Solo A Star Wars Story Review

The Plot

The film charts the adventures of a young Han Solo, before he became an intergalactic hero. Finally revealing how his dreams of escaping to the stars helped turn him into the galaxies most infamous space captain. Along the way he encounters his faithful first mate Chewbacca, notorious hustler Lando Calarissian and the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy the Millennium Falcon.

The Good

With a reported $250 million budget Solo is definitely a full-fledged addition to the Star Wars Saga featuring a parade of familiar and much beloved characters. The film showcases some typically magical creature effects work and the usual array of immersive worlds. Whatever it’s other flaws and failings, Solo does at least look like a Star Wars story.

Given the well-publicised production nightmare that saw original directors Miller & Lord replaced last minute by Ron Howard, prompting major reshoots of the nearly completed film, it’s fair to say that it’s not immediately obvious from the final film that such a messy transfer of storytelling power took place. There’s no mismatched plot points or abrupt visual shifts that would suggest that the script and finished film was actually stitched together from radically different ‘artistic visions’.

Despite some criticisms of casting choice for the Young Han Solo, Donald Glover is at least one undeniable piece of major casting success. He vocally channels Billy Dee Williams perfectly as swaggering swindler Lando Calarissian. Clad in garishly jaunty capes and shamelessly well-groomed facial hair, young Lando is a much needed jolt of genuine comedic charm. A solid supporting cast of earnest character actors such as Woody Harrelson and Paul Bettany also give credibility to some of the film’s new introductions. The film at least attempts to venture into some new territory, rather than just entirely relying on lazy homage to familiar characters.

Star Wars fans with a particular passion for completism will enjoy seeing details of how Han Solo became a dashing space scoundrel, befriended loyal Wookie companion Chewbacca and ended up as Captain of the Millennium Falcon all finally revealed. As one of the most popular and layered characters in the galaxy far far away, Han Solo was an obvious biopic choice in the ever expanding Star Wars franchise.

The Bad

Harrison Ford’s performance as Han Solo catapulted him to superstardom and showcased the absolute peak of his raw charisma and instantly iconic screen presence. Finding a young actor capable of delivering a compelling original performance whilst also channelling Ford’s familiar mannerisms and good looks was always going to be a predictably impossible task. Despite reportedly auditioning over 3000 actors for the role and getting personal advice from Steven Spielberg, sadly the film failed to satisfy the unfeasibly high standards required for this crucial lead role.

While with plenty of obvious help Alden Ehrenreich occasionally manages a brief passing physical resemblance to Ford, sadly he never comes close to matching the appealing screen presence Ford delivered in one of his most iconic roles. His flat delivery frequently lacking sincerity and intensity, does little to elevate an already lacklustre script.

Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke also struggles to transfer her small screen appeal to a bigger setting. As with the awful Terminator Genisys, she once again proves sadly lacking in both range and screen presence. It’s becoming increasingly clear just how reliant she has been on Game of Thrones perpetually hyping her character. Without a barrage of ‘mother of dragons’ memes to forcibly enthuse audiences her actual performance is left cruelly exposed.

Beyond weak central casting Solo suffers from many of the common issues plaguing prequels. The storytelling feels frequently redundant and fails to live up to the high standards of the well-established characters and their already familiar adventures. Sadly Solo offers little in the way of new dimensions to existing characters or memorable new action sequences. The film flies through a mostly predictable plot that delivers few moments of genuine consequence or entertaining surprises.

The Ugly Truth

Solo is a mostly unnecessary prequel that does little to enhance the existing Star Wars universe. Disappointing central casting combined with a deeply troubled production history delivers a mostly satisfying but forgettable addition to the increasingly stretched franchise. The most ardently devoted Star Wars fans may still find moments to enjoy and revel in a chance to celebrate some of the most beloved figures from the original trilogy, but this sadly isn’t the film it could have been or the one they’re looking for…

Review by Russell Nelson

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