There once was a rogue on the run
Who liked to shoot first with his gun.
He’d often cheat death
Without catching his breath
And make every danger seem fun.
The hand of a princess he won.
Have you heard of the famed Kessel Run?
You may know he’s tough,
But you don’t know enough
Till you see how his tale had begun.
MPAA rating: PG-13
Of all the opinions swirling around Solo: A Star Wars Story, there’s one thing everyone seems to agree on: It’s not a bad movie. That’s more generous than a lot of films get, but that seems to be the basis around which many are building their views. They may embrace it as a prequel done right or poke every imaginable hole in its plot and execution, but one thing’s for sure: It’s not a bad movie. I’ll go a bit farther than that, though. Solo: A Star Wars Story is a good movie.
Solo had the unenviable task of recasting one of the most iconic roles in cinematic history, and no matter who they picked for Han Solo, there’s only one Harrison Ford. That being said, Alden Ehrenreich holds his own as a younger and scrappier Han, not quite looking the part, not quite nailing Ford’s mannerisms as well as I’d like, but he still works as a believable version of the beloved rogue. Likewise, Donald Glover slips smoothly into Billy Dee Williams’ debonair shoes, and Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca is, well, the same Chewbacca we’ve always known, one of the perks of playing an alien in a full-body suit. The recasting isn’t quite a slam dunk like J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek cast, which was arguably a harder sell, but it comes close enough
Joining these familiar faces/characters are a host of other rogues, from Paul Bettany’s scarred crime lord, to Woody Harrelson’s smuggler and grudging mentor, to a group of Cloud Riders led by a masked pirate dressed suspiciously like Hiccup’s mother in How to Train Your Dragon 2. The title of best addition, though, goes to the always beautiful Emilia Clarke as Han’s childhood friend and love interest Qi’ra, whose three-year separation from him among villains leaves you constantly questioning what exactly her role and intentions are. Many of the characters don’t stick around long enough to leave much of an impression, often just to put more focus on Han, but they do their parts admirably. Oh, and I suppose some mention is deserved by Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s irascible droid L3-37, whose strident calls for droid equality shed a different light on the sentience and rights of robots in the Star Wars universe (and an odd, though unconfirmed implication of Lando’s romantic tastes). It’s funny how “sarcastic” describes most of the named droids of Star Wars, and she’s no exception, though I preferred K-2SO in Rogue One.
I’ll admit that Solo didn’t have the same hype for me that past Star Wars films had, perhaps because it’s been only six months since The Last Jedi, perhaps because the marketing made it seem like the least Star Wars-y movie yet, perhaps because of the publicized difficulties behind the scenes that replaced directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller with the ever-reliable Ron Howard. Yet anyone going in with low expectations is bound to have a good time, whether you want a series of well-fashioned heist scenarios and action set pieces or a geeky exploration of Han’s origins, complete with the Millennium Falcon, the Kessel Run, those golden dice I never knew about till Last Jedi, and how he first met Chewie and Lando. I do wonder what Lord and Miller’s version would have looked like, but my VC and I agreed that, even with its changes in casting and a poorly lit visual tone, this still felt like Star Wars, which is the least we fans can hope for as Disney continues to churn out sequels, prequels, and in-betweenquels.
I’m still not entirely sure whether I consider Solo and Rogue One to be 100% canon, even if they may be “officially.” With no George Lucas, Jedi, or Skywalkers involved, they’re more like big-budget fan fiction, and I’m okay with that. To my mind, there has still not been a bad Star Wars movie, and I like how new directors and storytellers have added their own distinctive style to the most recent installments while preserving what made this world so compelling from the start. These Star Wars Stories have managed to surprise me both in quality and narrative. (Solo has a late revelation that I’m surprised isn’t getting more buzz, though maybe that’s because I haven’t seen Star Wars: Rebels. I don’t think this film will be the one-off that Rogue One was, though its box office performance leaves some doubt on a sequel.) Whether it’s real Star Wars or just someone else’s version of it, it’s still darn entertaining and decidedly not bad.
Best line: (Lando, to Han) “I hate you.” (Han) “I know.”
Rank: List-Worthy (joining Rogue One)
© 2018 S.G. Liput
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