The choice to do a Han Solo origin film is one that has sat uneasily with me since the announcement. Origin stories can easily become overused in media when a fictional universe is expanding and the corporations who own it want to make as much money as possible. If you are going to do an origin film it needs to add to a character’s story and to answer some burning questions but is there really that much more we need to know about this character?
The film starts fast but weakly. It seems the intention is to drop us right into the action but Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) jumps rapidly from place to place only pausing to explain what is happening which only serves to slow down the story. In what could have been a great chase scene at the very beginning, he stops several times to explain to other characters his plan rather than just letting us see it unfold. We are given an origin story to an origin story and most of it could have been told far more effectively in flashbacks or slowly revealed to us. The first half of the film also hinders itself with too many gags and in-jokes with the audience but some questions are answered (not necessarily well) and we get to see some of our favourite characters meet for the first time.
Alden Ehrenreich makes for a good Han and he is at his best and most recognisable when interacting with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) but it is impossible to forget Harrison Ford at any point of the film. The standout of the film (and the one I was most excited for) was Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian. In his portrayal we see both the icon we love and Glover’s spin, which raises the question “Why didn’t they do a Lando film?” I would pay to see Lando and his droid L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) go on hundreds of adventures. The most interesting character arc was that of Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) and I left the film wanting to see more of her and separate to Han.
In the way that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story set itself up to be a war film set in the Star Wars Universe, Solo: A Star Wars Story has marketed itself as a heist film and once it settles into this the film really takes off. It shakes off the need to fit into canon and explain to us who the characters are and the story takes some really interesting turns.
However, it isn’t until the end that we get to see where the film ties in with the most important part of Star Wars – the themes of hope and working together for the greater good. Even then it is brief and leaves more questions than answers. Though it’s fun to see familiar characters and symbols, it’s the themes of Star Wars that have made it so beloved and enduring as a series. Solo: A Star Wars Story seems to miss this and instead of proving itself independent of the originals as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story did, it seems to be more of a misguided cash grab. I couldn’t help thinking that the movie would have been much better if it had been based around any of the other characters.
As a counter though, I heard a girl in front of me say “I loved it! I never really liked any of the other films but this was amazing.” So, each to their own I guess.