Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Directed by Ron Howard
Based on characters created by George Lucas
Screenplay by Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany
Han Solo (Ehrenreich) joins up with group of smugglers in an effort to find his fortune. Along the way he meets a couple of future friends and enemies.
Solo is the second film to become a part of the Star Wars Anthology film series that began with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Like all of the Star Wars films, this one is based on the characters created by George Lucas (Raiders of the Lost Ark). The screenplay was written by Jonathan Kasdan (The First Time) and Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill), and the film was directed by Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind). The film stars Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!) in the title role. The film also stars Emilia Clarke (Terminator Genisys), Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Donald Glover (The Martian), Thandie Newton (Crash), and Paul Bettany (Avengers: Infinity War).
Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan worked together to craft the script for this movie. The story starts with some world-building scenes before stepping into the familiar framework of a heist film. While the setting might fit the franchise, there isn’t much else to connect them. Sure, there are appearances by Chewbacca and Lando, but that’s not enough. Instead of making those two classic characters more important to the story, they seem to be pushed aside for the new faces.
Those characters help to push the plot forward just fine, but they lack the familiarity that a Star Wars film deserves. This movie was advertised as the back story of Han Solo, a character immortalized in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope by Harrison Ford (Blade Runner 2049). Unfortunately the writing never builds the emotional connection necessary to make that connection work. Some might argue that it’s still a good heist film, but I would disagree. The heist story is predictable given the fact that we know who the main character goes on to be. It’s a shame that the two screenwriters couldn’t put something together with a little heart.
This cast is a mixed bag or more and less talented people. Alden Ehrenreich might not be a bad actor, but he doesn’t play a very convincing Han Solo. The writing certainly shares some of the blame, but not all of it. His performance lacks the grit and honest bravado that Harrison Ford gave the character. Normally it might not matte, but this is an iconic role we’re talking about. He has some solid moments, but never builds much chemistry with the other actors. Emilia Clarke did about as much as she could with her role. The writing left her with a confusing character and little opportunity to shine. Donald Glover was in a similar position. Unlike Clarke he had the added pressure of playing another iconic role. His scenes are fine, but there’s little emotion in his performance. Woody Harrelson might have given one of the best performances in this one. His role feels like was written for him, and he doesn’t disappoint. Thandie Newton and Paul Bettany also do good work with their roles in this one. Unfortunately, the stars seemed unable to elevate the poor writing or find the emotional connection to the material that might have brought out something special.
This movie looks and sounds good. Despite the other issues, the production work is a solid example of how to make a science-fiction movie. The CGI looks decent, and the sets and costumes are all well done. The camera work is also nicely handled. The movie moves at a good pace thanks to solid editing. The sound work and score are also competently done. The issues with this film are not with the production. Ron Howard showed off his ability to make a movie look and sound good, even when he’s been given weak material.
It’s no wonder that the actor cast in the title role is not a bigger name. With the script, it might have been impossible to get a better star. There are surely a number of people who would disagree with my assessments of this one. Hardcore fans of the franchise might even be willing to look past the many flaws in this movie. The problems begin with the script and end with actors who were unable to bring out anything special from their performances. Fans of the Star Wars franchise might want to skip this one since it tells an unnecessary story with no connection to the other films. If you’re unfamiliar with the franchise this is just a sub par heist film you can likely do without seeing. I give this one 1.2 out of 5 stars.