Going back to when “Solo” was first announced, it always felt like a movie that I’d be obligated to see but that I wasn’t looking forward to seeing. If anything, its existence was annoying in that it was taking up a ‘slot’ that ‘fresher’ “Star Wars” film might have used instead.
The details about the film that came up in early views raised further concerns that maybe I didn’t even want to see this film at all. In particular, I didn’t want its contributions to just muddy up the works that had come before it.
What I liked:
* Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo was actually likeable. At no time did I mentally connect him to Harrison Ford, other than maybe his blatant attempts at a couple of notable ‘isms’ but he was not a train wreck by any means. Rather than channeling Ford, like was rumored, his performance reminded me over and over of 1990s Leonardo Dicaprio, specially the Jack Dawson character in “Titanic.” I did find others online who shared the same opinion, so it isn’t just me… he’s laying it on thick as young Leo and that wasn’t necessarily bad.
* This is the most compelling that I’ve seen Emelia Clarke in anything non-“Game of Thrones” and I’m stunned to say that I liked her a lot in the film.
* I assumed that Woody Harrelson would be too much of a distraction or maybe a rehash of his “Hunger Games” character. He’s basically playing a riff on your standard Woody role over the past ten years, but you do end up forgetting that it is ‘Woody Harrelson’ all the time and his character is a welcome element to the movie. Dang, what an ending.
Thandie Newton is basically playing a version of her “Westworld”
character’s personality and I was cool with that.
* Lando didn’t steal the movie like I had assumed the character would but he was a welcome addition to the party and gets some nice moments
* The opening gambit and most of the first act were very strong and got me sucked right in.
* The film was very dark, with unsettling character circumstances all around if one stopped to ponder things or situations, but the pace kept the audience from dwelling and the humor worked well to avoid things getting too dark.
* I’m not really bothered by the complaints of some that film ‘spoiled’ the fact that Han is a ‘good guy at heart.’ No one new to “Star Wars” is going to watch this movie before “Episode 4″… it’s a novelty spin-off that in 20 years we will look at like the 1980s ‘Ewoks’ movies.
* There’s a nice ‘big reveal’ at the end that was largely spoiled right after the film came out – certainly just ‘fan service’ but a nice tie-in.
* Han shot first before he shot first in “Episode 4” and the scene is unsettling if logical.
* There’s a sense in the first act that the initial heist team that was assembled was very derivative of aspects of character dynamics from “Guardians of the Galaxy.” For example, there is a very much a Rocket analog for a while, etc. This works out okay, but it isn’t anything ground breaking.
* The middle of the film was all about the Kessel Run and the formation of a second heist team that involved Lando and the return of Emelia Clarke, as well as Lando’s often-very-amusing female robot companion.
This whole segment is fine enough, entertaining with some character building, although it felt like an Act 3 set piece moved into much of Act 2 and you wonder what they’re going to fill Act 3 with (a lot of talking, it turns out, and that ends up being interesting). The tone also gets a little goofy near the end… there’s a strong emotional beat with a key character death and then the big action ‘run’ that we’d heard about since the original “Star Wars” having some little jokey asides by Han.
That whole sequence ends in odd fashion, with the equivalent of dropping a fuel additive into the gas tank of the Falcon.
* I disliked most of the ‘Easter Egg’/origin asides EXCEPT for the meeting with Chewbacca. The formation of their relationship was well done.
* It’s confusing that Han doesn’t seem to understand that he shouldn’t entirely trust the Emelia Clarke character after they’re reunited in the second act. There’s not some bait and switch or reversal here either… it’s clear that she is in tight with the leading crime boss in the film, even if she’s not in tight by full choice of her own.
* The spoiler stuff near the end about Lando’s robot companion being part of the Millennium Falcon and seemingly somewhat (?) sentient is creepy as heck and uncomfortable. They need to somehow tie up that tidbit fast and just write it out as part of the Falcon’s refurbishing that that robot got a proper send-off to the great beyond or something.
The film ends on a pretty melancholy note, which was par for the course, since I’d mentioned how it is so, so dark if you think much about almost everything that happens in the film. It’s the bleak underbelly of the Empire and the characters functioning there are largely just trying to survive.
“Solo” didn’t need or deserves a sequel. There’s really one character thread left somewhat open that I’m curious about and I’m guessing that Disney will figure out a way to follow up on that in some television format.
Here’s probably the best praise that I can give for the film: I would re-watch it again before I would re-watch any of the prior three Disney “Star Wars” films. It’s not as derivative as “The Force Awakens,” it isn’t as depressing as “Rogue One,” and it isn’t as controversial as “The Last Jedi.”