By Ian Roesler
WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for Solo: A Star Wars Story
The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board.
Solo isn’t the worst Star Wars movie; that honor falls upon The Star Wars Holiday Special, which is easily the worst thing to happen in the last two centuries.
So, this movie was a little controversial when it was announced. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it. Regardless of how I initially felt I was planning on seeing it anyway. I’ve seen every movie up to this point, except the Holiday Special I and others felt that Han Solo is one of those characters that the less you know about him the better, like Boba Fett, who is also getting his own movie. The mystery is part of the appeal and Star Wars hasn’t had the best luck with prequels, but I thought this movie was good. Whereas the other movies would switch between a character or group of characters, such as in Empire it’ll flip between Luke on Dagobah and the others in Cloud City, this one is just Han Solo as the title would “exply” (a made-up word meaning the opposite of imply). It was more action and adventure-y than a standard Star Wars movie. It was constantly moving. The music was decent. John Powell did the music for this one. The action was great. I think there’s more positives than negatives. A big controversy about this movie was the cast.
So, if you’ve been living under a rock you probably heard about the casting controversy. They replaced an actor of a major character. Say what you will but I thought Joonas Suotamo did a great job as Chewbacca and I think he did a great job as him in The Last Jedi. You can’t blame Peter Mayhew for stepping down from the role. Thankfully they got new actors to play the younger versions of Han and Lando, instead of CGI-ing his face onto another actor like they did with Grand Moff Tarkin. That was odd and a creepy to say the least. Back to Solo, Alden Ehrenreich did an excellent job as Han Solo which is no easy task, I’m so glad they didn’t cgi a young Harrison Ford on him. Emilia Clarke plays Qi’ra, who is Han’s love interest and eventually becomes a gang leader. Woody Harrelson plays Tobias Beckett, he gets Solo and Chewie into the smuggler lifestyle. And finally, there’s Donald Glover who plays Lando Calrissian. Lando is easily the best character in this movie. Donald Glover just oozes charisma in this role. Ray Park reprises his role as Darth Maul for a brief cameo towards the end. There’s also a robot that might grate some people, as she’s like the embodiment of a social justice warrior for droids. This movie is the first in the franchise to not feature C-3PO or R2D2 in any capacity. Although I think I might have seen R2D2 in a cameo. Maybe. There’s also a main villain. He’s okay. He has a scarred face and is in charge of a large criminal empire. A human Jabba basically. Then there’s the tribal guy who’s set up as a villain but is revealed to be a good guy. So, let’s examine what the film did well, not so well, some possible complaints that others may have, and how it compares to Rogue One.
The casting as mentioned was a highlight. Everyone did well as their respective character.
The action was great in this movie. The trailer showed the Falcon smacking a tie fighter into an ice chunk. That was groovy. One of my favorite parts is where the main characters are in the middle of a riot on a mining planet Chewbacca chokeslams a guy like the Undertaker. I would love a movie of Chewbacca wrastlin’, like he could be on top of a Hell in a Cell then throw a stormtrooper thirty off into the Spanish announcer’s table (a la Mankind vs. the Undertaker). The rest of the action is more or less typical Star Wars sans lightsabers.
This movie answers some questions that fans wanted and some ones that I don’t think anyone cared about. The ones that people cared about that were answered: How do Han and Chewie meet? How do Hand and Lando meet? The movie ends with setting itself up for potential sequels. Jabba the Hutt is not mentioned by name but is described “some gangster on Tatooine”- that’s the exact phrasing, but if you know about Han’s backstory you can infer who they’re talking about. The film shows how Han wins the Millennium Falcon. That too was groovy.
The questions that no one cares about are answered as well. These felt more like fan-service and they got annoying. I’ll go over the ones I remember. We learn how Han Solo gets his last name. When he goes to sign up for the Imperial Naval Academy the recruiter asks who his people are, he replies he doesn’t have any. So, the recruiter gives him the last name Solo. We learn how Han gets his blaster. Woody Harrelson gives it to him. We learn why Lando mispronounces Hans’ name. He just does. We learn why Han calls Chewbacca “Chewie” because his name is long. Surprisingly, we don’t learn where Han gets his vest or pants. You probably got tired of how I started most of these sentences with “We learned…” but that’s how it feels to watch this sometimes.
Image from Hollywood Reporter
The main villain is kind of meh even though he’s important to the main plot. He feels more like a generic villain. He kills a guy in his character introduction, so you know he’s evil. Other than the tribal villain who was revealed to be good in the beginning there was another character set up as the main villain: Lady Proxima. She’s only in the first twenty minutes with five minutes of screen time. She doesn’t do much.
These are things that I feel others might complain about, I’m indifferent to them at best.
The previously mentioned robot character can be grating. The preachiness she exhibits seems ham-fisted. It feels like they tried to put some kind of message in the movie. The robot’s name is L3-37. Do kids still do leetspeak?
As I mentioned this movie has a different feel from the other movies in the Star Wars franchise and that also applies to the writing. Star Wars dialogue is more or less with an occasional one-liner here and there. This one is I would describe as Avengers-like and what I mean by that is there’s a lot of one-liners and a bit of slapstick. Han Solo says most of the one-liners. There’s a more light-hearted feel to this movie, because of this. The humor is hit or miss. I remember laughing a few times. Well, more like a sensible chuckle.
Image from Nerdist
The way characters from the Old Trilogy were portrayed in Solo was better. They used real actors instead of CGI. When I first saw Rogue One I paid extra attention to Tarkin for a couple reasons: 1. Tarkin is one of my favorite characters and 2. I was curious as to what they would do as Peter Cushing had been dead for a good while. I’ll give them an A for effort. Besides the CGI face the most glaring thing I noticed was Tarkin barely moves his arms. They mostly stay at his side, that bothered me it made him seem more unnatural. The lack of arm movement was explained as having to do with technological limitations or something.
The tone between the two films was wildly different. Rogue One was a lot a darker and it felt there was more at stake. If they didn’t succeed the Empire would win with their Death Star. The humor was nowhere near as abundant as in Solo.
So overall Solo is a fine Star Wars film. It’s different than the other films, but it still has those ties to the franchise. The movie is well cast. The sets are great. The music is good. I would recommend it if you’re a fan or looking for a scifi movie to watch.