Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Movie Review: "Solo: A Star Wars Story" (2018)

Director: Ron Howard
Year: 2018
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Han Solo escapes the slums of Corellia and joins a crew of smugglers for a dangerous mission in the hopes that he can earn enough money to buy his own ship and no longer have to take orders from anyone.
"Joining the cause, Han Solo?" (Image Source)
Much of the outcry leading up to the release of "Solo: A Star Wars Story" reminded us a lot of how young children don't want to eat their vegetables. They complain to high heaven about how terrible they are until they finally suck it up and try them. As long as kids try them with an open mind, they may discover they aren't half bad. The veggies may not be their most favorite thing in the world to eat, but they certainly aren't terrible. That has been our experience with "Solo: A Star Wars Story." It is directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller Oscar-winning director Ron Howard, who has directed films like "Willow," "Apollo 13," and "Frost Nixon." The film is written by Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan. Lawrence has been a writer on numerous "Star Wars" installments, including "The Empire Strikes Back," "Return of the Jedi," and "The Force Awakens." The film focuses on the origin of a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and how he became a smuggler. As a youngling, he grew up in the slums of Corellia doing everything he could to get by, often stealing things and getting mixed up with an unsavory crowd. His dream is to get enough money to buy him and his lover Qi'ra's (Emilia Clarke) way off of the totalitarian system he calls home. After Han makes it off the planet and Qi'ra doesn't, he vows to come back for her. All he needs is enough money to buy himself a ship so he can finally be free, rescue Qi'ra, and live life the way he wants to. As is par for the course for Han Solo, things don't work out like he planned.
"Sometimes you put your faith in the wrong people." (Image Source)
As lifelong "Star Wars" fans, we will admit that it's hard to see anyone fill the role of Han Solo besides Harrison Ford. Ford and the other actors in the original trilogy had a rough quality that this standalone film lacks in its more polished, "GQ" presentation. While we were watching "Solo," it took quite some time for us to adjust to seeing Alden Ehrenreich playing Han. Luckily, there are moments (albeit fleeting) when Ehrenreich is able to sell the familiar swagger and cockiness that Han Solo is known for as a character. He does a decent job here, and we appreciate the fact that he is not entirely copying Ford's portrayal. On the flip side, it did not take a long time for us to see Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian. From the first words he utters, we only ever saw him as Lando. Glover picks up on the charm and self-serving nature that Lando has always possessed, and he is absolutely magnificent as the best part of this movie. We also liked newcomer robot L3-37. She has a quick and brazen attitude and a penchant and quickness for speaking her mind when it comes to equal right for robots. We wish we had gotten a better read on Emilia Clarke's Qi'ra, though we have a feeling she will show up in more films in the future. Because she's not playing a beloved "Star Wars" character, Clarke gets the freedom to be who she wants and do what she needs in the role, but we feel like we still don't know her whole story yet.
"I admire anyone who can crawl their way out of a sewer." (Image Source)
"Solo: A Star Wars Story" offers audiences a heavy dose of nostalgia and fan service. We see a lot of familiar things, from characters to quotes, from prized objects to specific places, that have been quintessential in the original trilogy and other parts of the franchise. These "member-berries" come frequently and must be taken in stride to really focus on the meat of the story. At its core, this tale is about thieves trying to steal at the behest of a gangster. There aren't many emotional stakes since we know what is going to happen to the characters we are most connected to like Han, Chewbacca, and Lando. As for the characters we aren't as connected to (mostly because they have never appeared in the franchise before), some of them feel a little too disposable. Only a couple of them get developed enough to make us care what happens to them.
"Wherever we go, it can't be worse than where we've been." (Image Source)
"Solo: A Star Wars Story" might not be the epic battle between fascism and freedom that has themed the other entries in the "Star Wars" franchise, but this movie is still a fun, enjoyable ride. It is worth checking out for those who are willing to approach it without any preconceived notions about what it should or shouldn't be. At the end of the day, and call us corporate whores if you want to, but we will take a mid-level "Star Wars" movie over most other films any day of the week.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.2/10
RT Rating: ~70%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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