‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ Review: A Popcorn Flick Filled with Han Solo’s Greatest Hits and Not Much Else

Check out our review of Solo: A Star Wars Story, which lands in theaters nationwide on Friday…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

Any time a movie is plagued by director changes and reshoots in the middle of filming, just about everybody become suspicious of what the final product will look like.

More often times than not, the finished produce is a glued together version of what two different people envisioned for the movie. There are rare examples to the contrary — including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that didn’t include a change of directors but did command last minute reshoots and a different ending that ultimately made that movie one of the best Star Wars stories ever told.

Solo: A Star Wars Story — opening in theaters on Friday — underwent similar problems after original directors Christopher Lord and Phil Miller were removed from the movie over ‘created differences’ and replaced with Ron Howard.

It’s unclear by the end of this movie where Lord and Miller left off and Howard picked up but the result seems nearly the same regardless of who was sitting in the director’s chair.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fun enough prequel that introduces us to that lovable scoundrel named Han Solo but the movie is weak on plot and many of the supporting characters don’t carry much weight. The film is filled with nostalgia and there’s almost a checklist of iconic Han Solo moments that are introduced in this movie with each one getting the required cheers from the audience.

That said while Solo: A Star Wars Story was a fun popcorn flick, it failed to resonate with much emotional heft much less really feel like the same Han Solo we eventually met in that cantina on Tattooine in the original Star Wars film. If anything, Solo: A Star Wars Story felt like it was purposefully setting up sequels, which is fine in most cases, but it certainly didn’t seem like that was the point of this movie after it was initially introduced.

With that said, let’s get to our review of Solo: A Star Wars Story

Plot

Han Solo’s journey begins much like Anakin Skywalker as he grew up on a small planet in the middle of nowhere, born into slavery and raised to be a thief and a swindler. Of course, Han has greater dreams of becoming the best pilot in the galaxy but to do that he’s forced to look towards the Galactic Empire as a means of escape.

Long story short, Han doesn’t stay tied to the Empire for long but he does manage to connect with a crew that will introduce him to a higher stakes game of thievery and smuggling that will give him career goals for the not too distant future.

From there, Solo really transforms into a heist story and without giving away too many details, Han has to retrieve an item for a nefarious gangster, which ends up putting him at odds against his own morality.

Needless to say along the way, Han meets several interesting characters including Lando Calrissian and his future best friend Chewbacca, all while working with a crew of scoundrels that start to rub off on him over time.

Acting

For all the concern about somebody else playing Han Solo besides Harrison Ford, relative newcomer Alden Ehrenreich does an admirable job stepping into the role. Ehrenreich does a good job making Han Solo his own character rather than just trying to do a bad Harrison Ford impression. Ehrenreich ticks the necessary boxes when it comes to timing with his jokes and enough attachment to emotion that he pulls off those scenes just as effortlessly.

Needless to say Donald Glover shines as Lando Calrissian, but this was sort of to be expected. Glover is on a hot streak right now — Atlanta, Childish Gambino and now Solo — and his performance will make you want a Lando movie as much as anything in the rest of the Star Wars universe.

Emilia Clarke does an outstanding job as newcomer Qi’ra in a role that ends up being rather important to the entire plot of the film.

Where Solo comes up short is with Paul Bettany doing a less than stellar job playing the villain in this movie named Dryden Vos. Bettany is supposed to be a crime lord but he’s just not all that imposing and definitely doesn’t muster up fear in those who oppose him.

With all the great villains that exist in Star Wars lore, it feels like there should have been a better choice than Dryden Vos or at the very least somebody who could have been a bit more menacing in this role than Bettany.

Directing and Writing

Ron Howard does an admirable job stepping into the director’s chair for this movie after he wasn’t the original choice to helm this project. Howard is one of those directors who doesn’t really have a signature look to his movies but rather he stays out of the way enough to allow the story and the acting do the job for him.

The writing in this film comes from famous Star Wars scribe Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan. The dialogue is snappy enough and it feels like Han Solo is speaking whenever Ehrenreich delivers his lines. Unfortunately the Kasdan’s came up short on plot for this movie because the story in this film is paper thin.

What’s Wrong with the Movie?

As previously stated, the biggest problem with Solo: A Star Wars Story comes down to plot and a ridiculously thin storyline that dominates the film.

The character introductions are done well enough but for a film that’s supposed to be a prequel focused on Han Solo, it still feels like we walk away from this movie not knowing enough about him. The reason for that is Solo: A Star Wars Story is jam-packed with action sequences but not enough story in between.

Add to that, there was so much fan service by mentioning every historic moment from Han Solo’s past that it felt like a greatest hits record rather than a complete album that was composed just for this film.

Final Verdict

Solo: A Star Wars Story is definitely a fun movie worth seeing — grab your popcorn and get ready to meet Lando, Chewie, the Millennium Falcon and hear all about the Kessel Run that was done in less than 12 parsecs — but don’t expect to walk away with much more. Yes, there is a very interesting cameo during this film that will stun you — while almost certainly setting up a sequel to this movie — but those cool, applause worthy moments are really the entire point of this movie.

Solo: A Star Wars Story gets 3 out of 5 on the Skolnick Scale

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