Cinematic Releases: Twelve Parsecs To Prequel Glory: Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Reviewed

We've already come to the conclusion that Hollywood needs to give us a backstory for every character or franchise under the two suns of Tattooine. That's not going to stop. Ever. 

When there is so much money to be made and so many things to explore in the Lucasfilm library, the choices are endless. In just the few years since Disney purchased the Star Wars brand, we've already been handed more Star Wars movies in a short time frame than we've seen since the inception of A New Hope. Over-saturation is a real thing. Luckily for Kathleen Kennedy and her band of creatives, this latest space adventure has just enough key moments to keep weary fanboys/fangirls interested. There's suspense. There's a fine balance between humor and self seriousness. And the unexpected fact that Ehrenreich carries the weight of flyboy Han Solo with that same wink and a smile that we love about the most famous galactic smuggler is a feat we never would have expected. 

We go for rocky ride. 

Solo was ripe for critical destruction right from the start. Even I had nearly closed myself off to anyone else playing Han Solo. Yet, there is enough good content here that even the most die hard viewer will walk out saying they had a good time watching this Star Wars Story. Using a simplified plot that serves as both an origin tale and a launching point for a potential new series, Howard finds himself closing in on the same territory as Rogue One. The universe is under rule by the growing Empire. And the situation for regular beings is bleak. Dust and grime fill the landscapes. The inhabitants of the galaxy are on edge. Slavery is the norm. Hence, more talk of rebellions being spawned as planets are mercilessly controlled by Imperial law. Still, this is not the primary focus. Instead of barraging us with another story about Stormtroopers and Rebel Soldiers, Solo shifts its spotlight to character building, which is a hell of a risky bet this late in the game. 

With all that said, Disney's penchant for inflating the Star Wars brand with as many possible prequels, one-offs, and sequels is quickly becoming apparent. You can take that as good or bad. It's up to you. Myself, I'm enjoying these for the most part, even at the cost of sifting through baseline details we never needed to know. Sometimes things are best left alone. In the case of Ron Howard's entry into the worlds of Wookies, Droids, and rebels, he does a grand job of recreating the Lucas tone, even after the original directors were jettisoned from the project. As he brought balance back to Solo there are still underlying plot issues, a totally plundered third act, and a main antagonist that could have used a once over instead of being as cookie cutter as they come. This is a flawed space crime epic that loyalists will love and many will hate simply for the fact that Alden Ehrenreich looks nothing like Harrison Ford. But I digress. He does have the facial expressions, physical mannerisms, and vocal inflections down pat. There's a reason Ford himself loves this movie. 

Now that we have that out of the way, we can take a more critical peek at Solo: A Star Wars Story knowing that we've established a view of how they're treating their acquisition of everything related to that galaxy far far away. With the release of The Last Jedi, many fans revolted and others stayed the course. Even Rogue One has its naysayers. Solo will have the same split down the middle reaction as the last couple Disney entries in the continuing saga. Fortunately for Kathleen Kennedy, Howard and anyone else attached to this prequel, Solo can stand on its own two feet without requiring a single viewing of any of the other Star Wars entries. That's its strongest suit. The relationship between Chewie and Han is expounded on, but it's not relative to anything we've seen before. And that's smart. As origins go, this is about as whip smart as they come. Throwing in dozens of interconnected dots that circle back to A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi make this an extended puzzle piece that we can relate to but didn't really need. 

No, you cannot huggle my Wookie friend. He'll tear your arms off. 

Plodding through a slightly messy first chapter that establishes way more than we need to know about a youthful Han on Corellia and his dreams of becoming a pilot,  it quickly becomes an action packed gangster laden double cross story that just so happens to introduce numerous classic characters including Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian. Armed to the gills with massive Easter eggs, nods, and classic trilogy references, this is mostly a wet dream for completists. However, some of the best parts of Solo are when Ron Howard takes it in new directions that don't call back so much to the originals, but instead tries to build more back story and arc for this specific chapter. At the point that the main plot begins, the pacing steps it up and we're immediately taken back to the what made us love Star Wars back in '77. The action never really lets up as the interplay between Chewie and Han shows the foundations of their bond as best buddies. 

There is undoubtedly going to be an outcry that will be fueled by social media furor over Solo: A Star Wars Story. It will be the same overzealous reaction we got to Rogue One and The Last Jedi. Being outspoken about something that's supposed to be a fun time at the cinema has almost become as popular as these movies themselves. In giving a fair assessment of Solo, I'll admit I was a detractor over anyone that would try to fill Harrison Ford's boots. Alden tempers a level of control that never creates a caricature of the Han we already know or love. Instead, he uses the footings that Ford created, steps it back a bit, and lets us know that he's going to eventually grow into the cocky guy that's gonna get the carbonite treatment a little while down the road. 

In the acting category, Donald Glover treats Lando with utmost respect. His portrayal of the swindler is dead on as he carries the same swagger as Billy Dee Williams. Emilia Clarke fails to add any luster while she plays it way too safe by not adding any emotional weight to the love interest of Han Solo. Harrelson brandishes his typical quick lipped self but becomes a distraction that pulls focus away from the story at hand. And of course, the new guy in the Chewie suit has it down to an art. You'd never know that Mayhew isn't still playing the cuddly oaf. But, the Millennium Falcon remains the beating heart behind Solo. We find out so much new techie knowledge about the cruiser that most fans heads will explode with sweet details. 

If you're a lifelong follower of this series, you'd be doing yourself a disservice by not giving Disney your hard earned dollars to see this one. The scope is a bit tighter. The narrative is more refined than what we normally see from this property, but the overall product is still something that bears the markers of why we fell in love in the first place. And Chewbacca gets so much more time on camera that you'd be missing out if you didn't check this out in theaters. 

Unadulterated Indiana Jones throwback right here. 

I never expected this, but Solo: A Star Wars Story deserves your attention even though it fails to create anything absolutely spectacular. The only complaint could be made that many key story points that we were expecting were never even touched upon, with many predicted cameos nowhere to be seen. But that's okay. Howard proved most of us wrong. Disney feels VERY confident in this film or they wouldn't be releasing the embargo so early. There are reasons for that. As it stands, Solo is a thrill ride that could have used some refining and polish on all its blemishes. But nothing is perfect in this world. 

Solo: A Star Wars Story doesn't retread too many Empire based tropes and mainly steers clear of any Jedi mentions or usage of The Force. This alone makes it feel refreshing and new. Going against all my preconceived notions of a different actor playing Han Solo, I'd by lying to myself if I didn't tell you to see this when it comes out. It's a confident film by a great director that's revisiting his glory days.