“Solo: A Star Wars Story” is the second prequel/spinoff, joining 2016’s “Rogue One”, since the Disney takeover of LucasFilm.
That movie had almost entirely new characters, while this one is, of course, about the early adventures of everyone’s favorite smuggler.
In this origin story, Alden Ehrenreich (best known for 2016’s Coen Brothers comedy “Hail, Caesar!”) takes on the iconic role made so by Harrison Ford. Ehrenreich isn’t bad in the role, but there’s nothing in his performance that captivates or draws audiences in like a true titular character should. He’s more relaxed, as the movie goes on. Ehrenreich is a bit rigid and his attempts at copying Ford’s wisecrack delivery aren’t perfect, but he tries.
“Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke gives a solid, yet limited effort as Solo’s love interest Qi’ra, but for as rock steady as her performance might be, it still feels as if Clarke is holding something back for future films.
Both Ehrenreich and Clarke are signed on for at least two more “Star Wars” appearances and their character arcs reflect the slow development multiple film projects implies.
In “Solo” we see how Han becomes a pilot, befriends Chewbacca, and wins the Millennium Falcon. Granted it takes over 2 hours before we can check-off all three of those objectives. The adventure is typical for “Star Wars”: direct story, decent acting and loads of action with a few twists and turns.
LucasFilm fired the original directors of “Solo”, “The LEGO Movie” and “21 Jump Street”’s Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (who are still credited as Executive Producers).You can still see some of their vision in the final product. Ron Howard was brought-in last summer to save the film and re-shot nearly 80% of it. LucasFilm made the comment Ron Howard was quick to take over shooting in 1 hour what Lord and Miller shot in an entire day.
Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke and Paul Bettany play a trio of new characters (and since this is a prequel, not all of them will stick around). The most vibrant character in “Solo” is a younger Lando Calrissian (played by Donald Glover) who sells his character better than Ehrenreich, he has the look persona and even sounds almost like the original portrayed by Williams. Glover’s performance is the most believable and authentic in the film by an incredibly wide margin and it’s without question that a spinoff movie with Glover at the lead is a matter of when and not if it happens.
Woody Harrelson is up to his usual tricks in a steady, take-it-or-leave-it turn as Solo’s mentor Tobias Beckett and Paul Bettany is fine as the film’s obligatory villain Dryden Vos.
The 3D format is barely used, briefly for the depth; I noticed it during the Kessel run sequence but they didn’t push it at all. This is by far the lightest in tone of the “Star Wars” films but they do make a nice set up with a cameo at the end (connection to “Clone Wars” and Rebels” animated series) and hints at other well known characters making a grand entrance. It’s a decent space/western that serves as a place holder for things to come but could have been better. It fell short of its $300mill budget by nearly $80mill but it made up for 2x that overseas so hopefully we see the promised sequels and gets a better go around next time.
REVIEW SCORE/ C+