Disney purchasing a Star Wars franchise from George Lucas could have been a glorious thing. Most fans were excited when they announced a new trilogy was in the works but the end result was a film that felt like it paled in comparison to the original trilogy and Disney vowed to keep the franchise running not simply with sequels but spinoff films. Rogue One wasn’t really a bad inclusion and filled in the backstory prior to A New Hope but then someone came up with the idea that characters needed their own spinoffs to tell more of their story.
Solo: A Star Wars Story fill sin some of the history of everyone’s favorite smuggler Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) which begins on the planet Corellia where Han and his lover Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) have been working with a local gang to survive but their plans are to leave with the hyperspace fuel, coaxium, they have stolen. Their plan however doesn’t work out as planned with Qi’ra is captured by the gang while they try and bribe their way onto a transport. To elude capture Han joins the Imperial Navy in hopes of becoming a pilot and making his way back for Qi’ra.
Three years later while deployed, Han is branded a deserter and thrown into a pit with the “beast” whom the Imperials believe will devour him. Han soon learns that the creature is a Wookie, Chewbacca, and convinces him to help them escape. Once free, the two find Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), a criminal whom Han met earlier and manages to join his crew on a mission to steal a large supply of coaxium. The mission goes bad however and leaves Becket in a position to explain his failure to Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), the crime lord who hired him. Han manages to strike a deal with Dryden to steal raw coaxium but first they will need a ship which leads him to try and win a certain ship from Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) before they can leave for Kessel.
While Han Solo may have given a few tidbits of information regarding his colorful past during the course of the original trilogy, I’ve personally felt that keeping some of these things simply as a mystery is what worked best for the character. A few things have been detailed over the years in various Star Wars novels and although Disney decided upon purchase of the franchise that most of these no longer applied, there are a few things which have stayed. In particular Han joining the Imperial Navy as well as him saving Chewbacca from the Empire make their way into the film. Disney may have promised a new movie in the off years between new trilogy sequels but as it stands right now, Solo is now the final movie in that plan. The reason is quite simple and that is that the fans in general have revolted against these movies.
Solo itself isn’t necessarily a bad movie, but it’s also one that honestly doesn’t feel essential to the Star Wars brand. The franchise could have done just as well without a film of this nature and for some, they are still upset about having Solo killed during The Force Awakens. The bigger issue however is that Han Solo is a slightly different type of character when put up against other movie heroes. There have been plenty of actors who have played James Bond, Batman, Spider-Man, and a number of others and even a character such as Mad Max actually didn’t do as badly as anticipated when a new actor stepped into the role. Han Solo is different and while Ehrenreich doesn’t do terribly, he just never feels like he manages to capture the same spirit that Harrison Ford brought to the character. He lacks that cocky demeanor and cynical delivery which Ford did wonderfully in the trilogy. Glover ends up being the one who feels right for the role and really manages to recapture the magic that Billy Dee Williams gave to Lando.
Ultimately however, Solo become little more than a heist movie set within the Star Wars universe. Although there may be some familiar things outside of the main characters, it’s not necessarily enough to make it terribly compelling. Trying to reveal the past of Han Solo utterly destroy the mystique of the characters much in the same way that Marvel Comics did when they finally decided to explore the origins of one of their most popular mutants; Wolverine. If you take away the Stormtroopers and nods to other things within the Star Wars universe the film could be set in just about any setting and the fact that we know Han Solo appears later in the Star Wars setting also really destroys any tension. Regardless of what type of precarious situations he’s thrown into, there really is no true sense of danger. Even bringing Qi’ra back into the mix doesn’t do much to change things. She feels more like that necessary love interest that Hollywood feels needs to be a part of every movie and it’s another wasted inclusion as fans already know that down the road he ends up with Leia, even if for a brief period of time.
Star Wars of course is also all about droids and recently the newer movies have focused on trying to introduce a number of new names to that list. The new trilogy brought us BB-8 while Rogue One showcased K-2SO. BB-8 may have become the equivalent, at least to some, of what R2-D2 and C-3PO were to the original trilogy, but the other droids haven’t faired nearly as well. Solo brings us L3-37, a droid which works with Lando. What sets this droid apart from others is that she’s all about the equal rights of droids and is set on liberating those who are oppressed. There are some who have taken this as Star Wars trying to politicize itself and to some degree it is, but I didn’t find it as bad as what I expected. The idea of robots with artificial intelligence eventually learning to think for themselves and become sentient thus leading them to a path where they want freedom of their own has been a part of many science fiction story so it’s not really out of place in the Star Wars universe.
The only thing that I found truly interesting was the last few moments of the film. Once everything has wrapped up and Han shows that he’s really not the bad guy he likes to pretend he is (something else which really comes as no surprise), we discover that the criminal syndicate that everyone has been beholden to has a high authority they answer to. That person is none other than Darth Maul. Those who have only followed the film may believe that he was killed in The Phantom Menace however the additional media in fact had him survive. He even shows up in a few episodes of Star Wars: Rebels before ultimately meeting his fate however there is a gap of time in-between the Maul seen in Solo and the one in Rebels which perhaps will never be answered. Disney has decided to cancel their standalone films which may not necessarily be a bad thing. This may leave some unanswered questions in Solo, it also means that seeing movies such as Boba Fett or Kenobi is going to be little more than a promise unfulfilled.
As with all of the Star Wars theatrical films on blu-ray, this release has a wealth of bonus features which are all found on a second disc in the set as well as a code for the digital version of the movie. As per the press release the extra features include:
- Solo: The Director & Cast Roundtable
Sit down with director Ron Howard and the stars for an intimate and entertaining discussion of the film’s making.
- Team Chewie
See what it takes to bring your favorite Wookiee to life in this lighthearted look behind the scenes.
- Kasdan on Kasdan
Iconic Star Wars screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and son Jonathan share what it was like to write the movie’s script together.
- Remaking the Millennium Falcon
Track the transformation of the most famous ship in the galaxy, from Lando’s swank and impeccable pride and joy to Han’s stripped-down hot-rod freighter with “special modifications.”
- Escape from Corellia
Get behind the wheel for the making of this high-octane chase through the streets of Corellia.
- The Train Heist
Explore the challenges and thrills of creating this action-packed sequence, including its remote location and spectacular effects.
- Becoming a Droid: L3-37
Meet the newest droid—and the talented actor who helps bring her to life.
- Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures and Cards: Welcome to Fort Ypso
Take an in-depth tour of the rough-and-tumble bar where strangers mix and gamblers risk all in the legendary card game, Sabaac.
- Into the Maelstrom: The Kessel Run
Join Han and Chewie at the controls of the Millennium Falcon to see how this legendary moment in Star Wars history unfolds.
- Deleted Scenes
- The Millenium Falcon: From Page to Park – An exclusive look at the history of the most famous ship in the galaxy, its origin and development, and how it will translate in one of the most anticipated expansions in Disneyland’s history.
Solo could have been a far worse film, but it certainly could have been drastically better as well. Again, I don’t feel that expanding the origins of the characters is truly necessary for the series. Han Solo is perhaps one of the most popular characters in the Star Wars universe and leaving some parts of his life a mystery adds a great deal of intrigue to the character. There are a number of ways that Star Wars could have been expanded beyond using already established characters much like Rogue One did. Considering Han’s unceremonious death in The Force Awakens, this film would have been drastically better if they would have brought Harrison Ford in, not to play the younger version of Han, but rather had him narrating his own story, perhaps even over embellishing what really happen and that feels more in line with what we know about Han Solo. It’s not one of the better Star Wars films, but it’s not one of the worse either.
Mike is the resident reviewer for Couponing to Disney and his own site Underland Online. He has a toddler daughter and is obsessed with Haunted Mansion and all things Disney. You can read Mike’s complete bio here.