MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is a Blast from the Past with Poise
Star Wars’ newest origin story, ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, will take a couple of minutes to warm up to, but just as swiftly as we get our first transport chase scene in the stand-alone installment, is how quickly you will warm up to the more refined, and steadier pace of, ‘Solo‘, in comparison to its relatives in the Star Wars chronology.
Like all (or a number of) great films, a love story is at the core of the plot, with Director Ron Howard‘s take on the young Solo (played by Alden Ehrenreich), introducing us to a bittersweet relationship with the stunning Qi’Ra (Emilia Clarke), both dreaming of escape from the ship-building, backwater, planet of Corellia. There’s palpable chemistry between the two characters… Alden’s Solo comes off as goofy yet talented, a sort of cowboy who has found his cow girl and all he wants is to love his soul mate, living on some galactic ranch, and starting up a family. Emilia’s Qi’Ra strikes me as the sweet girl who values love as well, but has greater ambitions of climbing up the social ladder and making a name for herself. We all know how that often ends.
For what seems like forever, they lovebirds have been looking for a lucky break to escape their present doldrums, and when the opportunity finally presents itself, it all goes catastrophically wrong. To salvage the situation, Han Solo signs up to be a pilot in the Empire’s squadron, an occurrence that magically bestows on him his ‘tribeless’ nickname.
In a tumultuous showing in the armed forces of the Empire, Solo comes across the ‘beast’, Chewbacca (based on Joonas Suotamo), and they begin to form an unintended bond that we all know so well. A failure subsequently lands him in the arms of hired guns Beckett ( played by Woody Harrelson) and Val ( Thandie Newton) to pull off a heist that will set them up for life, enabling Solo go back and retrieve what was his on the planet Corellia.
Of course things go terribly wrong, and Beckett and Solo find themselves inextricably indebted to the fabulously wealthy merchant and Crimson Dawn henchman, Dryden Voss (Paul Bettany). They are tasked with an impossible task of retrieving hyperfuel coaxium in its rawest form and racing across a section of the stars to the historical mines on Kessel where Voss would collect his dues. To successfully do this, they have to get one of the fastest known ships to man and creature, which leads Han and Chewbacca to the cheeky and cheating yet charismatic pansexual, Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) who owns the Millenium Falcon spaceship.
‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is is more than appropriate for its place in the larger Star Wars timeline. Estimated to be placed between the events of ‘Revenge of the Sith‘ and ‘A New Hope‘‘, it may, in this modern era, stick out like a sore thumb, purely for technological and cinematic advancements and for nothing else, but this does not mean it is not full of its own unique surprises. For instance, the android L3-37, who is Lando’s co-pilot and friend, is as characteristically rich and quirky as the creature, Jar Jar Binks from ‘The Phantom Menace’. It mesmerizes me how consistently Lucasfilm are able to deliver a diverse array of locations and characters in each installment of this George Lucas wonderland – admittedly, the creatures often threaten to be more interesting than the human characters.
Each of the trailers to the Solo film were dishonest to me; because they superbly hid the crux of the movie – the fantastic worlds, the dynamic and abundantly diverse characters and creatures (there’s even a gigantic ship-eating space octopus), the frivolous and breathtaking action sequences, and the tranquility of a world that existed before the war between the Jedi and the Sith was at its peak, threatening the very fabric of existence.
Three things disappointed me: we did not get to see any light sabers in this story and ‘the Force’ was less felt than in other extracts of this galaxy that’s far far away. Also, it felt like there’s a lot that’s been left out for the audience to fill in the blanks: the depth of the romance between Solo and Qi’Ra, in order to be more invested in their relationship, the true reason for the pain and purpose of the pirates threatening to steal the hyperfuel, and the fact that I did not fear the roguish, Illuminati-like, and all powerful Crimson Dawn, seemingly headed by a dreaded Darth.
Notwithstanding, I did enjoy this film for its twists and turns, its charisma, its distinct nature and the wonderful epic journey we’re all taken through from beginning to end.