‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is an action-packed entry starring the galactic gunslinger
"Solo" is an entertaining ride, but it doesn’t tell us anything we couldn’t have already guessed about the classic Star Wars character.
When audiences were first introduced to the character of Han Solo back in 1977, his past was a mystery. All Han had was his ship, the Millennium Falcon, his co-pilot, Chewbacca, and a series of claims about himself and his ship that may or may not be true. This all changed when the Star Wars franchise released its 10th film: “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” which tells the history of everyone’s favorite smuggler. The movie answers every question about the character that fans could possibly think of, and even a few that they couldn’t, but that raises another point: Do these details add anything to what Star Wars fans already know and love about Han Solo?
Alden Ehrenreich takes on the task of bringing to life the overconfident yet charming Han Solo, a character Harrison Ford previously portrayed in four other Star Wars films (and one misguided holiday special). “Solo” takes place roughly a decade before the events of the 1977 original “A New Hope,” so this younger Han isn’t quite the same as the one Luke and Obi-Wan met on Tatooine. He’s more hopeful and less worn-down, declaring “I have a really good feeling about this!” instead of the Star Wars classic “I have a bad feeling about this.” It would’ve been easy for Ehrenreich to either stray too far from Ford’s original portrayal or try to imitate him too closely, ignoring the fact that people are likely to change over the course of 10 years. Luckily, Ehrenreich manages to strike a balance, nailing the mannerisms that Ford established back in 1977. Just like his older counterpart, he’s all about smart remarks, wild plans and talking his way out of trouble — a little more naive, but still willing to shoot first.
Alongside Han in this adventure is his childhood sweetheart, Qi’ra, played by Emilia Clarke. Her only standout feature is her mysterious nature, and while Clarke certainly portrays her as a strong female character, Qi’ra — and by extension, her relationship with Han — isn’t well-developed enough to compete with the male characters’ clearer and therefore more compelling backstories.
The other main players in Han’s crew are his faithful companion Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), jaded leader-turned-mentor Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and droid rights activist L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), but the show is definitely stolen by Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian. He waltzes in with the iconic mustache and a brand-new cape, kissing Qi’ra’s hand in the same way Billy Dee Williams did when he met Carrie Fisher’s Leia in “Empire Strikes Back.” Glover’s Lando even mispronounces Han’s name — “Han,” like the beginning of the word “hand” — just as Williams’s Lando did in the original trilogy.
There was a bit of controversy surrounding Lando’s character when writer Jonathan Kasdan told the Huffington Post that Lando is pansexual, with the caveat that there still needs to be more explicit LGBTQ+ representation included in Star Wars films. While this statement is undoubtedly an important step for queer representation in a franchise that certainly needs it, Lando’s pansexuality was never directly addressed in the film besides one teasing line about Lando flirting with Han. This left many fans feeling like Lucasfilm was trying to cash in on LGBTQ+ representation without actually having to include it in the film, which was a disappointment for many hoping that “Solo” would be more of a step forward.
“Solo” itself is packed full of action, and not just traditional Star Wars space battles, either. The first half covers a vast array of action movie tropes: car chases, trench warfare and even a train heist. While all of these scenes were interesting expansions on what is traditionally included in Star Wars movies, by the time “Solo” reaches its more pivotal second half, the near-constant action becomes a bit tiresome. Some of the film’s strongest moments are the more personal scenes illustrating the relationships between characters, and a few more moments like these could’ve broke up some of the high-energy battle sequences.
Even so, “Solo” is definitely an entertaining ride. Whether the action is taking place on the dark, grimy streets of Corellia, a train suspended midair, a classy space yacht or the Millennium Falcon that fans know so well, the visuals are stunning and pull out all the stops. The dialogue is peppered with connections to the other films, and whether you get these references or not, the characters are the kind of morally gray heroes anyone can get behind. Besides how a certain plotline ultimately wraps up — which requires knowledge outside the scope of just the Star Wars films to comprehend and is the most disappointingly inconclusive part of the film — “Solo” can be an enjoyable film for anyone, Star Wars fan or not. And for the die-hard fans, nothing will give you chills in the theater like when John Williams’s classic musical themes make an appearance in John Powell’s satisfactory score during key moments in the film.
However, while “Solo” is a successful action film, it doesn’t tell us anything we couldn’t have already guessed about Han Solo’s character. When we meet Han at the beginning of “A New Hope,” it’s assumed that this cynical, out-for-himself smuggler was once someone younger and more trusting. Finding out how exactly he met friends like Lando and Chewbacca are certainly some of the new aspects brought to the table in this film, but for the most part, it’s easy to guess why Han stopped relying on others. However, with the amount of fun packed into “Solo,” necessary or not, it’s certainly a must-see.