Solo: Spoiler-Free Review

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Walking into the cinema, I expected to see Ocean’s Eleven with blasters. What I got was Star Wars.

I won’t lie. Han Solo has never been among the characters that fascinated me the most. Also, action movies with car chase and bank robberies are not my favourite genre. Yet Solo turned out to be, in some strange way, the most satisfying of the new films. Probably because it wasn’t aiming for anything high and it managed to deliver what it promised: a Star Wars adventure, nothing more, nothing less.

it managed to deliver what it promised: a Star Wars adventure, nothing more, nothing less.

Let’s not waste precious time and cut to the chase. What is Solo about? It’s a journey into the youth of the famous smuggler, his first steps from the sewers of Corellia up towards the life of crime, about his meeting with Chewbacca, his first encounter with Lando and with his future ship, the Millenium Falcon. It’s an adventure that takes place in the galaxy in which, under the rule of the Empire, corruption and crime thrive on the fringes of the society. And it’s a classic story of a somewhat idealistic young scoundrel becoming the bitter smuggler we all know.

The Plot

The plot is what you would expect from a basic action adventure. Nothing very surprising and no real depth. We get to learn about Han’s past exactly the way we all expected. It has to be said that the film is well-paced and the action just keeps moving it on. It keeps you entertained.

atmosphere is similar to Rogue One, but Rogue One is grittier and darker. Solo is an adventure.

That’s one thing I should probably stress more than once. The very beginning of the story instantly pulls you in. And that’s a mark of something done right, isn’t it?

The setup – including the action and atmosphere – feels like Star Wars, despite the lack of Jedi and the Force. The atmosphere is similar to Rogue One, but Rogue One is grittier and darker. Solo is an adventure.

There are a few hiccups in the plotline and several logical inconsistencies. But compared to probably 90% of sci-fi and superhero films that you might have seen in the recent years, they are quite minor. In any case, there are no actual plot holes. (There is only one instance I can think of that might potentially confuse the audience, but that one has an extra-film explanation in the Star Wars universe and has practically zero bearing on Solo‘s plot.)

 

The Crew

Just like the plot, the characters aren’t very complex, either. They are a tiny bit deeper than in your shallowest B-class movie, but they still cling pretty close to the archetypes. What you may have caught about them based on officially released info is not much less than what you’ll get.

the film is not trying to constantly remind us that this is Harrison Ford’s character.

That isn’t to say that they are bad. In fact, I would like to say that they are good, given the circumstances. One example for all. You have watched the trailers? What do you imagine Emilia Clarke’s character is like? Imagining the worst clichés? Good – if you are, then you can be only pleasantly surprised, because it is not as bad. No need to expect miracles, but I must say none of the most cringe-worthy horror scenarios I imagined did come true.

And now for the most important piece: Han. I never believed someone would be able to convincingly portray Harrison Ford. Well, turns out Alden Ehrenreich doesn’t. But the way he “doesn’t” is a way that doesn’t disturb us. Most of the time, the story feels like he could be a young, green version of Han. And I appreciate that the film is not constantly trying to remind us that this is Harrison Ford’s character. Only every fifteen or so minutes, almost as an afterthought, I remembered “hey, this is the same Han who does XY in the other films. Cool.” But most of the time, the film just kept my mind on the here and now. And that was good.

Regarding the other actors’ performance, I can say I was satisfied. If Alden Ehrenreich’s Han is his own person, then on the contrary, Donald Glover’s Lando is a perfect Lando the way we know him, down to the smallest detail. Emilia Clarke also positively surprised me with her performance, especially when it came to her interactions with Han, which felt very natural. I still think the film could have introduced a new, less known actress instead of her (and generally, the trend of casting over 30-year olds as barely 20-year olds has to stop), but she did her best.

Respect for Star Wars Lore

There is one more thing that deserves to be mentioned. I have said that Solo is Star Wars in atmosphere, but it is Star Wars also on the level that it respects extra-film sources. At the same time, it doesn’t spam the references! But Corellia, Kessel, and several other important places and even a handful of characters are mentioned (or appear) in the film. It’s a detail, but a welcome one.

treats the extra-film canon with respect, grounding it more firmly in the universe

On top of everything, the film confirms one major event that has happened outside the movies, and that is the first instance, to my knowledge, of something similar being done. If someone at Disney/Lucasfilm has finally realised that stating there is a canon also requires acting on it, good. I am not judging this particular choice of piece of lore to be included, but it is an important move to acknowledge the nerdy fans who like to dig deep into the lore and memorise names of different planets and learn characters’ background. What good would it do if these were just an afterthought in some encyclopedia and nobody would ever mention them on-screen. I would like to see Solo as a statement that says “Yes, we care” – better late than never.

The Verdict

Overall, Solo feels like Star Wars. It’s an adventure from a Galaxy Far, Far Away that isn’t trying to pretend it’s more than it is. It is also the first film that treats the extra-film canon with respect, and so grounding it more firmly in the universe of Star Wars.

There were two or three hiccups in its plot, one or two scenes that may have been cut shorter. A few minor tweaks to the behavior of a minor character or three. But overall, it’s an entertaining, simple and straightforward adventure.

Solo is not going to become an icon of the Star Wars saga, but it is exactly what you ‘d expect from a supplemental story. Maybe that’s where it has (together with Rogue One) an advantage over episodes VII and VIII, because it doesn’t aspire on having such depth, and whoever doesn’t like it can easily forget its existence. For myself, I think I might want to remember that it exists and watch it for entertainment.

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Rostislav Kurka
Rostislav is a Protestant theologian and a self-trained Sith, counting Jan Hus, Dorothee Sölle, Darth Revan and Darth Traya among his main influences. He hails from the hundred-towered city of Prague, where he had spent a large part of his life creating worlds and inspiring young generations to roleplay. His involvement in organising children's camps led him to accidentally writing a Lord of the Rings musical, which made him temporarily famous, and a Three Musketeer-Jedi fanfilm, which didn't. He has recently moved to the frozen waste of Finland, because that's it, the Rebels are there.