Han Solo is one of the most unique characters in the Star Wars universe. As his last name implies, he’s a loner who plays by his own rules and follows his own instincts. Unlike the previous series standalone Rogue One (which focused on the mission to steal the Death Star plans and immediately preceded A New Hope), the goal of the new film Solo: A Star Wars Story is simply to introduce Solo’s back story.
Because Solo’s history was only hinted at in the original Star Wars series, the filmmakers had more leeway here to present their own story.
That’s exactly what the filmmakers do and the film works as a solid piece of entertainment because of it.
Alden Ehrenreich stars as the title character and we see him as a young renegade growing up in a hostile world. Even from an early age, he was fighting for his personal independence and the film shows how he found his own way. Ehrenreich brings the youthful character to life, providing the charm and mischievousness that made Han Solo stand out.
As the plot develops and Solo escapes from his home planet, he goes on a set of adventures that pit him against him against con artists and imperial forces. It’s during this series of adventures that we witness his early connection with Chewbecca (Joonas Suotamo) and his budding friendship with Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Part of the excitement here is to see how these characters bonded early on and there are a few fun surprises along the way.
There are also a slew of new characters including Solo’s longtime friend Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) and Beckett (Woody Harrelson), a thief who begrudgingly brings Solo onto a mission with him.
The screenplay by Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan (a father and son team) is exciting enough. Solo’s adventures eventually show the title character working to pull off a heist alongside Qi'ra and Beckett. The film has its action-packed moments but its breezy style doesn’t offer the same kind of grand excitement found in many of the previous Star Wars films. This isn’t a large story about the rebellion facing off against the Empire. It’s more of a personal story and because of that, it lacks some of the dramatic weight of some of the former installments.
Additionally, none of the newer characters make a great mark in this long-running series. Qi’ra, for instance, is missing for large parts of the story. When she’s onscreen, she has some great scenes with Solo but she’s never given the character development to really stand out. The same goes for Beckett and some of Beckett’s closest allies.
The only new standout character is the sarcastic droid L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge). This droid is bursting with personality and her arc really carries an emotional weight that is missing from some of the other plot developments.
Despite some forgettable characters and a lack of great excitement, this feature offers a lot of fun. Directed by Ron Howard (who did a solid job here after the original directors were terminated), this standalone story does oftentimes feel separated from the original series. With that in mind, it might appeal to adventure seekers who aren’t as versed in the entire Star Wars series. For fans though, this story is satisfying enough but one only wishes that the movie offered a bit more.