Before the blue text began its journey down theater screens, fans of the legendary Star Wars saga had high hopes for Disney’s latest prequel film, Solo. The film, which focuses on infamous Corellian smuggler, Han, played by Alden Ehrenriech, looked to take audiences through the origin story of the self-proclaimed best pilot in the galaxy.
If our protagonist had known how his movie would perform in box-office sales, however, I’m sure his reaction would’ve been something along the lines of, “I have a bad feeling about this.”
Despite what its flop-worthy performance and the steep drop-off in second-week sales (nearly 68 percent) describe, Disney gave us a decent movie with a Star Wars feel and a shipload of nostalgic moments. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad and the takeaway is largely based on what you want from a Star Wars movie.
Disney jumps right into the action with Solo, throwing us into one of Han’s clever ploys to steal what he was hired to steal. Sounds like our guy, right? Working for a local gang on Corellia, Han and his lover Qi’ra, played by Emilia Clarke, manage to get their hands on a sample of coaxium, a highly explosive, highly valuable hyperspace fuel. After escaping the clutches of the gang by a few parsecs, wink, Han uses the stolen coaxium to bribe an imperial officer for access to an outgoing transport. Just as he steps through the entrance gate Qi’ra is snatched from his arms and Han is left alone, promising to return for her.
When the character Han Solo was introduced in 1977 he was one of the only “good-guy” characters who had a dark edge to him. Growing up on the streets of Corellia had forced Han to harden himself and Harrison Ford’s original rendition fit perfectly. As you watch the love of his life being taken away before his eyes in Solo, the effects aren’t made obvious. Ehrenriech does a great job of filling the young, smug pilot look, but nothing about him suggests that he can become the rough, tough, gun-slinging smuggler that we see in, “A New Hope.”
The film skips forward three years to the planet of Mimban, where Han finds himself on the ground fighting for the Empire. During the battle, he discovers a group of thieves led by Tobias Beckett and attempts to blackmail them into letting him join the team. Han’s plan doesn’t work out and he ends up being thrown into his first pit! This time to be eaten by a Wookiee named Chewbacca. Oh Chewie, how we’ve missed you. Before Chewie has a chance to tear Han’s arms out of their sockets (one of the guards isn’t so lucky), Han speaks Wookiee, which explains a lot. The dynamic duo teams up against the imperial guards who are watching the supposed deathmatch and manage to escape Mimban with Beckett’s team.
Chewie’s friendship and loyalty to Han is the brightest aspect of the film. It does an excellent job of taking us down memory lane and creating the foundation for the pair’s long-lasting onscreen bond. While many of the characters in Solo are blatantly underwhelming, the oversized man-pet isn’t one of them.
Q’ira’s role, on the other hand, feels strange. She is a complicated character and adds depth, but many of the parts don’t fit. When Han finally finds her she has become the top lieutenant (and apparent romantic partner) of crime-boss Dryder Vos of the organization Crimson Dawn. Q’ira seems to want to side with Han throughout the film but eventually chooses to kill Vos and leave in his ship alone. There’s also plenty of mention of unspeakably terrible deeds that she has committed for Vos, but that’s never clarified. It’s possible that Clarke just looks too friendly for the role.
Casting Donald Glover for Lando Calrissian was perfect; he comes across just as charismatic and selfish as Calrissian should be. The love affair between him and his droid, L3-37, whose equality one-liners provided a prominently humorous flare, added a unique aspect to a droids character. Not to mention the story behind Han winning the Millennium Falcon from Calrissian in a card game called Sabacc that had everyone in the theater cheering (or just me).
The film goes out of its way to pay tribute to fans by including scenes such as Han attempting to join the Imperial Army as a pilot. When the recruiting officer asks for his family’s name, Han states that he doesn’t have anyone, that he’s alone. Hence, Han Solo is born. In one of the final scenes, Q’ira uses her dead boss’ ring to call upon the leader of the Crimson Dawn, who is, wait for it, Darth Maul. I’m sure every Star Wars fan can get behind more Maul.
One of my main gripes with Solo is how much it seemed like Disney was attempting to make it feel like an original Star Wars movie. In “Rogue One” there were very few characters that were taken from the original films. I’d argue that the only one who we knew was not going to be killed off was Vader. While that movie does classify as a prequel film and is Disney’s version of a branch-off of the original storyline, it had its own identity. “Solo” doesn’t bring that to the table.
Any film based on the origins of a character that fans have already grown to love is going to have its limitations. If you’re looking for a recap of Star Wars history that shows Han Solo making the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs and reveals how old Chewie really is (180 when he met Han), then you’re going to enjoy it. The action rarely stops and the references are never ending, just don’t expect the kind of unique philosophical undertone that made films like “The Last Jedi” smooth extensions of the post-Lucas Star Wars universe.