Solo: A Star Wars Story is a movie that seems to be completely mistaken as to what is strengths are. And it has quite a few strengths, it is mostly a very good movie. However, it repeatedly takes the time to emphasize its weakest elements, bringing everything else to halt to give the viewer time to roll their eyes.
Solo tells the early life story of the most popular character in the Star Wars franchise: Han Solo. It shows a bit of his youth on Corellia before he joined the Imperial Navy, which he then left for a life of adventure and crime. Theoretically, it tells the story of how he came to be the man that young Luke met in that cantina in Mos Eisley in the original Star Wars. Pretty quickly, Han is separated from his love interest, meets and bonds with Chewbacca, and gets tangled up with all-around scoundrel Tobias Beckett and his crew. Beckett owes money to Dryden Vos, and Han is tied to him. After a series of heist and schemes, Han is left with just Chewie as he continues his adventures.
What didn’t work for me were the attempts at fanservice. The movie seems determined to give the viewer answers to questions nobody asked or showing them things they’ve seen before, but pretending it is meaningful. It is the bad version of what The Force Awakens did so well. The movie pauses for a second to let the music swell as Han and Chewie get behind the controls of the Millenium Falcon for the first time. It adds nothing and the viewer already knew what was going on. That has nothing on the groaner that is the movie showing how Han got the last name Solo, the answer to a question that literally no one was asking. Honestly, the movie came close to losing me right there.
Luckily, it recovers with some excellent action scenes. The war scene is brief, but it mostly works. However, the train heist is wonderful. It has enough moving pieces and feels truly momentous at times. You can almost see the tragedy that it becomes as soon as the plan is outlined. And the raid on the Kessel mines is solid as well.
It also brings in quite a few interesting characters. Beckett is Han’s future, the cold hearted criminal that is not necessarily evil, but certainly out only for himself. Han and Chewie are pretty great. Alden Ehrenreich doesn’t really feel like Harrison Ford, but he does good work anyway. Han’s love interest Qi’Ra works, though the movie seems to hold her final character work for a theoretical sequel. The highlight is Donald Glover as Lando; he does great by the character even if the movie isn’t really sure why he is there. The same goes for is droid co-pilot, L3, who is a lot of fun even if the movie can’t decide if she is important to Lando or just another tool.
There are structural problems with the movie, mostly it seems from pulling things back and forth through its troubled production. In many ways its is not unlike Justice League, a movie whose tone and characterization varied wildly from scene to scene. The general thrust of the movie seems to be intending in getting Han from a similar place as where Luke started to the Han that we met in Star Wars. But it never really gets there. He is naive and optimistic through most of the movie. Even at the end he is doing something heroic. Instead of showcasing the character development from Star Wars, it sort of negates it. Han was apparently always a good guy, there is no change. This is despite most of the movie working to strip of any optimism he might have had.
While the seems do show, the movie is still very entertaining. I had some similar problems with Rogue One. In fact, I might like this movie more than Rogue One; I am certainly going to revisit it more often. It is something of a mess, but I liked a lot anyway.