'Solo: A Star Wars Story' review: Donald Glover is the reason to see this movie

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Remind me why this movie needed to be made again?

Solo: A Star Wars Story — the origin story that nobody out there except Kathleen Kennedy was asking for.

Well, I’m sure Phil Lord and Chris Miller were asking for it at one point too, but that didn’t wind up working out so well.

There was a lot working against Solo: A Star Wars Story leading up to its release. The Last Jedi backlash aside (which y’all are still wrong about, Last Jedi is the best Disney Star Wars movie yet), Solo wasn’t getting bad press in production when Kennedy fired Lord and Miller from the set, despite there only being two weeks of principal photograph left, and replaced them with Ron Howard.

The rumors that then followed didn’t help. People began comparing Solo to Ace Ventura (which I’m still so curious as to what that cut looked like) and reports about Alden Ehrenreich began to flood the internet.

It also didn’t help that a lot of people out there didn’t even want a Han Solo origin story in the first place. The great thing about Han Solo in A New Hope was that he was this mysterious scoundrel who didn’t need a lot of backstory exposition. He was cool simply because he was cool, not because we knew the story of how he became cool.

To Disney’s credit, they worked hard at changing Solo’s word of mouth prior to its release. The feature trailer they released was a good one and premiering at Cannes was a risky move that showed they had faith in their film.

Too bad none of it was enough to save Solo: A Star Wars Story. Sometimes when there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
credit: YouTube

Like Rogue One, the film is set sometime in-between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Han Solo is not yet the wise-cracking smuggler that we meet in episode four, but rather he’s a wise-cracking prisoner turned soldier turned trainee turned pilot who then becomes a smuggler. The whole thing is really a lot more convoluted then it needed to be.

Without going into any spoiler-y details, Solo: A Star Wars Story basically shows how Han became the character we have come to know him as. That means we’re shown things like how he won the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), how he first met and started hanging out with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), where he got his nifty blaster and even how he got the last name ‘Solo.’

Yeah, we’re given that much backstory, and no, none of it is the slightest bit necessary.

There are some new people introduced too — Beckett (Woody Harrelson) is a senior smuggler who takes Han under his wing and Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) is the love interest whom Han is trying to free, as she’s forced to serve an overlord named Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).

Solo: A Star Wars Story
credit: YouTube

Before we get to all of that, let’s focus on the positive aspects first, because there are two things/characters who really stand out: Lando and Chewbacca.

Whoever decided to cast Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian deserves a raise. Scratch that, that person should probably just get full on directing credit for the movie since we know that Kennedy has no problem with kicking people out at the last minute.

In all seriousness, Glover’s charm is the most infectious thing about Solo: A Star Wars Story. Not only does he perfectly embody Billy Dee Williams, but he’s so energetic that he lights up the screen whenever he comes into frame. The best parts of the movie — or rather, the moments that felt the most like Star Wars — were just when it was Lando and Han, sitting at a table and playing cards, trading insults back and forth.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
credit: YouTube

As for Chewbacca, he’s always been a fun addition to the previous Star Wars movies, but nobody’s really ever given him a lot to do except stand in the background and make Wookie noises. This time, however, Chewbacca is more than just a sound-effect. His character is actually given a story and it’s one that not only functions well in this movie but adds some more dramatic weight to the later Star Wars movies.

I wish I could say the same about Alden Ehrenreich. I don’t want to go too hard on him, because the task he was given was an impossible one. No one out there could possibly live up to Harrison Ford. In fact, I feel slightly bad for him, just because there had to be so much pressure that was put on him to try and live up to that bar.

That being said, he really doesn’t come anywhere close. There are a couple times when you can look at what he’s doing and sort of, kind of see how it’s supposed to be Ford, but it mostly just feels like a completely different character — and I’d bet you can guess which actor does it better.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
credit: YouTube

That’s not the main problem I have with Solo: A Star Wars Story though — the real issue is that I can’t think of a single reason for this movie to exist.

I don’t need to see how and why Han picked the last name Solo. I don’t need to see the origin story of when he got his blaster, or how he picked up his ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this’ catchline. The best prequels are the ones that actually have something to add to their characters, rather than just explaining the people they eventually become. In explaining so much about Han Solo, that cloud of mystery that surrounds him is suddenly gone and instead we have a backstory that doesn’t live up to what we had envisioned.

The biggest embodiment of this idea, I think, is the Kessel run.

The Kessel run is something they’ve been teasing in Star Wars movies since A New Hope. It’s a joke that keeps coming back, yet never fully explained, which is great because we don’t need to know how the whole thing operates.

Now, the joke is completely ruined. We’ve seen what happened during the Kessel run and, surprise, it’s not nearly as cool or exciting as we all imagined it was in our heads. Now, whenever someone brings it up, we’re just going to think back to this mediocre, overly CGI-ed action scene instead of chuckling to ourselves.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
credit: YouTube

Most of the new characters didn’t do all that much to impress me either. Harrelson tries to make the role fun — and for the first act, when he’s surrounded by Thandie Newton and a CGI character voiced by Jon Favreau, it actually is — he can’t save the movie. The new droid in this one is nothing but annoying one-liners that seem a little in poor taste and Paul Bettany is given absolutely nothing to do as the antagonist. I’m pretty sure he’s only in, like, two scenes and leaves no presence whatsoever when he’s not there.

As for Emilia Clarke, she does what she can. It doesn’t help that you never buy the connection between her and Han — given that it was only set-up in the first five minutes of the movie and then doesn’t return to the midpoint — but she’s at least trying.

Those first five minutes though — hoo boy, they’re rough. There’s one moment that felt like an Evil Dead film rather than a Star Wars one. I don’t remember the last time I was sucked out of a movie that quickly.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
credit: YouTube

Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t a terrible, unwatchable film. There are entertaining aspects about it and, every so often, we get a quick glimpse of that sci-fi western they were aiming for. Most of the ride, however, misses that mark. Solo never is able to come up with a compelling argument for why this movie exists, as it’s essentially just here to remind you what you liked about the original trilogy.

Let’s just let cool character nuisances be cool character nuisances and not give so much exposition to things that it taints the whole experience.

That’s just my opinion though, maybe you feel a completely different way. Watch the trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story here and then tell me what you thought in the comments below! Unless you’re going to be mean. Go be mean somewhere else.

'Solo: A Star Wars Story' review: Donald Glover is the reason to see this movie
  • 'Solo: A Star Wars Story' review: Donald Glover is the reason to see this movie
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Brandon Schreur

The fella over there with the hella good hair. Movies and TV are my jam, and the fact that I get to write about them on a regular basis is the bees knees.