* WARNING: THIS ARTICLE WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR SOLO *
Many fans who have been plugged into the production aspects of this movie were rightfully scared.
First, the replacement of directing duo Lord and Miller with Ron Howard [ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY], then... rumors of the studios dissatisfaction with lead actor Alden Ehrenreich's performance [CINEMABLEND]. Still even, it seemed Disney and Lucasfilm were bracing themselves for a box office bomb [SCREENGEEK].
With all of this considered, I think director Ron Howard and the ensemble cast have delivered a quality product under the circumstances. Because many of us, as Star Wars fans, hold these movies to a higher standard and couple that with the fact that all face additional media scrutiny... I think this will lead many to put this one in the loss column. Both financially and creatively, this film does not deliver in a way that it could or should have. Although (as mentioned above) I was entertained... i'm not sure if i was entirely satisfied.
On the financial front... my fear is that there will be a pile-on because of the weak box office numbers [SCREENRANT].
Hopefully this doesn't lead to future trepidation on Disney's part for releasing anthology-style films in the Star Wars universe. All signs point to "no," at this point however, because there are both an Obi-Wan Kenobi project in development as well as a recently revealed Boba Fett project with 'Logan' director James Mangold at the helm [VARIETY]. As the numbers roll in though, many people on the fence with this movie may abandon ship leading to a steep week-to-week dropoff. My message to those who feel this way- please give the movie a chance... especially if you have prior experience with the original trilogy or the former expanded universe content.
The strength of this movie is its ability to add color and context to those 'storied' events of Star Wars past.
I think no other Star Wars movie goes as far as 'Solo: A Star Wars Story' to honor and entertain its long-term fans. From letting us sit in on that famous sabaac game with a greasy Lando Calrissian to the time where Han and Chewie meet at that Imperial camp, this movie reaches deep to put a smile on the face of those Star Wars diehards. By the end of the movie we know how Han pulled off the Kessel run in 12 parsecs (rounded down, of course) and have evidence to support 'Hand Shot First.' For this, i'm sure many Star Wars fans are grateful and would enjoy watching this movie unfold.
Of course... without strong and capable performances from the ensemble cast and some smart storytelling, these critical moments would have fallen flat. For the most part, I would say that those actors have delivered.
Many expected Donald Glover's Lando Calrissian to steal the show, but in my opinion it was the balance that was provided by the supporting female characters that really made this movie shine. Each of the male 'leads' paired with a complex and often conflicted female counterpart that added direction, tension and ultimately resolution to each of their arcs. Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo paired with Emilia Clarke as Qi'ra, Woody Harrellson as Tobias Beckett with Thandie Newton as Val and Donald Glover as Lando with L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge). The actions and choices of these female characters determined the fate of their counterparts and drove the plot forward in a continuation of the series' recent reliance on strong females to get the job done (see Vice Admiral Holdo and / or Jyn Erso).
However, I think this movie has both a villain and a set-piece problem.
Notice how I didn't mention Emilia Clarke's Qi'ra just above? I'm not sure I was satisfied by her final turn. Of course, we're hit with the bombshell reveal of Darth Maul after she dispatches of Dryden Vos (played by Paul Bettany) at the end of the movie. Although I was pleasantly surprised by his appearance, many don't know that he actually survived his encounter with Obi-Wan on Naboo (where he was unfortunately chopped in half). More casual Star Wars fans probably have not seen either the Clone Wars or Rebels cartoon series where Maul has become a more regular presence.
I've heard people openly question the timeline of this movie because of the Maul reveal, only to be drawn into a complicated explanation of Sith powers, magic and robot legs. Combine this with the uncertainty we have as an audience of Qi'ra's true motivation (love for Han... or thirst for power?) and we have a confused and unsatisfied audience. Of course, Disney and Lucasfilm are certainly considering supplemental material and sequels, but with the box office performance of Solo, I fear that many of these questions will remain unanswered for many who will not reach outside the cinema for their research.
Also, not as glaring, but perhaps a personal misunderstanding for me is Enfys Nest.
Did anyone else out there think for a second that she was the estranged child of Tobias and Val? With the look they gave each other on Savareen I thought something had either been changed in production or perhaps written out. At 120+ minutes, there was hardly room for more exposition, but I feel that both her character as well as Harrellson's Beckett could have been significantly improved if that relationship was indeed explored with greater depth. Aside from Qi'ra and Maul, Enfys Nest and the budding rebellion is the other topic I'd like to see covered in some more detail.
Secondly- this movie suffers similarly to Rogue One in the fact that it is ultimately anti-climactic.
This movie is all about the ride and not particularly about the destination. Did we know that Han would make the Kessel run in 12 parsecs? Probably, yes. Did we know that all of our heroes would emerge unscathed? Again, yes (at least physically).
With the set-pieces being the major driver of audience anxiety and providing the real thrill of this movie i'd have to say I was unimpressed. There was no moment for me like Rogue One's final battle on Scarif. Both the riot on Kessel and the train heist scenes try to sell themselves with deaths of supporting characters, but because we had not spent enough time with those characters their sacrifice seemed hollow. Although the action of this movie was on the periphery of galactic conflict, a heavier imperial presence would have amped things up and brought a more threatening faction into these operations.
So there you have it... I'd say that you should give 'Solo: A Star Wars Story' a try.
But understand that by peeling back the layers, you might find some things that either disappoint or confuse you. In my ranking of existing Star Wars movies, I think i'd put this one solidly in the middle... probably just behind Rogue One.
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