Original Title: Solo: A Star Wars Story
Year of Release: 2018
Genres: Sci-Fi; Adventure; Crime
Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Jonathan & Lawrence Kasdan
Main Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover
Going into Solo: A Star Wars Story, expectations were incredibly low. Part of it is the increasing sickness and boredom I get from these blockbusters, and part of it are the disastrous behind-the-scenes shenanigans that happened (mainly, the original director duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller being replaced with Ron Howard). While I entered the theater with a grim face, bracing myself for the worst, I came out of that dark and smelly room with a big old smile on my face.
I am just as surprised as you guys that I ended up really enjoying this film. While the film does not excel in any aspect, it is a surprisingly enjoyable sci-fi adventure, and in a year filled with bloated productions, “enjoyable” feels oh so fresh. The father-son screenwriting duo of the Kasdans manages to craft a story that is very simple, effective, and straight to the point. While there are plenty of references, cameos, and nods to previous films and to Han Solo’s legacy, they are (mostly) played with little fanfare, without slowing the action down for a wink to the fans. It is also a very episodic film, going from set-piece to set-piece, making for a fun adventure that barely ties in to the bigger picture of the Star Wars films, giving me new hope (pun not intended) for the upcoming spin-offs.
Everyone’s main worry going into this was Alden Ehrenreich replacing Harrison Ford. While he looked pretty bad in the promos, watching his scenes in context was actually quite fun, and he has enough charisma to portray the iconic character, making him feel both familiar and new. But this film wouldn’t be nearly as effective without its supporting cast, and boy is it a good one. Woody Harrelson has a beefier role than I expected, and he brings his usual likability and grounded performance; Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian acts like the charming arrogant we expect, but also showing some deeper layers to him; Phoebe Waller-Bridge plays an android who is a robot-rights activist (a character that many are loving, but that I found rather annoying and out of place); and Emilia Clarke plays an interesting love interest who is not really who she seems to be with a competent performance (the girl still has to impress me in something). Joonas Suotamo is back as Chewbacca, and Thandie Newton, Jon Favreau, and Paul Bettany (playing a truly forgettable villain) round off the cast.
The film is chock full of action, and every set-piece is a blast to watch. There is a strong sense of adventure that was sorely lacking in the newer entries in the franchise, both thanks to great special effects (duh) and an even more impressive musical score by John Powell. While the music of John Williams in the new trilogy overuses his original score, and Michael Giacchino’s for Rogue One felt very derivative, Powell (who I have been loving ever since Shrek and How To Train Your Dragon) delivers a truly fresh soundtrack that heightens the experience during many scenes, and Williams’ musical cues are kept to a minimum.
Overall, Solo: A Star Wars Story was a surprisingly entertaining and simple film, showing the potential of future standalone stories (even though an unexpected cameo near the end made me roll my eyes, and no one in the audience cheered or gasped). It is exciting, fun, with little amount of humor and plenty of effective action to keep me entertained.
Visual Effects: 8.5
Violence & Gore: 7
Sex & Nudity: 3.5
Drugs & Profanity: 3
Intensity & Horror: 5