The second Star Wars Story focuses on that lovable smuggler, the scruffy looking nerf herder himself, Han Solo. Solo is directed by industry veteran Ron Howard and believe it or not, is also a fun space Western/heist film that I think can also be a good entry point for people who might not consider themselves fans of the franchise.
Alden Ehrenreich plays Han and the obvious question is how is his performance since Harrison Ford is all we know? The answer is that Ehrenreich does a fine job in channeling traits that Ford has given the character, but still giving us his own spin. The Han that we were all familiar with is an accomplished smuggler, the Han in Solo is learning the ropes and knows how to get out of a situation, but has much to learn about the criminal underworld he’s gotten himself into. It’s a refreshing take to see the character adapt to a new situation just as we saw him adapt from smuggler to rebel in the original trilogy.
Solo also has a very solid and recognizable supporting cast. Emilia Clarke is Qi’ra, the love of Han’s past. Clarke gives a more sensitive performance as a woman who, like Han simply is trying to survive.
We also get solid acting from veterans Woody Harrelson and Thandie Newton as Beckett and Val respectively. They lead the crew that gives Han his first steps into a larger world.
And of course I have to mention Donald Glover as Lando who just oozes cool just as Billy Dee Williams did back in 1980.
Solo feels to me the most like something George Lucas would have made during his peak with Star Wars and Indiana Jones. It’s not demanding your familiarity with Star Wars lore. Granted there are many little nods and winks for fans, but works as a space western by itself. It also has a fantastic score by John Powell that invokes John Williams work. I always get chills when I hear the TIE Fighter attack from A New Hope and that plays in this score as well.
My criticisms are very few, but definitely noticeable. First the film isn’t very long, clocking in at 2 hours and 15 minutes, but the opening third of the film isn’t very well paced. This could be a result of the switch from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller who were the original directors before being replaced with Howard. Another issue I had was with the look of the film. I found the lighting and cinematography very grey and dark, but without any sort of distinction. I know the look may have been to depict the grime of the criminal element Han is involved with, but for me it didn’t have any stylishness to it. Just grey, dark and dull.
Despite these issues, Solo: A Star Wars Story is more in line with what I would like to see from these anthology films. Movies that are set in the Star Wars universe, but take advantage of different genres without playing into the larger picture. This one worked for me way better than Rogue One did. With smaller expectations, Lucasfilm can really carve out a little niche amongst a titan franchise.
Final Rating 3/4