Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

The cover of the Australian Steelbook edition

Film: I have to say, the idea of a series of Star Wars movies that take place outside of the regular ‘Skywalker’ saga.. you know, Anakin, Luke and Ben (Solo) excited me to no end.

As a young Star Wars fan, two of my favourite Stars Wars novels were Han Solo at Star’s End and Han Solo’s Revenge (I never managed to get my hands on Han Solo and the Lost Legacy) and even though I was 100% Team Luke, the suave cool that characters like James Bond had, and that Han Solo liberally borrowed, made me occasionally lean into his lane. The idea that Solo had a life outside of the Skywalker saga thrilled me to know end!

Flash forward almost 40 years later, and the new owners of Star Wars offer me a delicious treat in the form of an actual solo Solo movie!

I was as happy as a gundark in poodoo.

Not only was it a Solo movie, but it co-starred a whole bunch of my favourite actors: Woody Harrelson from White Men Can’t Jump, Thandie Newton from Rock n Rolla, Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones, Paul Bettany from The DaVinci Code – seriously I was in hog heaven, so much so I was willing to give Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover and Joonas Suotamo a go as, respectively, Han Solo, Lando Calrissian and Chewbacca.

Solo: A Star Wars Story tells basically a combination of Oliver Twist mixed with a 70s heist movie, and starts with a young Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) working for the Fagan-like Lady Proxima (voiced by Linda Hunt), all the while scheming and dreaming about getting off-planet to the stars.

Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra

They make a good attempt until they are separated, and Han ends up joining the Imperial Navy as a foot soldier, where he and his new pal Chewbacca (Joonas Suatamo) meets professional thief Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his crew, and convince them to take them away, and so they join the crew on a train heist stealing a particular unstable gas for a man named Dryden Voss (Paul Bethany).

The heist falls apart and the gas is stolen by Enfys Nest (Erin Kellyman) and her gang, and so the survivors, who are basically just Han, Chewie and Beckett, have to strike a new deal with Voss, also finding out that co-incidentally, his main squeeze is Qi’ra… what a coincidence…

She accompany them on a quest that takes them across the universe, as they meet characters like Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and his droid L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge)

Joonas Suatamo as Chewbacca

To start of, the cast do NOT disappoint. Ehrenreich doesn’t nail a Harrison Ford impression, which is great. It’s played with a few of Ford’s quirks, but it’s not a looky-likey situation. I liked to think of it as a James Bond situation: the other actors have never played the role the same. Sure it might be said that Ford is ubiquitously Han Solo, but people still say that ‘Connery will always be their James Bond’, and realistically, everyone is replaceable.

Glover does a great job as Lando too. Billy Dee Williams was as cool as they come, and Glover certainly brings that to his version of the character. I think that Calrissian is certainly one of the more ‘intergalactic’ characters as he certainly appears to have no problem with race, species or model number. The combination of Glover and Ehrenreich is great too, with Calrissian being not just a contemporary, but even also an influencer of Solo’s. Actually between him and Harrelson’s Beckett, I very much get a young Indiana Jones vibe from the whole movie, similar to that of the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade…

…which brings me to the main problem I have with the film.

They try to push all of Solo’s history into a few hours: pilots for the Empire, check. Saves Chewbacca, check. Meets Lando Calrissian, check. Wins the Millennium Falcon, check. Kessel Run, check. The Kasdan’s basically empty the cup of Solo’s tales from Star Wars and leave us to new memories that we aren’t going to get, like what eventually happens to him a Qi’ra, and does Lady Proxima eventually catch up with him? Clearly, this was supposed to be the first in a series of Solo films as his whole mini-universe-within-a-universe has layers, and depth, and unresolved issues that possibly would have received some payoff in the sequels. So sad, I would have loved the joke of ‘Solo: Duo’.

I can kind of overlook those issues when I’m watching it though, buddy as the film just barrels you from action scene to action scene, and you are barely given time to think. Howard’s direction of the Kasdan’s’ script is fun and thrilling, and obviously he still hasn’t gotten over his boyhood love of car chases!

One other thing I didn’t like was the way at the 11th hour, it hamfistedly jams Solo’s story into the Skywalker saga with an unnecessary motivation of Enfys Nest, and an appearance of a character that darkens Qi’ra’s. The last few minutes are almost awkward, like an American Idol audition, but worse because you perhaps expect it to be better than that.

I guess though, Star Wars fans occasionally expect clunkiness, so maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised by it.

Unfortunately, clunky doesn’t just describe L3’s body. Easily one of the most off-putting and awful characters in Star Wars history. I’d rather watch a second Star Wars Christmas special starring only Jar Jar Binks.

There is some fun stuff similar to what was seen in the Mandalorian series in here too. A nod to the the old Star Wars fighting game Masters of Teras-Kasi was a fun and deep cut for the fans.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is like battery operated salt and pepper shakers. Fun, but do you REALLY need them?

Score: ***

The Australian Bluray menu screen

Extras: A whole disc dedicated to extras HAS to be a good thing, right?

Solo: The Director and Cast Roundtable sees the entire lead cast of the film answering question posed by The director of the film, Ron Howard. It’s a fun look at the real people playing these roles and how excited they all were to be a part of the Star Wars universe. I can go in without noting how much I love seeing Emilia Clarke laugh: every single part of her face laughs – it’s magnificent!

Kasdan on Kasdan has a look at Lawrence Kasdan’s experience with the Star Wars film series, and includes his co-writer/ son Jonathon;s experiences too.

Remaking the Millennium Falcon looks at the construction of the Millennium Falcon set, and it’s redesign as a ‘newer’ older model.

Escape from Corellia looks predominantly at the ‘car chase’ scene of Han and Qi’ra escaping the planet Corellia, but discusses the vehicle and city design of the scene also.

The Train Heist gave the Kasdan’s an opportunity to actually see Han do an actual crime, and this featurette explores that.

Team Chewie looks at Joonas Suotamo’s performance as the world’s favourite Wookiee.

Becoming a Droid: L3-37 investigates the creation of Lando’s droid, and features comments from the performer Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures and Cards: Welcome to Fort Ypso takes us through the entire set and design of the creatures for Lando’s lair.n

Into the Maelstrom: The Kessel Run takes a look at how the Kessel Run sequence was filmed.

Deleted Scenes of which there are 8. The spfx in these are unfinished, and there are a couple of cute moments, but for pacing;s sake the film is better off without them.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’d possible watch this again, but with other, better Star Wars films, why would I bother?

This review was done with the Australian Ultra HD/ 2 Disc Bluray steelbook edition

Paul Bettany as Dryden Voss

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