Solo movie review: Someone please tell Disney less is more

Han Solo, Star Wars photo via Walt Disney Studios Media File
Han Solo, Star Wars photo via Walt Disney Studios Media File /

This weekend, Disney and Lucasfilm unleashed their first character spin-off with Solo: A Star Wars Story. The film is very entertaining, but is it enough to justify a Han Solo spin-off?

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a film that has been plagued with problems for months. The hilarious directing duo, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, were fired from the Han Solo project very late in the process over disagreements of work ethic. Despite the production issues, it appeared all the rough edges were getting smoothed out when Ron Howard was announced as the new director.

The finished product definitely works and is very much entertaining. It’s also one of the better films from Ron Howard in a long time. The problem is, the material does not make a strong argument that we ever needed this film in the first place. On the surface, it has a lot of fun with itself, but prepare for a lot of bipolar emotions when thinking about the story elements.

Han Solo, Star Wars photo via Walt Disney Studios Media File
Han Solo, Star Wars photo via Walt Disney Studios Media File /

The film focuses on the beginnings of Han Solo as he becomes a smuggler. Various events transpire as he engages on this journey, such as the very first encounter with Chewbacca, the first time he enters a Millenium Falcon,  his first exchange with Lando Calrissian, and so much more. We also get introduced to new characters such as Qi’ra (played by Emilia Clarke) as well as another smuggler named Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) who welcomes Han into his crew.

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Just like with the current saga, I found myself more invested in the newly developed characters rather than the ones we were already familiar with. Harrelson’s role as Tobias Beckett doesn’t really offer anything new, performance wise, but as a character he is very interesting. Most of his arc with Han is a mentor in nature and the evolution of their relationship foreshadows a lot of Han Solo’s characteristics in future stories.

I’ve heard some complaints about Emilia Clarke’s performance as Qi’ra, but seeing the film, it seems unwarranted. Her dialogue is a bit rusty in the first act of the film, but that seems like a problem with reshoots and scripting rather than a statement about her acting. She did exactly what the role required of her. Also, everything you heard is true.

Just as expected, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian steals the show. As Sandy C. discussed recently, Lando and his droid L3 have a strong loving journey that accomplishes a lot in very little time.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
Han Solo, Star Wars photo via Walt Disney Studios Media File /

Alden Ehrenreich does surprisingly well as a younger Han. There were a lot of mixed feelings from fans leading up to the release of Solo about whether he could capture the magic of the character, and he mostly pulls it off. It’s not easy to step into Harrison Ford’s shoes, and using that as a measuring scale, he is successful.

Warning: Minor Spoilers ahead.

Remember in The Force Awakens when Rey meets Han for the very first time, and she has this overwhelming glow in her eye because she knows all the legends of Luke, Han, and The Force? That was me before watching Solo: A Star Wars Story. Sometimes legends are better than what really happened.

The franchise is beginning to misunderstand its characters and why we loved them so much. Before the new saga and its spin-offs, a lot of Han Solo’s backstory cinematically was left to the imagination. Han Solo was this adventurous smuggler who just happened to get involved in the Skywalker saga. Not knowing everything made him more compelling because we lived these adventures with him in our minds.

And yes, I’m aware of the expanded universe before Disney bought the rights. I never read them. So, there!

Han Solo, Star Wars photo via Walt Disney Studios Media File
Han Solo, Star Wars photo via Walt Disney Studios Media File /

All this time I just assumed he had this awesome name “Han Solo” from birth, which turns out false. Also, the film shows how he becomes acquainted with Chewy, which nothing is wrong with the scene at all, it’s just this information wasn’t necessarily required either. If Disney wants to keep their characters from losing luster, they need to remember sometimes less is more.

Spoiler section ends.

On a positive note, this is a great looking film. Cinematographer Bradford Young (Arrival, Selma) absolutely makes every frame and shot feel important. Of all the films Disney has made so far for Star Wars, this is visually the best. The aesthetic is enthralling and really magnifies the western sheen that makes up the film. It’s almost like Young was hijacked by Roger Deakins before stepping behind the lens.

Next: L3 and Lando Calrissian: Best couple in Solo

Overall Thoughts

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a very entertaining experience, but depending on how you feel about having Han Solo’s backstory explained– it will either have you wanting more or regretting knowing the story altogether. Some moviegoers enjoy diving into beloved characters to gain as much knowledge as possible. With Han Solo, I was not one of these people.

The idea sounded awesome on paper, as well as in the advertisements and admittedly I probably should’ve expected to not be satisfied. All that I can say– I ordered a cheeseburger, and it looked bigger and more delicious in the photo. Maybe this cinematic cheeseburger will satisfy your appetite better than mine.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is now in theaters.