galaxy not ever thinking he will attain so much more along the way.
This film is directed by Ron Howard. It has many moments which cements it within the Star Wars universe. The first meeting between Han and Chewbacca; the sight of the Millennium Falcon in flight; the ever-present Empire all combine to give this movie the classic feel. This is not your typical Star Wars movie, though. It has the action, and adventure which most of the other entries of the series have. This one has a heist theme attached to it. With this theme comes a lens in which the audience is invited to glimpse the seedy underbelly of this sprawling universe. With the slimy crime lords, to the sleazy slave-traders, and the daring drug runners, Han Solo finds himself exposed to a cornucopia of corruption. In this thriving pool of opportunity, he joins up with Tobias Becket and the adventure begins.
This film, like all of the other entries in the series, has top-notch special effects. The effects are a powerful tool. They enhance the story and help to pull the audience into the movie. It really only works when the story is strong enough to support the effects. If a movie has many special effects but a weak story, it is essentially like building a house without pouring the foundation. In Solo, the story is strong enough to support the effects, but just barely. The plot begins its path slowly gliding at first, but like any Star Wars story, it picks up the pace quickly. It then chugs along at a swift, but measured pace like it was on rails. There are some moments when the tracks seem to disappear and the cart hovers in mid-air, but those moments are few.
One example is the reveal of the big boss behind this whole hullabaloo. While it was a slick surprise, and a cool sensation knowing that this certain sinister snake is still a part of this universe; it was one of those moments. To the avid fan, this may have been a surprise that this character was in this particular film, but to the casual audience, this information would have been glazed over at best and confusing at worst. It does set up a situation for a sequel or maybe a continued presence in other movies. That is if Lucasfilm continues with the anthology collection, which consists so far of Rogue One and this movie. There have been rumors an Obi-wan Kenobi movie was in the works and even a Boba Fett movie had a director attached to it. But since Solo did not perform as well as they wanted, Disney put a freeze on these projects. It remains to be seen if these projects get underway again in the future.
Solo: A Star Wars Story has some high profile cast members playing characters in the movie. Tobias Becket, played by Woody Harelson, is a bandit organizing a heist. He has collected a small group of specialists perfectly suited for this job he is planning. He meets Han Solo, a soldier in the Imperial Army. He recruits Solo for this job which involves a high speed, armored and armed monorail. The sequence was carefully filmed, bringing the viewer into the action. This is evocative of the original Star Wars movie in theme. Star Wars has always been a blending of genres. Yes, it is science fiction, but it is a western, too. There are the cowboys like the smugglers and bounty hunters hanging out in the old saloon located in some remote town on the frontier. Many of these people, and one, in particular, relying on their gunslinging abilities to survive.
The locals, consisting of farmers and tradesfolk who don’t want any trouble, shy away from these lowlifes. Han Solo, being one of these lowlifes, displays great skill in his stand-off with Greedo in the cantina, or saloon. The one thing this situation needed was for them to meet in the street at high noon. That being said, Star Wars carries on the western to a small degree as Han Solo remains relevant to the many movies which follow. What many westerns have is a train robbery sequence, and Solo: A Star Wars Story provides it with flare. The monorail robbery sequence is like a modern-day depiction of that classic trope.
It’s as if the viewer is participating in the heist. The wind whips past one’s ears as the scenery flashes dangerously past. It was a great action set piece that came together smoothly. The is one of Ron Howard’s strengths as a director. He is able to fully realize an action scene. Look to the Robert Langdon movies for examples. While those movies are not as elaborate as the Star Wars movies, the display of control Mr. Howard has by picking the best angles to shoot and the pacing of the editing demonstrates the expertise he has in filmmaking. After so many years in the film industry and so many hit movies under his belt working with so much talent, he can coax and capture good performances from them.
As for the cast of the movie, they were good, especially for a Star Wars movie. For some of the roles, Mr. Howard might have selected different actors, but the movie had already been cast when he was brought onboard. Some of the actors were great and some seemed a bit lost. Woody Harelson was in the middle range. He turned in a good performance, but it wasn’t his best. His best of late was War for the Planet of the Apes. His performance was captivating. It screamed for an Oscar nomination. Donald Glover as Lando was spot on. That was an excellent choice to cast him as Lando. It was as if Billy Dee Williams had regressed in age and walked right into the film.
Emilia Clarke fell a bit short. She was decent for the roll, but it needed more. It was like she was subconsciously distracted by her role in Game of Thrones. She seemed to be playing it with drama, which was a good approach. However, she needed to turn up the dial a bit more to the melodrama range. Maybe even throw in a bit of a comedic flare. Ham it up a bit, maybe sprinkle some cheese on it. Make a ham and cheese sandwich out of it. Paul Bettany was as superb as ever. There hasn’t been a role, yet, where he has taken a nosedive and failed.
Some of the extras on the home video release include deleted scenes, commentary, and behind the scenes segments. A couple of the deleted scenes are interesting in that they paint a different picture. One scene is a different take on the opening scene. It is rumored that this one was the original scene conceived by the directors Lord and Miller. It was a darker beginning for the movie and it may have worked had the rest of the movie been written with the same theme. As it stands, the alternate scene is a bit awkward when viewed as is. Another scene is more light-hearted and fun-filled. It is a snowball fight between Han and Chewie. A sentimental scene which adds a bit of camaraderie between the two in their budding friendship. A tour of the Millennium Falcon by Lando is another fun addition to the collection.
This was a fun adventure into the Star Wars universe. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, unlike another recent entry in this franchise. It is highly recommended for Star Wars fans, for obvious reasons, and people who just want to have fun at a movie. This is a summer blockbuster film which tells a light-hearted story full of what one would expect from one of these films. The only new things in this film are the idea of looking into Han Solo’s past and seeing how this legendary character began his journey, and some previously unseen characters introduced here.
Han Solo, Captain of the Millennium Falcon and hero of the Rebellion will live on in our hearts.