Despite its rather troubled production process, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is fairly watchable on the whole, but it also feels redundant and unnecessary while not that terrific enough for recommendation. Although there are several entertaining moments in the film and we are not that bored thanks to these well-made moments, but it is often deficient in terms of style and personality compared to recent Star Wars movies, and now I became a bit concerned about the ongoing attempt to expand its popular franchise.
As reflected by its title, the movie is about the past of Han Solo, one of the lead characters in the original Star Wars Trilogy, and it begins its story at a point somewhere between “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” (2005) and “Star Wars: A New Hope” (1977). As the Empire continues to expand its power and influence over “a galaxy far, far away” after what happened in “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith”, things become quite harsh in the galaxy along with the rise of several crime syndicates, and these syndicates have amassed considerable wealth via their illegal transaction of valuable resources including food and coaxium, a precious fuel material for spaceships.
When we meet young Han (Alden Ehrenreich) in the beginning, he is in the middle of a serious circumstance which is apparently way over his head. As a lad who has been stuck in his shabby planet for years, Han is determined to get out of the planet along with his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) through selling a vial of coaxium, but the boss of a criminal organization to which they belong is certainly not going to allow that. Although he manages to escape from the organization as joining the Imperial Navy, he is helpless while watching his girlfriend taken away by the henchmen of the organization, and he promises to himself that he will return to get her back someday.
Han wants to be a pilot as soon as possible, but he gets kicked out of the Imperial Flight Academy not long after going there, and he eventually becomes a mere infantryman. We see him trying to fight and survive on a rough, chaotic battlefield, and the movie did a good job of vividly establishing the gray atmosphere of fear and desperation around Han and many other soldiers. Not so surprisingly, Han does not hesitate at all when he comes across a chance to get away from this hellhole, though it turns out to be not as easy as he thought at first.
Now I think I should not go further into details for not spoiling your entertainment, but I guess I can tell you a few things at least. After joining a small gang of criminals led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), Han finds himself returning to his criminal world, and, of course, that is how he comes to reunite with Qi’ra, who is now a close subordinate of a powerful criminal boss named Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). Due to the failure of Beckett’s recent criminal operation, Vos is not very pleased to say the least, and that is when Han brings out a risky but tempting idea for solving this problematic circumstance for him and Becket, who is initially reluctant but agrees that there is no good option for them besides that.
And there are two familiar figures from the original Star Wars Trilogy: Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Although their first encounter is not very pleasant, Han and Chewbacca quickly form partnership between them, and there later comes a small amusing moment which reveals how old Chewbacca actually is. In case of Lando, he has a certain spaceship which is well-known to many of us, and we also come to learn that he is quite attached to his co-pilot/droid companion L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who is incidentally very passionate about the civil rights of robots.
As the screenplay by Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan moves from one expected narrative point to another, the movie serves us with a number of action sequences, and they are mostly handled well under the competent direction of director Ron Howard, who replaced Phil Lord and Christopher Miller in the middle of the production of the film. I enjoyed an exciting action sequence rapidly unfolded along a steep train track going around high mountains, and I was also entertained by an action sequence involved with that infamous “Kessel Run”, which was briefly mentioned by Han in “Star Wars: A New Hope”.
Nevertheless, I could help but aware of what the movie lacks. Unlike “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (2017), it does not try anything new or fresh as just staying inside its familiar territory. Unlike “Rogue One: A Star Wars” (2016), it does not bring out anything unexpected or impactful while moving along its predictable narrative. Although its 135-minute running time passes smoothly, the movie does not leave much impression in the end, and this weak aspect only accentuates its redundant position in the franchise.
At least, the main cast members are mostly well-cast and deserve some praise for their efforts. Alden Ehrenreich, who previously drew our attention via his scene-stealing supporting performance in “Hail, Ceasar!” (2016), wisely does not try to imitate Harrison Ford’s acting in the original Star Wars trilogy, and he ably carries the film while surrounded by a bunch of notable performers including Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany, Thandie Newton, and Donald Glover, who is flawless in his role which was previously played by Billy Dee Williams in the original Star Wars Trilogy.
Although I was entertained by “Solo: A Star Wars Story” to some degrees, I give it 2.5 stars mainly because I think it is one or two steps below “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”. That movie engaged me and then surprised me even though I was well aware of its eventual ending from the beginning, and I have considered reevaluating it someday. I cannot recommend “Solo: A Star Wars Story” because it fails to do that, but it is not boring at least, and you may enjoy it more than me if you are more generous to its weak aspects.