Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Directed by: Ron Howard

Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Joonas Sutamo, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Warwick Davis

Watch the trailer

Rated PG-13. Runtime: 2hrs 15mins.

It’s been a rough time for me as far a blogging the last few months. My last post was back in March, and I haven’t been able to consistently write since then. Leaving one job, and then adjusting to a new one…there just hasn’t been a lot of extra mental energy left each day to write about movies, which is disappointing. Whether or not my posts are actually interesting to read, I do enjoy it.

I have been encouraged however by several people who have asked about the lack of new posts. So, to everyone that actually noticed I had stopped writing and were even marginally disappointed…thank you. It feels good to know people were reading regularly.

Now that I’m starting to get back into some sort of work/life pattern again, I really want to take back up the digital pen and continue to write about one of my favorite past times: movies. I’d like to go back at some point and review a couple movies from the last couple months as well: Infinity War, A Quiet Place…so stay tuned. OK. Enough of all that. Review time.

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Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a huge Star Wars fan. While I was too young to catch the original trilogy in theaters, I did grow up watching them repeatedly on TV and VHS…whatever that is. Those 3 movies and characters were and still are larger than life to me, as they are with so many fans. Honestly, there hasn’t been a single Star Wars movie I haven’t looked forward to coming out…that is until the first trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story was released.

Was anyone actually asking for a stand alone Han Solo movie? It didn’t seem like it. Sure, it would be nice to watch a younger Han get his start in the scoundrel business, but there’s always been one obvious problem. Harrison Ford IS Han Solo. Even though he’s too old to play a younger Han, most fans wouldn’t even think of casting someone else to play him. In today’s movie world it would be like trying to replace Robert Downey Jr as Iron-Man or Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. It’s one of those nightmare situations where no matter who it is, there’s no way to make everyone happy.

Usually, I don’t play the part of the angry fanboy, but the first time I saw Alden Ehrenreich as the young Han Solo…it just didn’t work for me. I felt like I was watching someone imitating Harrison Ford, dressed in a Han Solo cosplay; a terrific looking one mind you, but a cosplay all the same. For the first time in my life, I was looking at a Star Wars movie that I wasn’t excited for. There was even a little anxiety, because no matter how bad it was I knew I was still going to see the new Star Wars.

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That’s exactly what Disney was banking on. There certainly have been controversial Star Wars movies in the past, but they still always make a crap ton of money regardless of how much people like them. However, after movie goers were essentially split on whether or not they enjoyed The Last Jedi, people are less likely to go running out to the next Star Wars unless they know beyond a shadow of a doubt they’ll get what they want.

Unfortunately, after the first 3 weekends in theaters, the box office numbers for Solo have solidified that notion; currently having only brought in roughly $280 million on a production cost of $250 million (not including the millions more spent on promotion). Compare that to Rogue One, which made $150 million opening weekend alone and eventually raked in well over $1 billion. Solo: A Star Wars Story will most likely finish it’s run as the worst performing film in the history of the franchise (Unless you count the infamous 1978 TV Christmas special).

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So Solo isn’t doing all that great. Is the movie really that bad though? I went into the theater with extremely low expectations…similar to how someone knows they’re about to see a horrific accident: part of you doesn’t want to watch the carnage unfold, but you just can’t help yourself.

In reality, it wasn’t anywhere near that level. It’s true that it doesn’t quite have the same magic as the main movies, and I think casual fans of Star Wars (who don’t get caught up in comparing Ehrenreich to Ford) will have a better time with this movie. Hopefully, this financial shortfall will cause Disney to slow down a bit and really ensure the quality is there before churning out the next one.

However, if you can force yourself to put your fanboy/girl feelings aside, it’s actually a fairly enjoyable and entertaining movie (despite its issues). This will never be high on anyone’s list of favorite Star Wars movies, but it is a fun sci-fi space heist movie. Even if it is a little too predictable, Solo does a respectable job handling the backstory of one of cinema’s most iconic characters.

The Good.

Solid supporting characters. I must admit that I audibly laughed out loud when I saw that Woody Harrelson had made it into a Star Wars movie. For whatever reason, it’s hard for me to take him seriously outside of the comedy genre. His personality and acting style actually fit in quite well as the smuggler Tobias Beckett. I loved every time he twirled his blasters like a wild west gunslinger. It was a nice touch that added to the space-western theme they were going for and actually made me wish Han had picked up just a little of that with his own blaster skills.

After binge watching the terrific show West World, it was great seeing Thandie Newton with a small role in the movie as well. I wish it had been a slightly larger role though as the movie definitely could have benefited from more of her badassery (Side note: if you haven’t seen West World you should check it out as it’s a superb show).

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Emilia Clarke excels as Qi’ra. Since she is a new addition to the Star Wars universe, I was convinced Qi’ra was destined for a stereotypical death as Han’s first love interest. I was excited to learn that not only was I wrong, but I also enjoyed how her character evolved over the course of the movie. She actually is one of the most interesting characters to watch, and I want to see how she evolves further after the events of this film. She also throws a bit of precedence on why Han falls for Princess Leia. Apparently, he has a thing for strong women (I mean, who doesn’t?).

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Donald Glover was spot on as the young Lando Calrissian. Unlike Ehrenreich’s portrayal of Han, I felt like Glover’s voice and mannerisms were uncanny as a younger Lando. It was very believable. I heard beforehand several people talk about him as one of the best parts of the movie, and honestly I’d have to agree. Also, I never imagined Lando having an entire closet of nothing but capes, but now I’m not going to be able to watch The Empire Strikes Back without it in the back of my mind.

Chewie is Chewie; and that is exactly what I wanted. Joonas Suotamo has been playing Chewbacca the last couple movies due to original actor, Peter Mayhew becoming unable to physically continue in the role as he gets older. Probably the best compliment I can give to Suotamo is you can’t tell it’s not Mayhew. Chewbacca has always been my favorite character in the Star Wars universe, and every scene he was in here was perfect. The scene where Han and Chewie meet for the first time was entertaining, and I had a child-like smile on my face watching their lifelong friendship take shape.

Han’s backstory was fairly interesting. Keep in mind this is coming from someone who hasn’t read much of what has been dubbed the Star Wars “Expanded Universe”, such as novels or comics, but I thought Han’s backstory was handled better than expected. With such an iconic character, there’s no way to make everyone happy, but for the most part Ron Howard and the writers did him justice. From his last name to how he gains his hatred for the Empire and meets Chewie and Lando; I was happy with it overall. The only exception to that is maybe the famous Kessel run (the one Han made in 12 parsecs). The movie is nowhere close to what I had always imagined, and I feel like it could have been done much better.

An unexpected cameo (what an understatement!). There is a cameo 2/3rds of the way into the movie that has been a little controversial. Some have hated it, however I loved it and almost jumped up in the theater with excitement. I’m pretty sure I did yell “WHAT!?” with a huge smile on my face. I won’t say who it was, but it’s definitely a character I’ve always felt was spectacularly under-utilized in the films, and I hope we see more of them in an inevitable future movie.

The Meh.

Alden Ehrenreich isn’t bad, but he also doesn’t make it past “adequate.” However, I don’t think that’s his fault; he literally did the best he could. He definitely grew on me as the movie progressed, but only to the point where I just accepted the fact he was there. Unlike Glover, there was never a point I truly believed I was watching the young Han in action, but I think he’s the best we’re going to get. I’m very curious what people in their early 20’s think of the actor choice, who maybe had something other than original trilogy as their first exposure to Star Wars. My guess is that maybe a large percentage have no issues at all with him and those of us who saw the original trilogy first just need to take off the nostalgia goggles. Feel free to let me know what you think!
This isn’t the droid I was looking for. A lot of people apparently love L3, the new droid in this movie, but she felt forced in order to keep the status quo of having a droid in every Star Wars movie. Not only was the personality too over the top for me, but she sounded a little too much like Gwendoline Christe which was extremely distracting since I didn’t know who was actually voicing the character (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Christe played Captain Phasma in the last 2 Star Wars movies, but is know primarily for her role as Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones. I think this movie would have been just fine droid-less; we don’t need a new one every time.

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The Bad

Not enough lighting? I know what you’re thinking; if “lighting” is the first thing in the “bad” category then maybe I’m being a little ridiculous? Just hear me out. There were too many scenes that were covered in grey or shadows. Maybe I’m just starting to get old, but I was squinting to see what was going on the first 30 mins of the movie, and half of the rest of the movie left me thinking it would have been more interesting with just a little more light and color. Despite it being a spin off movie, this is still a space opera in a galaxy far far away, isn’t it? Why are 90% of the shots of the sky a dull grey? I wanted to see more colors. Check out how bland the picture below is. It just all mixes together into a boring mess:

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A lack-luster villain. Solo definitely struggles in the villain department. The big bad of the movie is supposed to be Paul Bettany’s gangster boss Dryden Voss. Bettany is a talented actor, but the character the way he was written is underwhelming. Actually, there’s a good portion of the movie’s interactions with Voss that felt…familiar. I couldn’t put my finger on it until recently. If you’ve never seen the TV space-western, Firefly, check out episode 2: “The Train Job.” Without giving anything away, I’m actually disappointed with how many similarities there are between Voss and the crime boss Niska of that episode. The ironic part is the show’s hero, Malcolm Reynolds is actually an archetype of Han Solo. With a movie this big coming out of a mega studio like Disney, you have to be more creative than that.

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Disney’s creative coincidences?? Speaking of sounding familiar, Solo has been plagued by accusations of creative theft. In addition to that, I made another promotional art similarity myself. Regal Cinemas was offering collectable cups with official artwork for the movie, and I couldn’t help but notice something I had seen before for the upcoming western video game Red Dead Redemption. You be the judge:

Final Verdict


Cinematic Quality: 6.9 out of 10

  • Most of the CGI was well done
  • Some scenes were a little too bland or dark, visually
  • Alden Ehrenrich does as well as can be expected with the iconic Star Wars character
  • Solid supporting cast
  • Be more creative, Disney!

Fun Factor: 6.5 out of 10

  • Entertaining to watch Han and Chewie’s origins
  • Villain and heist plot needed to be more creative and intimidating.

Worth the price of admission: 6.5 out of 10

  • See it in the theaters if you’re a Star Wars fan.
  • Meant to be viewed on the big screen, but if your money is tight, go see Infinity War instead and wait for Netflix.

Re-watch Value: 6.5 out of 10

  • Worth watching again, but this won’t be your first choice when you’re in the mood to watch a Star Wars movie.

Overall Score – 6.6 scruffy looking nerf herders out of 10