The latest film installment of Disney’s new Star Wars hit theaters this past weekend. The film had some production hiccups and has not performed at the box office as well as Disney intended. I figure now is as good a time as any to give my thoughts on the film.

Cast and Crew Information

Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo
Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca
Woody Harrelson as Beckett
Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra
Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian
Thandie Newton as Val
Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37
Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos
Jon Favreau as Rio Durant (voice)
Erin Kellyman as Enfys Nest
Linda Hunt as Lady Proxima (voice)

Written by Jonathan Kasdan & Lawrence Kasdan
Directed by Ron Howard

The Premise

Han is a scrappy thief on the mean streets of Corellia. He and his girlfriend, Qi’ra, try to pull a quick job so they can get off the planet, only for things to go wrong and Han being the only one who can escape. Han, hoping to become a pilot so he can come back and save Qi’ra, joins the Empire… only for that to not go according to plan either. Han rescues Chewbacca from where he’s being held, and the two fall in with the crew of a thief named Beckett, with the plan to steal a cargo of Coaxium – which is needed for hyperspace travel – so Han can free Qi’ra from her obligations and Beckett can retire after one last job. However, to pull off this heist, they’ll need the help of former smuggler and gambler Lando Calrissian, and his ship, the Millenium Falcon.

High Points

The film gets a lot of the 1940s and 50s film influences that fed into Star Wars. Han’s life on Corellia feels like a combination of American GrafittiOliver Twist, and Bruce Springsteen. The first job we see Han and Beckett’s crew take is a straight up western train job, and the central job of the film is very much a heist.

A lot of the acting performances are great. Donald Glover nails Lando Calrissian like nobody’s business, from mannerisms to the cadence of his speech. Similarly, Paul Bettany as Dryden is the sort of splendidly unhinged gangster that could fit into some of the pre-Hayes Code gangster films where the movie takes the idea that the life of a gangster is definitely luxurious and glamorous, but also requires you to have to deal with dangerous psychopaths.

Seeing the inside of Lando’s Falcon. It’s clear that this is his baby just as much, if not more so than it will be for Han.

Low Points

There is a cameo later in the film that works really well and makes perfect sense if in addition to watching the movies you’ve also been watching the TV series such as Clone Wars and Rebels. However, from people I’ve talked to who have only seen the movies, they’ve found the cameo off-putting and confusing. I didn’t have a problem with it, but I’ve seen it be a problem for some other people.

Similarly, Ehrenreich’s performance doesn’t aim for Harrison Ford the way that, for example, Ewan McGregor was aiming for Alec Guinness’s performance. His performance reminds me a lot of Kurt Russell – which in a way is fine, since Russell also auditioned for the role of Solo, and from what I’ve heard he was basically a finalist for the part. However, I’ve also seen this throw people.

Scores

Originality: The movie picks up some bits of background from the older Han Solo miniseries while re-interpreting it for the story that the Kasdans have in mind. It’s not an adaptation, but it’s not totally its own thing either. 4/6

Effects: The visual effects look great, with some of the characters that are most likely CG (L3-37), looking somewhat practical in their appearance. 5/6

Acting: As mentioned under the high points, the film’s acting performances are great – the main crew of the film has some very strong chemistry. I buy Beckett as someone who Han would grab onto as a mentor figure. The Lando we see here fits in perfectly with Lando as we see him in Empire, and he and L3-37 have a very strong rapport. 5/6

Story: The story could have ended up feeling rushed, but the pacing is just right, with a good brisk flow to it that never left me feeling like I was missing something vital and important. 5/6

Production: The editing, sound design, and music are very good, with some great callbacks to the classic John Williams scores at all the right places. The action scenes are also very well shot and are easy to follow – especially the hand-to-hand sequences. 5/6

Emotional Response: On the one hand, it’s a prequel, so Han, Chewie, and Lando are in no grave peril. But the supporting cast is at risk, and considering the cynical place Han is in at the start of A New Hope, there’s the real possibility that this film could end on a note similar to Rogue One – so there’s that aspect of tension going in. Also, there’s the Big Cameo, which got a “Holy ****” from me, but which may get a different reaction from other people. 5/6

Overall: This film got a lot of crap, but I’d consider a lot of it undeserved. It’s a fun movie, which I don’t think hurts the brand. Instead, I think the bigger issue that hurts the film’s performance is that it came out right after Infinity War and Deadpool 2. 5/6.

In total, Solo: A Star Wars Story, gets 34/42