The astute sci-fi and fantasy fan will inevitably come across the expansive world of J. R. R. Tolkien. As Tolkien fans would know, the Middle Earth saga starts with the essential Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit prequel. Additionally, it comes with a vast library of supplementary materials including The Silmarillion.
Sounds familiar? Star Wars fans might recognize the parallels between Tolkien and George Lucas’ Skywalker saga. You have the essential original and the prequel trilogy. But now, the Star Wars universe now finds itself fully tackling supplementary material, punctuated by Han Solo’s solo film, Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Directed by Ron Howard, Solo builds on the backstory of the original trilogy’s favorite smuggler, Han Solo. The film follows young Solo (Alden Ehrenreich), and how he meets his Wookie partner-in-crime Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). The film also reveals the titular character’s first encounter with the Millennium Falcon and the infamous Kessel Run.
Additionally, Solo introduces a host of new characters to populate the lawless criminal underworld of Star Wars. Woody Harrelson plays Solo’s mentor and fellow smuggler, Tobias Beckett. Emilia Clarke plays Solo’s first partner and romantic interest, Qi’ra. Finally, Paul Bettany plays crime syndicate head honcho Dryden Vos.
A heist with aliens and lasers
From the onset, Solo is different from the main Star Wars episodes. It doesn’t share the same grandiose narrative that powers the Skywalker family. You can hardly see or hear any mention of the Empire, the Rebellion, the Jedi, lightsabers, or the Skywalkers.
Solo plays out exactly how you expect a heist movie to play. For all its space gallivanting, the film is basically Ocean’s Eleven but with aliens and lasers.
Sadly, it might come off as too predictable. There are surprise beats and plot twists that most people can easily anticipate. Further, Ron Howard’s often bland storytelling does not help Solo’s cause.
Everything as it (already) should be
Unfortunately, another party pooper derailing Solo’s hype train is the existence of the original trilogy. We already know that Solo, Calrissian, and Chewbacca make it to the next movie. It takes away from Solo’s tenser scenes. You already know that they’re going to survive.
Further, Solo cancels out the character development that the original trilogy established. From A New Hope to Return of the Jedi, Han Solo grows from a selfish rogue into a caring individual. Since it follows him from the beginning, Solo doesn’t feature much growth and development for the character.
Han Solo’s journey in his titular movie earns no traction because he has to be only as good as A New Hope. Solo doesn’t have a substantial arc. Basically, the film plays out like three episodes on a Saturday morning cartoon.
Ready Player Solo
Despite the lack of substantiality, Solo keeps afloat with its endless nostalgic callbacks. Like Ready Player One, Solo challenges itself by fitting as much references as it can in one feature film. Unfortunately, this approach rarely goes as charming as it should be.
In the length of a movie, Solo tries to explain almost everything that the original trilogy mentioned. You have the Kessel Run, the Millennium Falcon, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian. It’s an inordinate amount of character backstory to fit into one adventure. Most of the time, it feels too convenient that Han Solo’s entire history can be condensed into one heist.
Unlike the other entries in the extended Star Wars universe, Solo is a piece of fan fiction adapted into a movie. It explains what didn’t need explaining. As such, much of Solo’s appeals draws from fan service.
Shine bright like coaxiom
Despite the flaws, Solo has its fair share of bright spots. There is still much to enjoy for a Saturday night popcorn movie. For all its mistakes in plot development, the film fills it to the brim with entertaining set pieces.
Solo can still keep butts at the edge of their seats. Its action scenes are paced with such high octane that you might think that this was another Fast and Furious flick.
Additionally, some characters made it past plot filter territory. Particularly, Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3-37 droid created an entertaining dynamic that stands toe to toe with Han and Chewie.
The force is not strong
From the onset, Solo was burdened with a colossal task—rationalize why it has to exist. Sadly, for all its showmanship, the film slots itself as the oddest member in the modern Star Wars franchise. While it’s one of the more entertaining movies this summer, it doesn’t justify much for the moviegoer looking for a well-drafted story.
By all means, Solo is not a terrible movie. On the contrary, it’s entertaining. However, without a substantial plot or character development, Solo is just fan fiction made real. It’s a corporate decision made to fill in the gap between the main Star Wars episodes.