Go for the Han Solo; stay for the feminist droid.
Most people went into Solo: A Star Wars Story, directed by Ron Howard, with a lot of reservations. A lot of reservations. Let’s talk about Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo. Fans were dubious about this casting decision—I was not. Massive Supernatural fan that I am, I remember being enamored 13 years ago, with a 15ish-minute guest star role he had in an early episode of the first season called “Wendigo.” There was just something about him that stood out to me through 13 years of ever-changing guest stars.
Harrison Ford left some truly massive shoes to fill and it’s always a scary thing to take on a character that’s already been developed—especially one with such widespread fan reverence. Honestly, go out onto the street and ask random strangers if they know who Han Solo is. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t.
Ehrenreich did a better job of replicating Han Solo than fans ever could have dreamed. Ford’s high praise for Ehrenreich prior to the release did a good job to ease a lot of that uncertainty surrounding Ehrenreich’s ability to emulate Han, as Ford isn’t really one to gush. Between the Han Solo swagger walk that Ehrenreich nailed, the voice and tonal upticks that he mirrored, his grasp on Han’s comedic timing, and even the way he carried himself in his space—pun intended—no suspension of disbelief occurred. I didn’t have to remind myself that he was Han Solo or imagine that he was Han Solo—Ehrenreich is Han Solo in this film and that’s an impressive feat.
Seriously, though. Which line in the movie was concocted by George Lucas when he visited the set? Inquiring minds want to know. Low-key hoping it’s the “It’s Han, not Han” line he said to Lando, which was particularly fun since everyone pronounced it differently in the OG movies and it drove me crazy. Judging by Ron Howard’s description of the scene, though, that probably wasn’t it.
One of the biggest questions prior to the release of Solo was where the plot was going to go. Obviously, it involved Chewie and Lando as they were heavily featured in the trailers, but beyond that, it was anyone’s guess. When prequels tackle massive moments in a character’s history, it’s an incredibly easy thing to screw up. The plot could have easily gone overboard to make it iconic or it could undersell a moment fans have been picturing for years, or in the case of the Star Wars saga, decades. Solo: A Star Wars Story did neither. Every scene we anticipated since the ’70s (or okay, you’ve got me, the ’90s for me) was perfectly crafted with the right combination of nostalgia, humor, characterization, and importance.
Han’s introduction to Chewie was hysterical and his meeting with Lando was everything. So. Good. Real talk, though: Everyone was expecting the love story in Solo to be between Han and Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) but it was obviously the love story between Chewie (Joonas Suotamo) and Han.
Don’t get me wrong, it definitely wasn’t the strongest script in the franchise. The disappointment was real for the women and people of color—such as Val (Thandie Newton)—being used, as they so frequently are, to further the leading white male characters such as Beckett (Woody Harrelson). The newer Star Wars films do a pretty good job about getting away from that trope, so it feels like a step back. There are so few women in this film and their overall roles are generally token girlfriends™.
The introduction of L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), the feminist droid resulted in a new fan-favorite, but her antics were clearly added for laughs and her inclusion almost seemed mocking to the feminist movement. Everything she did was amped up way over the top for laughs, and as much as she was enjoyable and loved as a character, her inclusion might have done more harm than good. As Lando’s droid, he clearly cared for her, but she was obviously used more as a plot device than standing her ground as her own character, which directly counteracts her plight as a feminist. There were definitely better ways for the writers to try to respectfully depict a feminist fed up with being used and controlled.
The general plot of the film follows Han as he attempts to break free from the shackles of his forced smuggler life on Correllia as he dreams of becoming a pilot to find his way back to his girl. It’s pretty akin to what we all expected a Han Solo prequel to be, but seeing young Han so hell-bent on being considered a bad boy as he tries to help literally everyone, is the purest shit in the galaxy. He’s a lot less stoic and hardened in the movie despite desperately trying to be the Cool Guy.
There’s one majorly epic cameo that no one expected to be in this film and that scene was lit. The best thing in any movie theater is hearing a collective gasp from the entire audience—such a good time. I wasn’t preparing to leave the theater wanting a sequel. I was wrong.
The cinematography in Solo was beautiful, even by Star Wars standards. One of the (many) problems with the prequel trilogy was the difference in special effects, being that they were so developed from what was available in the ’70s—the movie didn’t always feel like it was a part of the same universe. Solo created the perfect balance of modern effects while giving major nods to the originals while the updated effects were underway. When Han is doing the Kessel Run, it still felt and looked enough like the original depictions of hyperdrive to satiate my need for the OG graphics.
The lighting in Solo was equally stunning. As a great deal of the film takes place in the Millennium Falcon (bless), there are moments where the camera is panned on Han instead of space, and the lighting on his face flashes different vibrant hues. It was such a small detail, but the detailed lighting helped bring the film together in a lovely manner.
As a preface to the music portion of the evening, here’s a little background info on my obsession with John Williams: I did no less than three reports on him in college and one of the two vinyls I own is the Empire soundtrack—I literally cry every time the Star Wars title crawl music starts playing in a Star Wars movie. Sufficed to say, Williams’ soundtracks affect me in a way no other film scores have ever managed to do. We’re not even going to talk about the Harry Potter soundtracks.
The biggest issue with the Star Wars companion movies that they crank out is, of course, the lack of John Williams. Star Wars just doesn’t feel like Star Wars without Williams’ epically crafted beats. Rogue One was brilliant, but the Star Wars light™ music and lack of melodies we’ve come to know and love was so distracting, it took away from how powerful of a movie it is.
I had much less of a soundtrack crisis during Solo. Why? John Williams was involved. He wasn’t overly involved and he didn’t score the entire soundtrack, but sprinkled throughout a great soundtrack were pieces of Williams’ original compositions and that was enough to make the film instead of break it. You can’t have a movie solely about Han Solo without some of the OG music—it just wouldn’t have worked. Having flurries of the original soundtrack when Han is piloting the Falcon or when something dramatic happens made the movie much more impactful, and John Powell did a phenomenal job scoring the rest of film. How many Johns does it take to make a composition masterpiece?
Like many, (I may be alone in this) my biggest concern prior to seeing Solo was Han’s random pre-Leia love interest—the movie opening on a makeout scene didn’t particularly win me over in that regard. What can I say? Princess Leia was my first love and she needed to be Han’s first, too.
For me, he could have banged everyone in the entire galaxy in this movie and that would have been fine. He was depicted as such a cold playboy pre-Leia so, obviously, he’s not allowed to be in love with any of them.
Mild spoiler coming to a galaxy near you.
Luckily, those three magic words were never actually dropped, even though they were heavily implied, so the movie wasn’t completely ruined for me in such a petty way—I got over it. Han and Leia were my OG ship, okay? They were pretty much everyone’s, except for those weirdos rooting for Luke and Leia. Can you say yikes? End spoiler.
For a movie that extensively involves flying hella fast in our favorite rugged spaceship, the added bonus of 4DX allows you to experience feeling the wind rustle your hair, the turbulence shake your seat, and the water graze your cheek was an unparalleled way to watch this film. I felt like I was on a two and a half hour-long Disney ride. Between the 3-D and the lifelike experience, I was convinced I really was a scruffy smuggler. That’s a good thing, trust me.
When the Star Wars franchise was rebooted with The Force Awakens, it became apparent that the only way to truly enjoy the new series was to take a step back from the original films a smidge in order to enjoy them without micro-analysis. No reboot will ever hold up to an original series that has impacted you in a major way. No matter what the quality is, it will never feel exactly like the original and you’ll never quite replicate that intense exhilaration that the OG once brought you. That’s okay. No movie will ever top Empire for me and once I accepted that, enjoying the new films became much easier.
To be quite frank, this movie was fairly unnecessary. The franchise is beginning to feel a bit like a cash cow even though the Star Wars creative team wanted to make this movie even before Disney bought the rights. But, surprisingly, these movies aren’t garbage. They’re not perfect but they’ve far surpassed expectations, despite how low they might be. Solo was an adventure of epic proportions and managed to land even with so many snafus in changes of directors and drawbacks that almost prevented the movie from being made. The number of things enjoyable about the film far outweigh the issues with it. Han Solo, for all of his delectable faults, is a greatly relatable character and the fact that his younger-self was depicted so cleverly makes this one of my favorite movies to date, flaws and all.