Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

As all fourteen of my regular readers know, I'm easily entertained. Butterflies, flowers, dumb eighties sitcoms, there's a good chance I'll sit through them all as long as they're not Kardashian-type "reality" TV shows.

 

So yes, I was entertained by Solo: A Star Wars Story, and would definitely watch it again. But I'm also not dumb (shut up, I'm not), and I know when a movie has flaws.

 

Even when I can't figure out what they are.

 

"Who's the girl? Does Leia know about this?"

 

 

Let's face it, as soon as you heard the name of this movie you knew what it would be about. Sure enough, we get an origin story, with Alden Ehrenreich playing a young Han Solo trapped on his home world, which seems entirely taken over by spaceship building industries. (On a related note, the Star Wars universe is even worse than other science fiction ventures in having a world be just a region. A desert world, a snow world, a city world ... don't any of these planets have other continents? How does an entire world have just one climate?)

 

Han is a small time crook who, even back then, should never be told the odds, and he just wants to get off-planet with his girlfriend (!) and become a pilot. But things go horribly wrong, and now he's sworn to return after joining the first organization that will give him the pilot training he needs. Not his first bad decision, and not his last.

 

Although there are surprises along the way, the rest of the story pretty much hits the beats we expect: Han makes friends with a big walking carpet, meets a certain charming swindler who owns a certain ship, gets a gun, learns not to trust anyone, gets first shot at the Kessel Run, so on, so forth ...

 

It is fun seeing the way some of our beloved conventions about Han come about, and there are indeed some surprises along the way. And a few big surprises. (One of my favorites was finding out just how the Millennium Falcon ended up with such a superior navigation computer.) Yes, "fun" fits--it was fun, and I'll happily sit down to watch it again.

 

"Chewie, change the light bulbs!"

 

 

But Solo: A Star Wars Story just didn't ... gel. For one thing, the movie seemed too dark. I don't mean in tone--I mean it literally seemed dark for long portions of the film--maybe it was the theater where I saw it. The effects and score were good, but not great, which also covers the plot and just about everything else. Alden Ehrenreich did a credible job, but do you want to be the guy who follows Harrison Ford? Me neither.

 

The rest of the cast did well, especially Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, and Donald Glover, who, despite what others have said, made a great Lando Calrissian. We also get Paul Bettany, who's provides us a fun villain in Dryden Vos.

 

"If this doesn't work out, I'm thinking of playing Indiana Jones."

 

 

I suspect if it had been made independent of a franchise, Solo: A Star Wars Story would be considered good space opera. But it wasn't, and as Star Wars movies go it seems weak ... not to mention a whole movie should have been devoted to Han and Chewie forming a friendship, rather than a few scenes.

 

My Score:

 

Entertainment Value: 3 out of 4 M&Ms. Great action sequences, good cast, missing the heart that made the early Star Wars movies so great. Hardcore Star Wars fans have devolved into a mutual hatred society, so I might have liked it more because I'm more of a casual fan.

 

Oscar Potential: 1 out of 4 M&Ms. Ain't gonna happen.

Comments

opher goodwin Added Jun 13, 2018 - 8:15am
Thanks for that Mark. I've been toying with going to see it!
Mark Hunter Added Jun 13, 2018 - 8:46am
Thanks, opher. I still think it's worth seeing, but it's a weak entry in the series. Maybe more of a matinee pricing thing!
Luther Wu Added Jun 13, 2018 - 12:17pm
Mark,
Seeing that you are easily entertained, yet don't go for the Kardashians,  I might suggest that you listen a few times to
Sir Mixalot's "Baby Got Back".
Dave Volek Added Jun 13, 2018 - 1:16pm
When people try to compare the various Star Wars episodes with each, I just say they are missing the point.
 
Star Wars is just fun to watch! The creators have done a fantastic job with each episode. I don't mind killing a few hours, re-watching an episode I saw a couple years ago and maybe 10 times before.
 
 
Jeffrey Kelly Added Jun 13, 2018 - 2:29pm
I can’t read your article yet, I’m taking my son to see it this weekend!!!!!!
 
LOL
 
I actually hear it’s quite good even if it is underperforming at the box office.
TexasLynn Added Jun 13, 2018 - 2:43pm
Mark,
Thanks for the review.  I'm planning on seeing it early next week.
 
My Little Theater:
My little home town has the single screen theater where I saw the first Star Wars (40 years ago).  I love it.  It's not stadium seating but they have a balcony.  And it's cheap!  $7 tickets... reasonable concessions... best entertainment value in the country. ;P
 
Solo starts Friday ... I try to go on less popular nights to avoid the crowd.  The theater is always a month behind on release dates... but Solo has done so poorly (just a financial fact), they got it early.
 
Star Wars Franchise:
I was a big Star Wars fan when it first came out.  The original was epic and the second film "Empire Strikes Back" was even better.  And then... "Return of the Jedi" wasn't that good.  And THEN ... (16 years later) George Lucas lost his freakin' mind!  Jar Jar Binks?!  Midichlorians!?  The prequels were crap.  I saw each one of them once and still think somebody owe me that time back.
 
The latest trilogy (starting with "The Force Awakens") are much, much, better than the prequels, which means they are mediocre.  To their credit I was not even expecting that when they came out.  But with two "meh"s under their belt at least that is my new expectation level for the Star Wars franchise; much better than the expectations of awful I had before.
 
And that is my expectation of Solo.  We'll see. :)
 
P.S. “Rogue One” actually attained a level of “good”.  A rare gem in the franchise.
Louis E Weeks Added Jun 13, 2018 - 3:22pm
As a pretty much lifetime Star Wars fan who has read a lot of the books and watched all the movies so much I sometimes piss off others around me because I can quote most of the more memorable lines like "Dand I thought they smelled bad ...... on the outside!"
 
I have noticed that some people are so diehard fans they can't accept any divergence from what they view as "purity" so any additional story that does not measure up can be close to the end of the world to them.
 
Others myself (and it seems you) may know all the characters and stuff but can allow a movie to stand on its own without thinking it ruins the larger story.
 
 
I rarely go to public theaters though, too many people on their cellphones during the movie and I can't say anything because my tolerance for people running their mouths is close to nothing so it is just best for all that I stick to my home theater, lol.
 
 
Jeffrey Kelly Added Jun 13, 2018 - 4:10pm
@Louis Weeks:
I have no issue telling people to knock it off with cell phones.  This kid sat down next to me once during “The Two Towers” and started playing with his phone.  I turned to him and told him if he didn’t put his phone away I’d have him kicked out.
 
He put his phone away and moved.
 
:)
 
@Lynn and Mark:
 
Huge Star Wars fan, I remember seeing the first Star Wars as a very young lad with my mother and my older brother and sister.  I thought what George Lucas did in butchering the franchise was downright criminal, including reissuing the original three with new cuts.  
 
I actually like Director’s Cuts of movies and I understand Lucas wanting to go back and with the available technology tell the story how he wanted it.  Problem is a lot looked like showing off to me.  Worse he got rid of the original theatrical releases.  Those are no long available though I do still have them on VHS....which I can’t watch anymore because I no longer have a VHS player.
James Travil Added Jun 13, 2018 - 6:27pm
I'm also I lifelong Star Wars fan and enjoyed Solo. I, like many fans of the original trilogy hated The Last Jedi, and I think that is the reason Solo has did poorly, not because it is itself a bad film. 
Louis E Weeks Added Jun 13, 2018 - 6:44pm
@ jeffrey - I may not have explained it well, I do not mind telling some jerks to get off their cellphones, it is when they mouth off at me that my reaction will land me in jail or something, lol.
 
Young people are assholes, they care nothing for anyone else and I just prefer to avoid them when possible.
 
Besides, my 85 inch 4k Sony television and 7.2 surround sound with theater seats and automatic, self cleaning popcorn machine offers me the same theater environment without the assholes.
 
 
Peace, lol.
Jeffrey Kelly Added Jun 13, 2018 - 8:09pm
Wow, jealous.  I have to battle my children for access to the TV room.
Jeffrey Kelly Added Jun 13, 2018 - 8:11pm
I liked the Last Jedi.  It did lag in parts, I'm thinking of the slowest faster than light chase.
James Travil Added Jun 13, 2018 - 9:45pm
I hated The Last Jedi for the same reasons that most longtime fans hated it. Luke acted like a complete asswipe and was entirely out of character from his past persona. The endless bad jokes throughout didn't help any either. 
James Travil Added Jun 13, 2018 - 9:50pm
This article sums up in detail why The Last Jedi sucked -  “Star Wars: The Last Jedi Forces Old Fans to Abandon Ship” https://medium.com/jackndelaney/star-wars-the-last-jedi-forces-old-fans-to-abandon-ship-1809d5e9d031
Jeffrey Kelly Added Jun 13, 2018 - 11:28pm
I liked that Luke.  A man haunted by a horrible decision that changed the fate of the galaxy.  No wonder he didn’t want to do it again.
 
BTW, Mark Hamill is great.  We all need reminders now and again what a talented actor he is and what a funny man he is in reality.
 
I didn’t like the extremely slow chase scene and a few other things.  Over all, though, I liked the movie.  Not as good as The Force Awakens but still good.
 
Looking forward to the next installment.
 
I do think Solo suffered from “The Last Jedi.”  There also might be some Star Wars fatigue.
 
I’m not sure there was really a need for a Solo movie.  
Mark Hunter Added Jun 13, 2018 - 11:54pm
Luther, I suspect "Baby Got Back" is kind of entertaining to attempt to sing after a few beers, but I don't drink beer ... and it's sure not all that much fun to listen to.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 13, 2018 - 11:57pm
Exactly my feeling Dave, and it's why I divide my review ratings into two parts. I know lots of objectively horrible movies that are fun to watch, and lots of other good movies that people spend way too much time arguing over. Solo is, objectively, not a great movie, but if you like it--who cares?
Mark Hunter Added Jun 14, 2018 - 12:00am
I try to give spoiler free reviews, Jeffrey, but I understand how you feel--my wife refuses to see or read anything about a movie before we go see it. It's hard to give a review without saying anything at all about a movie!
Mark Hunter Added Jun 14, 2018 - 12:05am
TexasLynn, the town closest to where I grew up out in the country had a theater exactly like the one you described, complete with balcony. It's still in operation, although they've divided it into two smaller theaters and, sadly, lost the balcony part. My wife prefers the theaters in Fort Wayne, with their stadium seating and better technology--and these days, reclining seats! And I must admit, the popcorn is better. But best, to me: There's still a functioning drive-in not far away. Less expensive for two movies.
 
James Travil Added Jun 14, 2018 - 12:10am
Personally I liked Solo about the second best of the Disney Star Wars films, I didn't let my extreme disappointment as a fan over The Last Jedi influence my enjoyment of the new movie. Rogue One is my favorite of the Disney brand it seguways perfectly into A New Hope seamlessly, almost like a prequel extension of the film. But yea, that article I linked to about why I couldn't stand the Last Jedi goes into good detail and I agree with it 100%. I certainly hope they get their act together for part IX, because VIII was awful. If I wanted to see a PC emo Luke... Well I wouldn't and don't. 
Mark Hunter Added Jun 14, 2018 - 12:15am
Louis, as I recall, in the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back Han briefly wondered if it was somehow sacreligious, using a lightsaber to get to the smell on the inside. :-)  I'm about halfway between a casual fan and a fanatic with Star Wars, I think. I also used to be a full-blown Trekkie, but I just don't have the energy or patience for fan drama anymore.
 
My wife and I like to go to the theater for the big action/SF slicks, but otherwise tend to wait to see movies at home. (We've only got a 42 inch TV--and no surround sound--but my wife claims I make the best popcorn anywhere.) When we do go out, woe be to the cell phone user if they disturb my wife during the flick. I was raised to have respect for people around me, not to mention I have trouble understanding why someone would spend so much money to go to a movie and then not pay attention to it.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 14, 2018 - 12:32am
Star Wars fatigue is absolutely going to be a problem. As far as the movies as a whole go, there wasn't one I completely hated--not even Episode 1, which at least had some good battle scenes. But they're going to have to up their game, and stop repeating themselves, if the franchise is to continue.
Luther Wu Added Jun 14, 2018 - 2:24pm
Mark, You could look at repeatedly listening to "Baby Got Back" as a sort of programming. Some ladies out there would surely appreciate a growing fan base.
On the other hand, that beer- swilling guy on Karaoke night that just absolutely nailed "Baby Got Back" wasn't me.    Really.
 
 
That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
Michael B. Added Jun 15, 2018 - 12:29am
Mark, for someone from Indiana, you're pretty fuggin' cool.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 15, 2018 - 12:47am
It looked just like you, Luther. But then, I'd had a whiskey sour and I don't drink often, so maybe it was my booze goggles talking.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 15, 2018 - 12:48am
Lots of cool people in Indiana, Michael ... except during summer. Nobody's cool in Indiana during summer.
Tamara Wilhite Added Jun 15, 2018 - 7:53pm
I think the movie would have done better if they'd released it BEFORE killing off Harrison Ford as Han Solo.
John Minehan Added Jun 16, 2018 - 10:21am
Ron Howard is the best John Ford-influenced director not named Welles, Kurosawa or Eastwood and not being, like Andrew McLachlan, Ford's godson and former AD.  This is sort of a chance to see what Ford would have done with a modern "pop corn" movie.
 
The comparison is not so odd as you might expect.  The original Star Wars film, especially in the early scenes with Luck's aunt and uncle, is strongly influenced by The Searchers and Kurosawa, a Ford fan and later a close friend, was a looming presence over the original films.  
Michael B. Added Jun 16, 2018 - 10:34am
I've always considered both George Lucas and Quentin Tarantino to be very talented thieves, lol.
John Minehan Added Jun 16, 2018 - 10:35am
I saw the original Star Wars right before going to Army Basic in 1977.  Needless to say, I'm not quite in the Star Wars fan demographic.
 
Additionally, I sort of agreed with a review by Ben Bova that appeared in Analog I saw after I finished Basic which compared Star Wars to The Triumph of the Will.  It seemed like Star Wars embodied all the pop culture detritus floating around in Lucas's brain: Kurosawa films, Ford's The Searchers,  Kirby's Orion and Darkseid, gobs of ideas from E.S. "Doc" Smith and Julie Schwartz's SF comics, like Green Lantern, Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space and a lot of Frank Herbert settings.
 
The problem with it, in my opinion, is that it did not prompt people to seek out the original (and much better) sources of the ideas.
 
Does this seem a little too much "Get off my lawn?" 
Mark Hunter Added Jun 17, 2018 - 12:27am
Interesting thought, Tamara--you might be right.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 17, 2018 - 12:28am
I don't think that's an odd comparison at all--and there are a lot worse people to steal from than John Ford.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 17, 2018 - 12:32am
I didn't see Star Wars until it came out on HBO, at about the same age you were, John.  I don't know, maybe it is Get Off My Lawn-ish. I've said before that my Junior English teacher was Doc Smith's daughter, and as a result I feel kind of protective of his legacy, which certainly seemed to be an influence on Lucas. Maybe I should feel that way, too.
But I've created a space opera universe that was influenced by Star Trek, so I'm not one to speak.
John Minehan Added Jun 17, 2018 - 6:41am
"I've said before that my Junior English teacher was Doc Smith's daughter, and as a result I feel kind of protective of his legacy, which certainly seemed to be an influence on Lucas."
 
I didn't know that.  That is really neat. 
Mark Hunter Added Jun 17, 2018 - 1:03pm
Verna Trestrail; she controlled his works after he died, and taught me a lot about the publishing industry. Not enough to scare me away from it, unfortunately!
 
wsucram15 Added Jun 20, 2018 - 7:37am
Mark;
I dont know if it was you or someone else I mentioned this to but Star Wars I would never had seen had it not been for my sister. she was the scifi buff.  Drove me insane with it.  I remember going to see the original Star Wars before wide release with her practically dragging me to the door.  We went back 9 times I believe before the lines exploded and the Major movie venues picked up the movie.
To this day, the original Star Wars, is still one of my best movie experiences of all time and maybe the only one that comes close to a concert type thing for me because my sister was there. We saw Empire and Return together as well.  I never saw the newer ones because she passed away and it didnt seem right.  Also the characters werent the same.
Until the newer one with Leia, Han and Luke. I saw that for her and bet she was there also...but the rest of this..nope.
TexasLynn Added Jun 20, 2018 - 9:45am
Solo: 7 out of 10
I saw Solo last night and liked it.  It was a 7 out of 10 based on the TexasLynn Moving Ratings System.  It was was the second best Star Wars movie to come out in 20 years... Rogue One edging it out.
 
Solo and Rogue One Explain It All
Now that I think about it... Solo and Rogue One helped me figure out what went wrong (how Lucas screwed up) the Star Wars franchise.
 
1) Originally "the Force" was more of a spiritual force... Lucas made it chemical/biological with the crappy prequels (in 1999).  Since then, the concept and depiction of "the Force" has been kludgey and awkward and to be honest often dumb (especially when used by the kid Darth Vader).
 
2) Starting with Return of the Jedi, Lucas decided he had to throw in plush toys as characters to cash in on merchandising.  See the Ewoks and Jar Jar Binks and porgs... They may see toys, but they also take away from good story telling; some (Jar Jar) more than others.
 
3) Darth Vader is Luke's father, and Lea his sister... massive connection and key to the overall plot... OK  BUT Lucas went nuts in connecting everything (especially characters).  Yoda and Chewbacca knew each other, C3PO happened to belong to a young Darth Vader... The unfathomable coincidences in the Star Wars universe, give new meaning to the term "holistic"... and has reached the point of ridiculous and farcical.
 
Mistakes Not Repeated
So how did Rogue One and Solo succeed where the others failed.
 
1) The Force: They didn't have to deal with it in Solo at all and in Rogue One, they fell back on the spiritual Force.
 
2) Plush Toy Characters: None in either movie.
 
3) Holistic Coincidences: Existed in both movies, BUT were more of a humorous nature.  But... even Solo had two (pretty big coincidences at the end of the movie) that I know of that I won't mention because they would be spoilers.
 
Conclusion:
As for Solo itself, it was a solid action movie for the general public, with a lot of Star Wars easter eggs for the die-hard fan.  Definitely worth seeing.
 
A final note... I did like that it settled an age-old question concerning Han Solo from the first movie.  Han shot first. :)
 
Jeffrey Kelly Added Jun 20, 2018 - 10:12am
Saw this last weekend with my youngest son.  Be aware, minor spoilers.
 
Overall I thought it was good but not great.  My son was just a little disappointed.
 
Pluses:
I really liked the actors.  
 
I liked the overall look of the movie, it was shot well and the special effects were great. 
 
Lando’s robot was a great addition.
 
Nice twist at the end with the marauders, I didn’t see that coming.
 
Minuses:
The story was just OK.  
 
They killed the robot.
 
Like Mark I can’t figure out why planets in the Star Wars only have one environment.  It’s not really a minus just a question.
 
I’m not sure I really needed a Han Solo movie.  I like him as the lovable rogue but I don’t think I need the origin story.
 
I know we will add it to the Blu Ray library so my wife and oldest son can watch it.  I’ll probably watch it again.
 
Final verdict:
I guess I need to come up with a rating system.  Since I can’t eat M & M’s I’ll go to the standard star system of 1-5 with one being don’t bother to five being see this now.
 
I give it 3 stars.  Worth seeing if you like the genre in general to Star Wars junkies in particular.  But I would see it in the afternoon at a matinee to save the money.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 21, 2018 - 1:25am
That's a nice story with you and your sister, wsucram. I never saw Star Wars in the theater, but I watched the Empire Strikes Back with my little sister, and had to comfort her when Luke lost his hand! Movies can be a great family time. Almost everyone in my family is a huge science fiction fan.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 21, 2018 - 1:29am
The audience roared when Han shot first, Texas!
My wife and I both loved the porgs; I bought her a talking one for her birthday. Just the same, you're absolutely right about the toys, and just about everyone agrees Jar Jar should have been shot shot in the first reel.
As for the coincidences, they're especially noticeable in the Star Wars universe when you figure they've got an entire friggin' galaxy, and people still keep running into each other.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 21, 2018 - 1:34am
Not too far from my final analysis, Jeffrey.
Usually I hate the "do we need this movie?" kind of question. We don't need any movies. They're movies. But I understand what you're saying, and in this case I questioned from the beginning whether it was a good idea to potentially ruin Han by showing us a younger version. If you think about it, even more awful stuff must happen to him from here on out, to turn him into the jaded, uncaring smuggler he later becomes. I'd prefer to see characters going from low points to high, rather than the other way around.
Jeffrey Kelly Added Jun 26, 2018 - 12:02pm
I do think it’s a shame we probably won’t get the second movie.  The Darth Maul line has definite potential.  I know some of the non-canon stuff had Maul surviving.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 27, 2018 - 3:11am
As I understand it Maul's survival used to be canon, but that changed when Disney took over. Well, I guess it's canon again, now! I'd like to see more of him. And who knows? There are plenty of good stories left in that universe.

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