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Solo: A Star Wars Story
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a prequel to the original Star Wars series. The film aims to introduce our rouge hero Han Solo by exploring his early days years before coming into his encounters with Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. This time Han flies Solo. Hence the pun-tastic title of the film. The film is executive produced by Lawrence Kasdan, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and Jason D. McGatlin.
Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) has yet to join the rebellion. He sets off a journey all on his own after becoming separated from his childhood friend Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) after evading the clutches of the dark side. Going on his own missions, Solo traverses the galaxy working a number of "odd jobs" as a pilot.
Along his journeys, Han meets Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) for the first time. This scene is an unexpected delight. Anyone who cherishes the universe of Star Wars will find something to enjoy in the initial meeting of Han and Chewie.
Solo later joins up with Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and Val (Thandie Newton) for a intergalactic heist mission for the menacing Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). Because of these encounters, he once again meets his old friend Qi'ra. A romance and a whirlwind of emotions spur between. The two have a lot of catching up to do. They meet up with Lando (Donald Glover), and he proves just as sly as always in this outing.
Going in to this film, I must admit to having had a lot of trepidation about the possibility of not even enjoying it. As a massive Star Wars fan, I hold these films dear to my heart, and the idea behind it was somewhat off-putting from the get-go. Revisit Han Solo with a different actor? How could anyone walk in Harrison Ford's shoes? It just sounded like a recipe for possible disaster. Toss in the behind-the-scenes production woes, including the replacements of the original directors with Ron Howard (whom I tend to find uneven as a filmmaker and who certainly lacks much in credentials for helming adventures) and it seemed like this film potentially could be a major misfire for Lucasfilm.
Much to my surprise and delight, Solo: A Star Wars Story is a better film than its trailers let on. It's a genuine blast of old school sci-fi adventure from start to finish. The film is loaded with great references to the originals (including moments which are sure to delight diehards). The line "I've got a good feeling about this!" blurted out by Han Solo during a pivotal scene is a perfect reference to the original "I've got a bad feeling about this!"
One can't help but enjoy the referential moments. Or the revelation of how Han got his last name, which feels surprising but seems to fit perfectly for the character like a glove. Then there's other tidbits: Chewbacca's age is revealed for the first time. These kinds of moments (which are spread throughout) add to the experience. If you're a big fan the series the film is filled with great Easter eggs.
From a technical standpoint, the film does not disappoint either. The production design by Neil Lamont (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the Harry Potter series) is downright incredible. The film doesn't even remotely disappoint on this level. The spectacle of it all is enormous: from the incredible set designs to the breathtaking special effects. If there was one thing I didn't doubt about this production, it was that Lucasfilm would deliver a well-produced product on the technical scale. It is truly a technical marvel with great artistry.
The cinematography by Bradford Young (Arrival, Selma) is equally absorbing and beautiful. The film has so many great moments enhanced by the stunning photography. The costumes by David Crossman (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and Glyn Dillon (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) are also impressive and befit the characters and Star Wars universe remarkably well.
The music score by John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon, Rio) doesn't break new ground (or even try really). It features a lot of adapted music based on the original scores by John Williams. However, in this case, it's hard to fault it for leaning heavily on William's themes. Many scenes feel like straight adaptations of sections from Williams scores. But why mess with the master composer? The more original pieces blend well into the Star Wars music lore as well. Powell proves capable for the task at hand even if the film lacks the grandiose ambition of Michael Giacchino's epic Rogue One score.
Based on the world and characters created by George Lucas, the screenplay for Solo was written by the father-son screenwriting duo Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark). To say the film is a blast in large part due to their script is a big understatement. It's a fun story which works both as a standalone film while effectively adding on to established lore. To their credit, the script doesn't even attempt to fully define the past of Han. It remembers to keep some of his character a beautiful mystery while filling in some gaps which will satisfy fans.
Directed by Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind), taking over the reins of the previously hired filmmakers, Howard does much better in the director's chair than I expected. It's interesting to think the young Howard went from working as part of a ensemble with George Lucas on the masterpiece American Graffiti to becoming the director of a entry in this sci-fi universe. Howard may feel more workmanlike as a filmmaker than like a auteur but he does a great job of bringing all the pieces of this film together for a fun, well-paced, and memorable ride.
Solo is also a testament to the power of a great producer behind the scenes. Kathleen Kennedy proves once again why she's the perfect person to shepherd these films for Lucasfilm. While many studios fall back and allow films to suffer critically when there's a problem behind the scenes, Kennedy has repeatedly made efforts to make the film as good as can be (i.e. Rogue One, which had similar production problems behind the scenes). When there's a problem, Kennedy seems to know how to fix it. This film is a perfect example of why she's one of Hollywood's crowning producers.
Solo: A Star Wars Story might be underperforming at the box-office but if you haven't seen it it's absolutely worth the trip. This is a fantastic entry into the Star Wars saga and it's a great time at the movies. It's worth seeing on the biggest (and best) screen possible: the IMAX presentation adds to the film's immersive experience and comes recommended. Journey solo (or alongside friends) and take a trip to a galaxy far, far away...
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.