How Does Solo Stand Up In This New Star Wars Universe
A few years ago the announcement was made that Disney would be creating new stand-alone films in the Star Wars universe. Fans’ hearts raced with excitement over the news, waiting for the chance to see some of the untold stories in a galaxy far-far-away. And yet the first two ‘Star Wars anthology’ films were going to be stories everyone already knew well enough: Rogue One and Solo.
Rogue One created a raging success, utilising a few characters from the classic films in interesting cameos. Yet its success lay in generating new stories that had not been told before through the eyes of entirely new characters. Solo on the other hand had the unenviable task of trying to create a film based on Harrison Ford’s classic smuggler icon: Han Solo. And after news of on-set issues and changing directors the film looked like it might turn out to be a big hot mess. Thankfully, Solo is a fun and entertaining stand-alone Star Wars film. Albeit, one which reveals that we need more stories with entirely new characters, rather than simply retreading old and familiar paths.
The story is a fun, Western-heist-space-opera hybrid. It focuses on a young Han Solo played by Alden Ehrenreich. Ehrenreich does a reasonable job of portraying a younger version of Han. In particular, occasionally capturing the look and feel of a younger Harrison Ford perfectly. Yet, there were also several moments where the exaggeration of swagger or mannerisms broke the suspension of disbelief for me. Moments where I looked at the screen and saw an actor trying to play Han Solo.
The rest of the cast were excellent. Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover and Paul Bettany steal every scene they are in as Beckett, Lando and Dryden Vos respectively. Emilia Clarke does not act particularly differently from any other role she has taken. This makes her character less impactful. While her accent left me questioning why the Star Wars universe developed decidedly British female main characters (Rey, Jyn Erso and now Qi’ra).
The developed relationship between Han and Chewbacca is a highlight of this film. One of the most memorable scenes involved their first meeting. While another involved their clear connection by the end. And while these scenes might be few and far between, they help add to the overall experience of the film.
Solo’s biggest problem is its effort to make everything incredibly significant. Every moment connected to the origins of items in A New Hope is emphasised by the camera. Then drawn out as an inconspicuous Easter Egg, with a glowing neon arrow yelling ‘this refers to the Original Trilogy!’ It is this need to make every small item explained that becomes grating by the end of the film. While recent films such as Ready Player One make brilliant use of references, here Solo felt as if it was trying to become more relevant than its plot was ever made to be. This tendency left the film feeling like a younger sibling, clamouring for attention.
The film also suffers from pacing issues. While the beginning of the film opens with an action sequence, it is not paced well enough to feel like a tense or threatening action sequence. And while the last three quarters of the film are rarely dull, sadly this poor opening quarter has an impact upon the entire viewing experience.
Summing Up The Entire Film
Solo, has some clear issues with its pacing and editing. Given the film’s troubled development this is not necessarily surprising in hindsight. The fact that Solo portrays a younger version of Han Solo as well as it does is remarkable. Yet in the end, despite this being a fun stand alone adventure, it fails in one regard. Due to the existence of A New Hope most of the audience know what the status quo will be by the film’s end. And therefore the existence of new characters, and this particular narrative, are rendered obsolete by the nature of prequels.
What Solo proves is that the Star Wars universe can be a fun place full of standalone stories. However, these standalone stories need to be stories that have greater ongoing consequence. Otherwise, they become the exact thing that the Original Trilogy never was: safe space opera. While Solo is highly entertaining and worth watching it treads far too safe a path through the galaxy. And therefore may never be the classic adventure this character deserved.
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- A fun stand-alone Star Wars adventure
- Well acted, with some compelling new characters
- The film feels like Star Wars classic adventure
- The start is a little slow
- There is a push to tie multiple elements into the overall legend of Han Solo and provide a reason for its existence
- The new characters lack compelling reasons to exist beyond the film
- Beyond the expansion of Han Solo's early beginnings the film lacks a largely compelling reason to exist