Hello all, Mad Dashiell here and thanks for joining me today and welcome to my SOLO review.
I am going to talk about things we know already about the character while still touching on things that happen in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY without Spoilers. Whether you grew up being a fan of Han Solo or this is going to be your gateway to the character, I think you could walk into this film without seeing a single STAR WARS film prior and enjoy a great time at the movies. SOLO has none of the irreverence or introspective nature that THE LAST JEDI offered. Watching SOLO takes viewers through a checklist of Han Solo mythology that is lovingly scrutinized in a way longtime fans will enjoy seeing checked off one by one in each faithful reference.
What do we know about Han Solo?
-Han shoots first.
Yes, and we learn how he came to understand this vital survival instinct.
-He made the Kessel Run in fourteen parsecs.
Well, if you round down, but we see Han use the Kessel Run for his hyperspace getaway of smuggled goods and yes it is an exciting spectacle to behold.
-What do we expect from young Han?
First off, the trademark Harrison Ford smirk. The first few smirks into the film from Alden Ehrenreich I have to admit wasn't that impressed by. But It was pretty soon afterward that I began to feel like I was looking at young Han himself. Not just in each smirk or his brimming confidence but Han the scoundrel smuggler that he is, can't help but do things that make him one of the most likable characters in the STAR WARS galaxy. That's what makes Han who he is, he always just wants to cut and run with the money while the getting is good but instead gets pulled into 'fighting the good fight'. This film follows Han's humble rise from street urchin of Corellia to the piratical galactic smuggler that we know.
We are given a glimpse at Corellia, Han's homeworld. We see the twilight of Han's naivety with his childhood love Qi'ra played by Emilia Clarke(Daenerys Targaryen of GOT). Here is one point of the film some might feel that Han is a bit too sweet and carefree to have survived this long on the streets of Corellia. But I feel like the film had a moral compass of its own that wanted to keep refocusing on how Han is really a good guy at heart. For readers that would like to find out more about the planet Corellia, there is also a trilogy of books for you to read. Roger MacBride Allen expanded on the Solo's homeworld in his 1995 series The Corellia Trilogy with events post RETURN OF THE JEDI. Solo's homeworld was briefly mentioned in the 1977 classic film as well. The planet is a crumbling dystopia that offers a way out of the industrial cesspool through enlisting to serve in the Empire.
Han has to make the best of a bad situation after a double-crossing a crime-lord so he ends up joining the Empire's Navy. He serves three years and the battlefront scenes are amazing but if you blink you will miss it. His meeting of Chewbacca was fitting and clever. It reminded me of Raimi's ARMY OF DARKNESS scene with Ash in the pit fighting the deadite with a lighthearted twist. One of the best parts of the film is seeing the friendship between Han and Chewy unfold.
After teaming up with the Wookie, the two get accepted into a group of smugglers. This is where Woody Harrelson's character is introduced. Harrelson is one of those actors that will act his ass off while other actors in scenes with him tend to stand in his shadow classically. Not in this film, forgettable smirks and gunslinging aside, the only rememberable moment is when he assembles Han's iconic scoped blaster and hands it to him. That said it's Woody and I still really like the scoundrel he plays. There are some other unforgettable moments with Han's mentor but I will avoid them due to spoilers, speaking of which I will have to start glazing over some major plot points to remain spoiler free.
Woody becomes Solo's criminal mentor alongside his motley crew of bandits. Thandie Newton of WESTWORLD plays Harrelson's partner in crime and delivers an extremely likable performance as you would expect from her. Some characters are introduced and die relatively soon and some viewers might say you did not get to feel anything for the characters lost but that's the life as a smuggler it seems. Events keep going against Solo's favor and he gets pulled into doing a fool's errand for Dryden Vos. Vos is the figurehead of the criminal underbelly known as the Crimson Down that Qi'ra is enslaved to. Dryden Vos is portrayed by Paul Bettany who delivers a convinceable dangerous big-shot gangster that makes Han's life a living hell. Han will have to defy all the odds to be able to meet Vos's demands and still come out of this alive, let alone on top.
-What do we know about Lando Calrissian?
We knew Lando was a prince that oversees the cloud city Bespin's gas mining operations. We knew he thought enough of his old buddy Lando Calrissian(Billy Dee Williams) to go and ask him for help in EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Lando, a former smuggler, and scoundrel himself welcome his old friend Han to Cloud City and we remember that all good intentions aside Lando looks out for himself in times for fight or flight. We also might remember that Lando debated Han on who the true owner of the Millennium Falcon truly was. We get to see the events play out leading to Han winning the Millennium Falcon in a game of Sabacc.
-How was Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian?
Remember what I said earlier about it taking a few seconds to start to feel like Ehrenreich was young Han. Well, that didn't happen with Glover. He hits the ground running at light speed submitting a rememberable solid performance the whole way through. I am looking forward to seeing what Disney will do with him in the future. When it comes to the idea of Glover doing a stand-alone Lando film, I'm all in!
Phoebe Waller-bridge is the voice of Lando's copilot, L3-37, a robot that finds its true purpose fighting to abolish mechanical slavery. The robot feels like a hybrid of R2D2 and C3P0 jumbled together with a sassy fembot edge. Some will love it, others will despise it. There is an interesting level to L3-37 and Lando's relationship that to some they may think transcends normal if you over think it. I get that aside from ROGUE ONE, droids in STAR WARS tend to be kind of the comedy relief and L3-37 is certainly no exception to that rule Lucas set in stone.
As a massive fan of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK I would like to point out how happy I was that Laurence Kasdan was back in the writer's seat and this time with his son Jonathan Kasdan by his side. When I originally watched EMPIRE, or RETURN OF THE JEDI, or FORCE AWAKENS and LAST JEDI in theaters I did not really know what would happen, Especially after EMPIRE. I felt when I was watching Star Wars episodes one through three we the audience and longtime followers of the STAR WARS franchise already knew most of what was going to happen. I feel the Kasdan's did the best they could with what they had to do.
I'm going to also mention that a lot of the characters motivations in SOLO seemed telegraphable, but aren't most scoundrels? The main body of characters in this film are exactly that. This takes something away from the spectacle however that I did not feel when watching THE FORCE AWAKENS and I knew some characters would probably not make it out alive but I only felt like I had a small clue what would happen in ROGUE ONE. Fans hungry for something fresh and not nostalgic might have a hard time with SOLO, but realistically you can't do a STAR WARS backstory without treading deep in the sentimental soil. Still, on that note, I believe Ron Howard did a faithful job of rendering what longtime fans like me have been daydreaming about for decades. Not an easy job to tackle, no matter the odds but Ron Howard took his shot and made his mark in the STAR WARS galaxy with a strong reverence for fans old and new to enjoy through the ages.
-Thanks again for joining me today, let me know your thoughts in the talkback feed below. Well, this is Mad Dashiell signing off.
Art Credit: Dulce Brassea