Rating: 4 out of 5 (excellent)
Synopsis: Solo charts the life of Star Wars’ favourite smuggler Han Solo before he became the rogue viewers fell in love with during A New Hope.
Never has a better spin-off been found in a galaxy far far away. Solo is a swashbuckling adventure of daring-do and oddball characters who bring liveliness and levity to a franchise which can fixate too much on good versus evil. Hopping between the dives of the galaxy and other dangerous corners Solo is a great film to let yourself switch off and simply enjoy, despite Disney’s interference.
Suffering from a tortured development process and a last minute change of director leading to effectively a remade film, the odds have not favoured Solo. The film’s real misfortune is to follow behind the polemical Star Wars: The Last Jedi and bear the brunt of fan backlash to Disney’s guidance of the franchise. Tragically for a film fated to receive poor opinion among fans, Solo is by accident the most innovative Star Wars instalment since Disney bought the mantel from George Lucas. The Marvel-Disney formula is a false arc constructing a story filled with danger whose consequences will change the axis of the universe . The reality is that each ending changes nothing and none of the heroes ever suffer a price.
More so than in either the original or prequel trilogy, Star Wars under Disney has developed the same hollow self-aggrandising displayed by the Marvel franchise. In stark contrast Solo’s protagonist is at the mercy of larger events while his actions are of little consequence to the galaxy beyond. Ultimately Solo is a great heist film set in the Star Wars’ universe, and it would have even better if Disney had let it be just that. Sadly Disney’s compulsion to weave Solo into Star Wars lore and sound out a possible sequel jars with everything else. Disney threads Easter eggs both obvious and obscure into the Marvel and Star Wars films to generate fan speculation about immediate and future films. In Solo Disney reaches a new level of glibness with its scavenger hunt, placing throwaway comments about The Clone Wars T.V show and letting the camera linger over props from prior Star Wars films. Worst of all is a central part of Solo’s story stemming from a contextual comment in A New Hope. Instead of using Han Solo as a springboard for something new, Disney loops events from the original trilogy with a fixated neatness to answer questions few fans probably asked about. To someone who has been a Star Wars fan since childhood, Disney’s visible attempts in Solo to generate further speculation, interest and hopefully money out of the franchise grates against Solo’s otherwise decent story.
Since reviewing Doctor Strange I have had the pleasure of reviewing a few of Disney’s offspring in both the Marvel and Star Wars universes. My opinion on Disney’s works is that they are often problematic stories propped by excellent casts. Although Solo’s plot problems are not significant, they are helped by a very robust cast. Woody Harrelson as Thomas Beckett, Han Solo’s reluctant mentor, is a safe pair of hands and Paul Bettany is convincingly villainous as the crime lord Dryden Vos. Plus Bettany really rocks Dryden Vos’ black cape. Emilia Clarke was surprisingly good as Han Solo’s conflicted love interest Qi’ra. Given Clarke’s fame stemming from only her Game of Thrones role and her past involvement in box office flops, I was somewhat worried as to her performance. The fears were unfounded while Alden Ehrenreich is very good in depicting his own version of Han Solo. Gone is the gritty sardonic demeanour of Ford’s character, replaced by a naivete alongside some good comedic timing and quips.
Ron Howard’s experience as a director shows throughout Solo. Howard’s approach in the film is economical, with every scene being a direct depiction of how the viewer should think and feel in that moment. Although the film is filled with the grandiose CGI scenes that are typical to blockbusters, Solo’s opening and later depiction of a planetary invasion truly drew me into the story. Another highlight was a standoff between Han Solo and company against some pirates which bristled with the tension of a Western gunfight. If Howard did re-direct Solo, he truly did rescue this film.
By Saul Shimmin
For the trailer, see below;