Solo: A Star Wars Story— Formulaic but Entertaining

(Originally written on May 26, 2018)

It is no surprise how Star Wars is one of the most expansive and lucrative franchises out there. Though it began with a trilogy of films, it has expanded into other mediums such as novels, TV shows, comics and video games. Then in 2015, the idea of continuing the story of Star Wars (at least the films) was a welcome surprise. A new film that continued years after Return of the Jedi? I was skeptical, but given that so much time between movies had passed, I became curious.

This curiosity then turned into cynicism when it was announced that Lucasfilm would also be creating spin-off films, called anthology films, exploring other areas of the Star Wars universe. While Rogue One wasn’t a perfect film, it certainly was a nice departure from the main episodic series.

Many wondered what the second anthology film was going to be, with speculation on the internet running rampant. When it was announced that a young Han Solo movie was in the works, the reaction was split. Some loved the idea, while others couldn’t care less about what Han was like in his younger days (I fell into the latter camp).

Then came production trouble when the original directing duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller parted from the project due to creative differences with Lucasfilm, prompting the production company to hire Ron Howard to finish shooting the film. With all the behind-the-scenes baggage that came with the film, as well as my waning interest, I went into it with very low expectations. I was also initially hesitant to even accept the invitation from my brother to go see it. With all that said, is Solo: A Star Wars Story worth seeing?

Much to my surprise, the film is actually not that bad. I never thought seeing the world of organized crime in the Star Wars universe would have grabbed my attention as much as it did. It is very straightforward in how it depicts the lives of these thieves and swindlers. They are all simply trying to survive in this harsh world of crime where there is seemingly no one you can trust. In the middle of it all is Han, who thrusts himself into this life by his own choosing.

More than the how, we are presented with more of the why behind all of his decisions. He is mainly motivated by his personal aspirations, which isn’t that surprising given how he was still optimistic in his early days before he becomes the no-good scoundrel later in life. I have to say, even though I was indifferent about seeing Han’s past, it was actually quite intriguing to see how it informs much of the Han we all know and love today. It’s also fantastic to see how he met Chewbacca.

However, for all the positives this film has going for it, there are just as many shortcomings as well. I felt much of the movie was very formulaic (as indicated from the title of this blog post), with some plot points being somewhat predictable, save for a few surprises. While this could be because of the mid-production director change, steps could have easily been taken to prevent this.

Also, while it’s great to see how Han comes to obtain his signature possessions (like the Falcon and his blaster), what isn’t so great is how it felt like the movie was just checking things off a list (but that’s just my opinion). Many of the characters, while all extremely charming, are a bit underdeveloped, with some even having less screen time than I anticipated. Near the end, there is also a subplot (or two) that felt tacked on in order to loosely connect the events of this film to the universe at large.

For what it is, Solo: A Star Wars Story is a great treat for devoted fans of the Star Wars franchise. As a casual fan of this universe, I thought it was a movie that was just okay, but that doesn’t mean it was terrible. It delivers on some thrills, a likeable character in the form of young Han (props to Alden Ehrenreich for his performance) and great moments of comedy. While it might not be for everyone, this movie is still fairly entertaining.

- A. Shin

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