Movie Review – ‘Solo – A Star Wars Story’ an average, yet hopeful beginning?

At least “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is not a sequel. Hey, take a win when you can get one, but despite everything that has already been said for this film, it technically is not a sequel or prequel. Sure, it has ties which I may or may not get into in a moment, but overall this is a new story for the big screen. I’m cool with that despite initially questioning why we needed this film so soon after watching the original Han Solo die in “The Force Awakens.” But I trust Ron Howard, so I was willing to set aside my angst for a couple hours to see what he came up with. And surprisingly, it wasn’t all that bad leading me to believe there might be hope for some of these stand-alone films like this in the future.

For those that have wondered, this story was first developed by George Lucas back in 2012. He handed it off to Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan, who started to write the script. The idea was these standalone films like “Solo” and the eventual “Boba Fett” film would not interfere with original “Star Wars” saga. I get it, this universe is huge, so why not go back and tell some fun stories of the characters we had grown to love. Problem is, too much has already been written and done making this particular story revolving around one Han Solo a little tough to absorb. It starts on the planet Corellia where all has not gone to plan and survival has nearly become a way of life. After escaping death yet again, Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) are trying to carve a new path, this time with some stolen coaxium that on the black market is worth quite a bit. So much, in fact, that they try to use it to get off of Corellia and onto an Imperial ship set to deliver potential cadet’s for their army. Only when Qi’ra can’t get thru, Han is left on his own, but vows to come back for her. Three years later, Han gets kicked out of Imperial flight school and stumbles upon a group of misfits led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). Realizing they are not who they said they were, he tries to bribe them only to then be arrested and thrown into a pit with a beast. That beast was none other than Chewbacca, a wookie who he talks into helping him escape so he can eventually persuade Beckett to hire them for his team. It was then this story took a turn into the unknown though, as the deeper Han got into Beckett’s business, the more he learned about not only himself, but also just how desperate people are when put to the test.

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In some ways, the cast in this film had no chance at success given the premise and storyline. Figure, with just the name Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich had impossible shoes to fill while the rest of the cast just tried to tread water given the poor script handed to them. It’s too bad because overall you would have liked to seen a little more freedom for Ehrenrich, Donald Glover or even Emile Clarke, who is definitely wasn’t able to show what Game of Thrones fans know she is capable of. But, I guess that creativity left with the two directors prior to Ron Howard, as it was said they were veering off script too much in wanting to add more humor with the cast. While I love Howard, he only stepped in as a favor to Lucas and the jury is out on what effect he had overall with the reshoots. Meaning, it’s hard to know now what piece he did versus Lord and Miller. But, with his resume, I doubt the cast questioned anything he was doing, especially one Woody Harrelson who along with Chewbacca made this film watchable. It’s true, without these two, I would have never made it through, so kudos to Howard for ensuring their parts were solid as they helped keep you engaged within this story at times when others were not capable.

Image result for solo a star wars storyWhen I first heard about this film, there’s no doubt I was sour over the whole idea. Sometimes you have to let a franchise breathe, but clearly Disney wants no part in that given the sequels set to come out over the next year for both Star Wars and Marvel. Hey, I get it, these films make a lot of money, but at some point, fans need a break. You know, let some time pass to come up with the “right” storyline or direction. And that’s not to say that Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan’s story was unworthy, it just wasn’t to the same standard of what we have grown accustomed to. So for that, I wish they would have waited to release it and really let Howard put his stamp on it. Because this film felt like some afterthought, a direct result of the issues that led to the departure of directors Lord and Miller. Sure, Howard did his best and certainly made the most of what he was given with some cool action sequences and effects with the Millennium Falcon, but I just wonder what this film would have looked like had Lord and Miller stayed. Maybe it would have been better with more humor added, but I guess with the Kasdan’s still involved, maybe not. Because the one thing that definitely stuck out is the poor writing and flow with this story. It just didn’t feel like something that belonged in the Star Wars universe for whatever reason. And I realize that might not be fair to a certain extent, but this result only confirms my original thought that it was too soon for this film. Had they waited and maybe released the untitled Boba Fett film or even a Lando film first, I think this could have been something to tie it all together versus the other way around. So while it did fall short of a lot of things, it still for Star Wars fans is something worth seeing given the few ties it does have to the beloved universe we have known for so long.

C+

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