It’s the story we’ve long wanted to know: just how the hell did Han Solo become the greatest pilot in the galaxy? Well in Solo: A Star Wars Story we get our answer, along with a space adventure that is pure rock n’roll cool.
Set in an uncharted galactic frontier, talented young thief and wannabe pilot Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) finds himself with the opportunity of a lifetime as he is drafted into a high stakes criminal heist that could very well make him the greatest pilot in the whole of the galaxy.
Just as in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Solo mixes things up with the application of a fresh setting and genres. Taking up the reins this time is long time Hollywood legend Ron Howard who gets chance to put his own spin on the Star Wars canon. What he delivers is a Western/Crime movie hybrid that introduces audiences to the edge of the Empire where the only thing that matters is survival. Here an oppressed society lives under the will of a host of dangerous crime syndicates that control this part of the galaxy with an iron fist. This darker setting makes for great viewing and Howard imbues it with all of the tropes that we’ve come to expect from these genres such as gunfights, gambling dens, confidence tricks and a handful of dynamic chase sequence. I’ve long wanted to really see a Western/Crime edge brought to the franchise and it’s pretty cool to see this realized up on the big-screen.
What also separates Solo from the other Star Wars films is that it is very much a biographical film exploring the early life of the Galaxy’s greatest ever smuggler. But when we first meet Han he sure has a long way to go. Taking on the part is rising star Alden Ehrenreich and the young actor does a great job in the role. How does he do this you ask? Simple, he makes the character his own. Harrison Ford is a hard act to follow for any actor, but with Han Solo it’s a whole other level. But if Ehrenreich felt any pressure he definitely didn’t show it up on screen, and his performance is pretty damn cool to watch.
Ehrenreich’s Han is in his early twenties when we meet him and he’s got a lot to prove. Growing up a slum rat he’s dreamed of escaping into space and he finally gets his chance here. Ehrenreich’s Han is the Han we know, except not fully formed. He’s got a little bit more idealism in him, and he’s not the cynical merc we first meet in A New Hope. He’s cocky, brash and has a talent for getting himself into trouble but somehow he’s always able to find a way out. In Solo we also get to see how Han first met his co-pilot and best friend Chewbacca, but let me say that their first meeting is not at all friendly. However Ehrenreich and Chewbacca performer Joonas Suotamo really get the Han/Chewie chemistry and make for a great odd couple up on screen.
Being the lovable rogue that he is Han also has a way with the ladies and here we meet the woman that shapes his early life in the form of his childhood sweetheart Qi’ra played by Emilia Clarke. Clarke’s Qi’ra is first and foremost a survivor and has a had a very hard road in life. She’s a real femme fatale type character and even though you can feel the love that they share for each other, it’s clear that she has her own interior motives. Glamorous, alluring, dazzling and very capable Qi’ra has some very cool moments on-screen and her decisions ultimately shape Han into the man he will become.
However if this film does indeed have a scene stealer than I have to give it to Donald Glover as the galaxy’s smoothest operator Lando Calrissian. While Han might be the wannabe pilot here, Glover’s Calrissian is the veteran and he’s certainly got a few rumors chasing him. It’s best to describe Glover as the coolest guy in the room and he certainly brings this energy and swagger to the role. He’s supremely confident in his abilities and he has plenty of back and forth verbal sparring with Han who he views as a bit of try-hard. Paired with Calrissian is his faithful droid L3-37 portrayed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. You’ve never seen a droid like L3 before and she puts all other droids to shame. Sassy and up for the good cause she’s very happy to stir the pot to help liberate her fellow droids and her interaction’s with Lando and girl chat sessions with Qi’ra really crank up the humor.
Ron Howard keeps the action interesting with Solo and he doesn’t just rely on your standard blaster fight fest. He mixes things up and introduces some particularly cool heist and chase elements which keep things fresh. And yes the Millennium Falcon is a crucial part to the story, although it’s not ‘a hunk of junk’ here. Instead it’s all shiny and fresh of the production line and being Lando’s ship has a particularly cool style to it. While I can’t go into details on the film’s coolest scene which references a particularly cool part of the Star Wars mythos without falling into spoiler territory, I will say that you get to see the Falcon in all her glory….and she’s very, very fast.
While Solo is ultimately its own standalone movie it also offers some great insight into the larger picture of A New Hope and the Star Wars canon. Its definitely something I wasn’t expecting and sort of draws on Han’s destiny and the ultimate secret that even though he considers himself to be an outlaw he’s fundamentally the good guy.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a very fun ride and really took me by surprise with what it offers to its audience. It’s jam packed with action and has plenty of cool character moments and the cast do a phenomenal job. Trust me when I say you’ll want to engage the hyper drive and make the jump to light speed for this one.
Image: Walt Disney Pictures