A film that I think really deserved better in basically all aspects: financially, production-wise and it’s release date. Solo: A Star Wars Story tells an early adventure of how Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) gets caught up in a heist alongside a band of criminals, meets his future co-pilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) before becoming the Galaxy’s most notorious smuggler.
The messy and overlong production of Solo is well documented. Originally supposed to be more of a buddy comedy between Han & Chewie, written and directed by Lord & Miller (21 & 22 Jump Street, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse) before a creative disagreement with Disney/Lucasfilm led to them leaving the project and well established director Ron Howard taking the reigns of the project and having to reshoot reportedly 70% of it, making the production cost balloon to anything between $275-300 million.
It’s very clear that Solo is patched together at times and there are clear differences between the original and reshot sequences. However this doesn’t stop the film to be mostly thoroughly entertaining throughout its 2 hour 15 minute runtime. There are some brilliant action and chase scenes here. The train heist sequence is nail bitingly tense at times, really well shot and features some excellent choreography and camera movements. The slave revolt shootout outside is a blast (literally and figuratively), however the interior section of the fight is a bit choppy with some messy choreography and lighting. The opening chase scene in Corellia throws you full on into the action immediately and sure it’s just a tonne of CGI featuring a giant generic looking tentacled monster but the Kessel run is damn fun.
Alden Ehrenreich had a near-impossible job of following up Harrison Ford’s iconic portrayal of Han Solo, however he does a really good job here. The cocky attitude, the mannerisms and likeable persona doesn’t make it difficult for you to believe him as Han Solo and just ‘not Harrison Ford’. His first encounter with Chewbacca is a definite highlight and they have an immediately believable friendship just like the original two. Emilia Clarke plays Han’s love interest, she fares much better in this legendary franchise than her previous one (Terminator), she’s good in the action scenes and they have good chemistry. Donald Glover captures the swagger and cool of Lando Calrissian perfectly, Woody Harrelson is as good as expected and Jon Favreau as Rio really needed more screentime because he’s great. There are a couple of weaker characters, Paul Bettany’s antagonist Dryden Vos is very forgettable and uninteresting and Lando’s co-pilot droid L3 does get a bit grating at times.
I really appreciate the use of practical effects and sets, there are some really creative and interesting creature designs especially at the Crimson Dawn headquarters, Lady Proxima and when we first meet Lando. I wanted to spend more time in these places and explore the seedier and stranger aspects of the Star Wars universe. The CGI looks impressive as expected at times, especially in some of the flying sections and the action set pieces. However it is rough and basic at time as well. The colour grading and lighting is a definite issue for the film, a lot of the film wears a grey filter and some of the scenes are very hard to navigate due to the low and dark lighting. The score is solid but only really is noticeable and standout when old themes cut through.
Solo: A Star Wars Story honestly deserves more attention in my opinion. It’s not perfect, it slightly overstays it’s welcome and is a bit patchy with some of its production value. However the cast is extremely likeable and clearly having a tonne of fun and the action is fast paced and entertaining. A solid instalment in the franchise and it’s a shame that a bunch of ‘fans’ had to really go out there way to boycott the film and with the studios poor release scheduling. Definitely worth a watch and better than the prequel trilogy.