Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Mitchell

Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany.

It’s another standalone Star Wars story, and after Rogue One I have to say I was amped to see it. Alden Ehrenreich is a terrific actor, and his “Would that it were so simple” dialogue with Ralph Fiennes in Hail, Caesar! is one of the most laugh-aloud funny scenes I’ve seen in years, so nobody needed to persuade me to buy him as Solo. I was already bought.

Solo: A Star Wars Story traces Han Solo’s early life, beginning with an escape from some kind of child labor camp (or something!) and ending somewhere vaguely familiar but nonspecific in our knowledge of the Star Wars universe. As it unfolds, we see the development of Han’s story in the years before we meet him in Episode IV.

It’s a standalone movie, but of course it’s a standalone movie about a beloved character. The writers, actors, and director have to walk a delicate line between just telling a good story and being true to both canon and spirit, and they walk it well. Although some of my female friends disagree, Ehrenreich has the swagger and cunning of the Han Solo we know. If he’s not as ruggedly handsome or seductive, he shows signs of becoming that guy. We should expect him to be a bit raw and even innocent, two words we’d never use in describing the character as played by Harrison Ford. Young Han Solo has seen things, but not that many things.

The other major, less doubtful question is whether Donald Glover could pull off Lando Calrissian. I feel very confident in assessing his performance as better than anyone could have hoped. He’s not only perfect, he’s somehow better than that, so charismatic, morally ambiguous, and charming that he almost steals the movie from Ehrenreich.

Add Woody Harrelson, a new droid named L3-37, a love interest named Qi’ra, and of course Chewbacca, and you have a solid cast for what should be the first movie in a trilogy. Honestly, it’s a stronger set of actors than we thought we had after episodes IV and I, and if the story is not quite as good as some of the best in the series, it can be excused for spending more time on character development than plot.

This is not to suggest the plot is terrible. It’s decent space western stuff with unanswered questions enough to keep the audience guessing as it awaits word on a sequel. I found enough to chew on that I waited only a week before getting back to the theater to see it again. I’m fully down with this Solo, this Calrissian, and this nested series. I’ve got a good feeling about this.

8/10
81/100

10 thoughts on “Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

  1. 74/100

    Of the Star Wars movies that came after Return of the Jedi, I think this might be my favorite. That might not be saying much perhaps, but let me say I did find this enjoyable. This is a little surprising, given that I thought Alden Ehrenreich (Han) was just adequate. Harrison Ford makes the character live, and he’s the primary reason the character appealed to me, similar to the way Robert Downey Jr. makes Tony Stark appealing. In other words, the casting is everything. I didn’t hate Ehrenreich , but he lacked the cockiness and maybe even the anti-hero quality—specifically, the presentation that he won’t stick his neck out for anyone—although maybe this cynicism develops later. In spite of this, I managed to enjoy the film. (Ehrenreich also kept making me think of Art Hindle, which was a little distracting.)

    The film also appeared hazy and even slightly blurry at times, and that was another obstacle that surprisingly didn’t ruin the experience for me. (I’m actually not sure why that is.) Mitchell mentioned that some critics attributed this to the projection lighting. Whatever the cause, it wasn’t good, and I think people could have justifiably asked for their money back.

    So why did I like the film? I think the main reason was the script and some of the action scenes. There are still some flaws, but overall I thought it was solid. Also, and maybe more importantly, the scenes with Han and Chewy, evoking a heavy dose of nostalgia, really got to me. It’s a cheap way to win over fans, but it really did work with me.

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    (sorry; I’m doing this so the spoiler doesn’t show up in the sidebar)

    What did you think of Darth Maul’s appearance? Did you have a weird reaction?

    I wondered at first whether Tobias was acting according to some plan (made off screen) with Han all the way up to their reunion in the desert while Tobias was “escaping” with Chewie and the coaxium, which was my main reason for seeing it again a week later.

    We never see Han shoot Tobias, so I wondered if that was some third party. I still wonder this, but I’m convinced now, based on my second viewing, that Tobias was merely acting in his best interest, which Han (most likely) accurately predicted he would. Faced with counting on Tobias to be Tobias and the uncertainty of Qi’ra’s likely actions, I think Han threw in with Tobias, which must have been difficult but seems the most prudent action.

    The biggest inconsistency, which echoes your comment about Han not sticking his neck out for nobody, is that Han Solo finances the Rebellion! You’d think by the time Episode IV rolls around, he’d be something of a revered figure just for that, but of course he isn’t. I hope they find a way to resolve this in the sequel(s).

    I was mildly impressed with Ron Howard’s light touch on sentimentality until the VERY last scene. When Qi’ra gives up the copilot’s seat and the Wookiee climbs in, it’s hard not to feel a nice, warm sense of nostalgia. Nicely done, really. But then in that last scene, when they jump to hyperspace, is it really necessary for Han and Chewy to throw the thruster forward together? Ugh! 🙂 Thanks, Ron.

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    What did you think of Darth Maul’s appearance? Did you have a weird reaction?

    Not weird; more mildly intrigued. What was your reaction?

    I wondered at first whether Tobias was acting according to some plan (made off screen) with Han all the way up to their reunion in the desert while Tobias was “escaping” with Chewie and the coaxium, which was my main reason for seeing it again a week later.

    That thought never occurred to me, although I felt strangely indifferent to how things would play out. I say strangely because I kinda liked the film, and I would expect to care more about things like that, given my level of enjoyment. (Shrugs)

    We never see Han shoot Tobias, so I wondered if that was some third party. I still wonder this, but I’m convinced now, based on my second viewing, that Tobias was merely acting in his best interest,…

    Wait, I’m really confused about your theory. What do you mean by Tobias acting in his best interest? Do you mean, taking the fuel for himself and abandoning Han and Qi’ra? Why would a third party shoot Tobias, and who would that be??!

    The biggest inconsistency, which echoes your comment about Han not sticking his neck out for nobody, is that Han Solo finances the Rebellion!

    That’s one of the things, yeah. My guess is that something will happen to really make him cynical–maybe some betrayal by Qi’ra or someone from the Rebellion. Maybe they will refuse to help Qi’ra, in a way that ends up with her death. There’s a lot of ways this could play out.

    When Qi’ra gives up the copilot’s seat and the Wookiee climbs in, it’s hard not to feel a nice, warm sense of nostalgia. Nicely done, really.

    Yeah, that’s one of those nostalgic moments that got to me, but I’m not sure I’d call that a light touch. It could have been heavier, but still.

    But then in that last scene, when they jump to hyperspace, is it really necessary for Han and Chewy to throw the thruster forward together? Ugh!

    Hahaha! Yeah, that’s a valid point. But I actually didn’t care. There’s something about Han Solo, Chewy and the Millenium Falcon that really, really gets to me, so my tolerance for nostalgia is pretty high.

    On a related note, a lot of my favorite moments in Force Awakens has to do with those three elements–particularly when Han and Chewy get back on board the Falcon. (I’m serious, I can’t say the lines, “Chewy, we’re home,” without choking up. Indeed, I’m tearing up just typing this!”) However, those scenes weren’t enough because the story and characters were basically lame. In Solo, there’s a solid storyline, and the execution is decent, if not better than that. There are no convoluted or unnecessary sub-plots or characters and the pacing, for the most part, is quite good.

    Really, I think if the actor who played Han was a lot better, I think I really would have loved this film.

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    My first thought (because I haven’t been keeping up with any of the non-movie auxiliary canon which supposedly tells the story) was that Han Solo must be 80 years old in Episode IV because Qui Gon and Obi Wan kill Darth Maul in Episode I when Anikin is still five (or whatever).

    My second thought was that Darth Maul was one of his race, and the guy we see at the end of Solo isn’t Darth Maul, but someone who looks like him.

    But no, it’s Maul. The lower half of his body is mechanical or something. When I saw the film a second time I couldn’t tell, although that’s what people say.

    What I mean is that once Tobias opts out of Han’s plan (when Han suggests it before they enter the ship), Han figures out that he’s going to do something like ratting him out to Dryden Vos, so he packs the real coaxium, knowing that Tobias will tell Dryden that it’s fake.

    My theory was that Tobias was in on it from the beginning, and that ratting out Han was part of the plan to make Dryden think the real coaxium was fake, but I know now that he wasn’t. Tobias does indeed rat him out, but Han is one step ahead, which is how Dryden’s security leave the ship unprotected. Then he leaves the ship to go after Tobias, probably expecting that Qi’ra might leave. Which she does.

    I don’t know who might have killed Tobias, but I thought it might be Qi’ra or someone on Dryden’s ship. It’s a bit far away, but that’s a huge ship, and maybe someone on it is a good shot. On second viewing, it looks unlikely. Is not showing Han shooting Tobias merely a callback to the cantina scene in Episode IV, or is there a plot-related reason?

    You may be missing part of my point about Han financing the Rebellion. Yes, it’s not what we’d expect because of the sticking out his neck thing, but why is he not revered as a hero in Episode IV when he meets up with the Rebellion? Nobody even acknowledges that they know who he is. Leia at least would have appealed to “the old Han Solo, the one who financed the Rebellion” or something.

    The Han-Chewie thing is a good part of the movie but you’re going a bit far with it. 🙂

    How did you like Donald Glover as Lando?

    So did you have any issues with Han speaking Wookiee language? Now he appears to be the only non-Wookiee in the Star Wars universe (apparently) who speaks that language. Maybe all Wookiees understand whatever language is being spoken by everyone else so nobody has to speak Wookiee except Wookiees?

  5. My first thought (because I haven’t been keeping up with any of the non-movie auxiliary canon which supposedly tells the story) was that Han Solo must be 80 years old in Episode IV because Qui Gon and Obi Wan kill Darth Maul in Episode I when Anikin is still five (or whatever).

    I did a rough calculation, and I didn’t think Han would have to be that old by Episode IV. I mean, how many years occur between the Solo film and Episode I? And how many years pass between Episode III and IV? (If the gap between the later is a lot, then Han would have to be really old. Shoot, Obi Wan seems to age quite a bit between III and IV–say, 30 years. That means Han would have be middle-aged at the youngest.)

    But no, it’s Maul. The lower half of his body is mechanical or something. When I saw the film a second time I couldn’t tell, although that’s what people say.

    Oh you mean, Maul after Episode I? OK that makes more sense with the time issue.

    What I mean is that once Tobias opts out of Han’s plan (when Han suggests it before they enter the ship),…

    Shoot, I vaguely remember when this occurred. When does this happen in relation to when they’re in the elevator to see Dryden?

    I don’t know who might have killed Tobias, but I thought it might be Qi’ra or someone on Dryden’s ship. It’s a bit far away, but that’s a huge ship, and maybe someone on it is a good shot. On second viewing, it looks unlikely.

    But I don’t get why you suspected someone else did this–and not just assume it was Han? Is this because you were still unsure if Han and Tobias were working together? (But then why would Han confronted him with a drawn blaster?)

    You may be missing part of my point about Han financing the Rebellion. Yes, it’s not what we’d expect because of the sticking out his neck thing, but why is he not revered as a hero in Episode IV when he meets up with the Rebellion?

    I just think that can be explained. Maybe he isn’t given credit–maybe something happens to the pirates before they can tell anyone; who knows if the fuel even gets to where it was supposed to go. Bottom line: I figured there are many ways they could deal with this issue.

    The Han-Chewie thing is a good part of the movie but you’re going a bit far with it.

    I’m such a sap when it comes to that, but how do you explain or control something like that? I get emotional when I watch certain scenes with Snoopy, too.

    How did you like Donald Glover as Lando?

    Oh, I liked him. The actor who played Qi’ra grew on me a lot, too.

    So did you have any issues with Han speaking Wookiee language?

    I can see some having problems with it, but I didn’t, for whatever reason. Also, I didn’t know Han is the only one that understands the Wookiee language. 3-PO does, too, right?

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    I did a rough calculation, and I didn’t think Han would have to be that old by Episode IV. I mean, how many years occur between the Solo film and Episode I? And how many years pass between Episode III and IV? (If the gap between the later is a lot, then Han would have to be really old. Shoot, Obi Wan seems to age quite a bit between III and IV–say, 30 years. That means Han would have be middle-aged at the youngest.)

    My point is that if Darth Maul died in Episode I, in order for him to be the power behind Crimson Dawn, Solo would have to take place while Maul was still alive; that is, before Episode I! Unless you followed the Clone Wars animated stuff, how would you know Maul didn’t actually die in Episode I, right? Han would be at least 15 years older than Anakin, and you saw how old he looks in Episode VI when they take his mask off. Han would be around 80ish!

    Shoot, I vaguely remember when this occurred. When does this happen in relation to when they’re in the elevator to see Dryden?

    I think it’s when they’re near that weird bar-looking thing before they go to Dryden’s ship.

    But I don’t get why you suspected someone else did this–and not just assume it was Han? Is this because you were still unsure if Han and Tobias were working together? (But then why would Han confronted him with a drawn blaster?)

    Because the cut very deliberately does not show Han shooting Tobias. It looks like intentional subterfuge on the part of the filmmakers. Also y es, I thought Han and Tobias were still working together. Han would have confronted him with the blaster to continue the charade until they knew what Qi’ra was going to do.

    I can see some having problems with it, but I didn’t, for whatever reason. Also, I didn’t know Han is the only one that understands the Wookiee language. 3-PO does, too, right?

    So do R2D2 and (I think) Leia and Luke. I’m not talking about understanding it. I’m talking about speaking it. Does any non-Wookiee in any of the films speak it? It’s not a big deal, but you’d think we’d have known by now that Han speaks Wookiee.

  7. Okay, here’s my off-the-cuff math.

    Let’s say Han is 16 when he leaves Corellian. When he meets up with Tobias, it’s 3 years (or so) later. That would put him at 19. If Episode I happens RIGHT after Solo, he’s about 15 years older than Anakin. When Anakin puts the mask on at the end of Episode 3, he’s probably (at the youngest) 19 or 20 himself. This would make Han 35 when Luke and Leia are born.

    They keep calling Luke a kid in the beginning of Episode IV, but I suspect he’s at least 19 himself, because does Leia look or act like anything less than 19? That would make Han 54 or so, so middle-aged is about right.

    But if it is, Anakin is a very old looking 39 when they pull the mask off him in Episode VI. I wish I could remember the timeline better in the I-II-III trilogy so I could get a better sense of how old Anakin is when he puts the mask on.

    The biggest errors here (as I see it) are (a) in presuming Anakin is about 19 when Luke and Leia are born. He’s got to be older, right? How old is he in Episode II? Teens? Older teens? and (b) presuming Episode I would have happened right after Solo, which there’s no reason to assume.

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    Wait, the potential time inconsistencies with Maul are basically moot, right? Because we now know that the Solo film happens after Episode I. And this would address the Han’s age in later episodes, too, I assume.

    The biggest errors here (as I see it) are…

    To me, Obi Wan is the glaring problem. He looks really old by Episode IV. Maybe he’s only supposed to be in his early 60s. If Obi Wan is in his late 40s/early 50s (which seems like a little stretch) at the end of Episode III, then that’s a 10-20 year gap. I guess if Han is in his mid-20s by the end of III, then this seems plausible….This parsing has gone on more than my interest in the subject.

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    Totally moot because of what we know about Maul now. Did you know he survived beyond Episode I?

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    No, I didn’t know Maul survived. In fact, the last I heard, Lucas killed off Maul in the way that he did because he didn’t want the character to be resurrected in off-shoot books, etc. A part of me thought that the way he died wouldn’t really do it, as someone would find contrive a way to bring him back, if they really wanted that. And Maul is a cool character, or at least cool looking.

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