Solo is a lot of fun and it’s the Star Wars movie we need right now. The franchise has become too personal. Too precious. Too elevated to an unrealistic pedestal to maintain. It’s messy, muddy, and light. It does some fan service and it subverts the easy road at a few moments, which keeps the audience on its toes. The fact that Ron Howard’s film is merely “good” and most likely not a box office juggernaut may ease a little of the unfair weight bestowed upon the franchise. Star Wars is too vast and diverse a cinematic universe to be restrained by formula. Solo, despite its weaknesses, is a charming addition to the canon.
Of course, there’s no way to review it as a normal film because emotion and fan ownership covers the Star Wars world like a blanket. The Last Jedi is proof of this; a wonderful and bold film that brought out the best and worst in a fandom that doesn’t realize how lucky it is.
Conceptually, the idea of a prequel to hallowed material is a bad one. There's plenty of evidence of this. Even Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was at its best when it didn't try and shoehorn familiar characters and moments. Han Solo's origin story is one that doesn't need telling. With that in mind the goal of a review is to review what is and not what the reviewer wishes for.
After a very shaky first fifteen minutes including a very uncomfortable origin for the titular character's surname, Solo finds its footing. Alden Ehrenreich has charisma befitting Harrison Ford's legacy and it's nice to see a well-rounded character come storming right out the gate. There's no catalyst that forces the character into being an outlaw. He's always been one and many of the traits that make Han Solo a lovable rogue are present. Though there are quite a few twists and turns of varying degrees of success that help polish the rough edges of who Han Solo is destined to be, as the first film in a larger story, it works. Provided there are additional stories. Frankly, the film ends where it might have been better beginning. A late cameo opens up a world of possibilites.
The key task of the movie is to deliver three legacy characters in a fun and organic way. It is there where Solo succeeds. Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, and Joonas Suotamo are a wonderful Solo, Lando Calrissian, and Chewbacca. These three performers anchor the film extremely well and provide all of the best moments. The new characters are familiar archetypes that have varying degrees of overall value. Surprisingly, the female characters get the short shrift here, a stark contrast the first three films Disney has released in the franchise.
The set pieces are lower key than most, the space combat minimal, and the villains don't register as much as they normally do. That seems intentional, because this film is more interested in adventure, banter, and in celebrating this new tilt to the familiar. It's surprisingly effective though in a much more subdued way. This film doesn't have any knockout punches but it's satisfying nonetheless.
The humor is oftentimes quite sharp and there are some surprising little easter eggs for fans who care a lot more about nuances than ridiculous golden dice.
Expectations are everything. If one goes in expecting a gigantic well-rounded blockbuster they're going to leave disappointed. But for a snappy, unkempt rogue with a little swagger and charm, this film is just fine.
Whether that's enough is to be determined, but it's really hard not to have a soft spot for a film with so many hurdles to overcome that works as well as it does.