SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY – Han Shot First

Along time ago in a galaxy far far away a little sci-fi franchise hit the screens in : A NEW HOPE. Besides the meddling lightsaber kid, his princess sister and the giant carpet there was one character that became iconic and launched the actor into the stratosphere. That character was – the loveable rogue played by . Jump forward a few decades and Harrison is a lot older, there have been too many films in the franchise to list and it’s time for an origin story, a revisit to the rogue’s earlier days. Cue die hard whining it shouldn’t happen and passing their judgement before they have their ticket.

This week SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY hits the screens with a hyperspace wake of drama. This was the first in the new Disney Wars franchise that looked like it was going to be rubbish and greatly disliked. For some maybe but I bloody loved this movie and cannot wait to see it again. In Star Wars tradition I attended the movie premiere with my fave person, my unofficial godson Finn. We started with THE PHANTOM MENACE re-release in 2012 and have seen every Star Wars movie together since.

 

Solo Alden Ehrenreich and Joonas Suotamo image
Solo and image

 

BY JASON KING

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS:

I am only sharing the OFFICIAL synopsis because the movie is filled with spoilers – the less you know the better.

From DISNEY:

Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his mighty future copilot Chewbacca and encounters the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian, in a journey that will set the course of one of the Star Wars saga’s most unlikely heroes.

 

Solo Donald Glover image
Solo image

 

SO MUCH BETTER THAN EXPECTED:

Directors Phil Lord and  left SOLO in June 2017, only three weeks away from finishing principal photography. The duo clashed throughout the production process with producer , co-writer , and others over the direction and tone of the film. Miller and Lord had been encouraging improvisation and making an overall comedic film against Kasdan’s wish for them to follow his script. Eventually, they stepped away due to creative differences. On top of this it was rumoured Alden Ehrenreich wasn’t cutting the mustard as Han and required a lot of coaching. The rumour mill started and it looked like this was going to be a Sarlacc Turd.

Enter and apparently 80% of the film being re-shot and we have the SOLO releasing. From June 2017 to May 2018 he turned a doomed production into movie that will make squillions.

Now – is it good? YES!!! Could it have been better? YES!! I thought it was bloody amazing. I cried once due to emotional nostalgic overload. The first time Han and Chewie sit at the controls of the Falcon together and Han looks at Chewie and smiles – that did it – over the edge!

 

Solo Emilia Clarke image
Solo image

 

The Kessell Run – if it didn’t happen I would have rioted, it’s the STAR WARS Kobayashi Maru, it is legend!

People will need to understand this is an origin film set ten years before STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE – compared to THE FORCE AWAKENS this is basically an analogue film. It is quite drab in appearance with a lot of the settings being colourless. It is far removed from previous instalments and this is not a one-off ROGUE ONE story, this is setting up for a trilogy of SOLO movies. I do think Kasdan’s script could have definitely had some work from a younger current-generation writer but the main elements expected in a SOLO movie were handled well. Only really three or four things we must have in Han’s origin; 1) meeting Chewie, 2) Lando – meeting and winning the Falcom off him and 3) The Kessell Run – if it didn’t happen I would have rioted, it’s the STAR WARS Kobayashi Maru, it is legend!

It was these smaller details that worked really well (and the cast, but more on that later), the larger plot driving elements came together by the third but are weaker in the first and second acts. SOLO is saved by some superb action sequences and pacing that keeps the audience on the edge of their seat. It captures the humour, cheek of attitude one expects from a younger Han and embodies it in a movie.

BECHDEL TEST FAIL:

Thanks to friend Claire for pointing out that SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY failed the Bechdel Test. The Bechdel Test is a Gender Equality test in scripts. It asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. This was a gross oversight from Kasdan in the writing and could easily have been rectified. SOLO loses a half point in my scoring for this.

 

Solo Paul Bettany image
Solo Paul Bettany image

 

SALTY APPROVES OF THAT CASTING:

If the casting of Han failed the movie failed!

Dave Franco, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Miles Teller, Nick Robinson, Leo Howard, Tony Oller, Chandler Riggs, Hunter Parrish, Rami Malek, Landon Liboiron, Ed Westwick, Tom Felton, Joshua Sasse, Logan Lerman, Ansel Elgort, Jack Reynor, Colton Haynes, Max Thieriot, Scott Eastwood, Chris Pratt, Emory Cohen, Alden Ehrenreich, Taron Egerton, Jack O’Connell and Blake Jenner all screen shot for the lead roll. Before the movie was even mentioned I thought Logan Lerman would have been the perfect Han Solo but Alden Ehrenreich nailed it. Was it all the rumoured coaching? Who cares! There were about three or four scenes in the movie that Ehrenreich was embodied by the soul of Solo. Once he was comfortable in the role that roguishness almost seemed natural – all the way down to the twinkle in his eye. I cannot wait to see what he does for future instalments.

The Rest of the Cast:

Joonas Suotamo filled the fur with ease and was a brilliant 190yr old Chewie. Paul Bettany really shone in his part as Dryden Vos – he was bloody evil, I would have loved more of him. Phoebe Waller-Bridge nailed the android L3-37 and proved that humans can and will fall in love and have sex with droids and everyone loves Woody Harrelson – I would have liked to have seen more of him fighting though – his opening scene was very much Rita Vrataski from EDGE OF TOMORROW

Donald Glover nearly steels every scene he is in but we really deserved a few more scenes with him. From the build up and Kathleen Kennedy claiming LANDO would be the next spin-off movie I thought we would have seen a lot more of him. He does have a weird love interest and at times I there was definitely hints of Gilderoy Lockhart (Harry Potter) in his performance.

And finally Khaleesi. I love her. Emilia Clarke played a wonderful character who will bring a lot more to her character in future SOLO instalments. Her chemistry with Ehrenreich was wonderful and I love her in her natural hair colour. I say no more – spoilers are bad ok.

 

Solo Hyperspace image
Solo Hyperspace image

 

IN CONCLUSION:

Could SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY have been better? HELL YES! Was it enjoyable as it was? HELL YES!! It was a refreshing blast and a lot of fun. Out of all the STAR WARS movies this takes itself a little less serious than all the others, mostly from the roguishness from the central character and it’s thrill-ride never-relenting action. Seeing the moments I always wondered about was a highlight, seeing the surprise at the end left me hopeful for a wonderful second instalment. It’s a wonderful effort from Ron Howard cleaning up a messy unfinished film and a fantastic intro to Ehrenreich’s Han.

 

 

 

YOUR CRITIC:

 owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the  industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.