Solo: A Star Wars Story is a (mostly) fun film with strong performances, pacing issues, and maybe too much fan service.
The story follows Han Solo during his early years, and shows fans how he became the smuggler they first met in Episode IV: A New Hope.
Right off the bat, the actors carry this movie. Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover fill the respective shoes of Han Solo and Lando Calrissian well. They’re both charming and charismatic, as are the newcomers. Woody Harrelson and Emilia Clarke are welcome additions to this galaxy, and the whole cast has strong chemistry. They feel like a real crew. Their dynamic is by far the movie’s strongest attribute.
The Kasdans also do a solid job of exploring Han’s character in their script. He feels like a young Han Solo should feel. He’s smug and confident, but not yet gruff and jaded like we know he will become. We see those seeds being planted though, and it’s an interesting transformation to watch. We also see the deeper, more heroic side to Han that he tries to bury and pretend isn’t there. There’s a dichotomy to his character – the hero and the smuggler – and the Kasdans are the right team to break it down.
That being said, Solo feels like its trying way too hard to be A Star Wars Story. It shouldn’t need to try at all; it’s a Han Solo movie. All it needs to deliver is how Han met Chewie, and how he wins the Millennium Falcon. The rest of the runtime should be dedicated to telling a fresh, interesting story, but instead it feels overstuffed with Easter eggs and fan service.
A little fan service in a movie like this is ok. And to the film’s credit, some of what they do is subtle enough that it should be fun. But other times, it just feels forced. We don’t need clunky one-liners that explain every little detail from the Original Trilogy. It takes you out of the film, instead of letting you lose yourself in the story. You spend too much time thinking, “Oh, there’s that thing from Return of the Jedi,” or “Hey, that joke’s a callback to A New Hope.” At some point, even the subtle Easter eggs start to grate on you.
Plus, explaining every detail takes away from the mystery and fun of the older films. Little inconsistencies like how Lando pronounces “Han” are what gave the Original Trilogy character, before everyone started taking Star Wars too seriously.
The story itself is just ok. It takes a while to kick into gear, or at least it feels like it does. The first act is like a different movie than the second and third. The tone is similar, but it doesn’t flow right. Maybe that’s a result of the production problems and the reshoots. Either way, once the main heist plot begins, things get somewhat better. “Better” in that it finds a flow, but it’s still just average. It’s very paint-by-numbers, full of the tropes and cliches you’ve come to expect from a heist flick. It’s enough to enjoy on a very basic level, but don’t be disappointed when it doesn’t add anything new or original to the Star Wars franchise.
Solo: A Star Wars Story definitely would have benefited from a little less fan service and a lot more interesting writing. Instead it kind of feels like a shell of a movie packed full of Star Wars references. Taper your expectations a little, and you should be able to enjoy it.