‘Solo’ Review: A Space Western Origin Story

Spoilers ahead. This is not the review you’re looking for.

Let’s get rid of the elephant in the room:

  • The movie is good.
  • Alden nailed a younger version of Han Solo.
  • Yes, it answers many questions.
  • The movie is good, really good to say the truth.

Like Q’ira would say: ‘You look good. A little rough around the edges, but good.’

‘Solo’ is the first character driven movie in the Star Wars franchise. Someone might consider the prequels character driven, but there are many elements at stake besides Anakin’s turn to the dark side. ‘Solo’ is just about the smuggler and his adventures that slowly turned him into the cynical guy we meet at the Mos Eisley Cantina. Even though it is an origin story, it doesn’t take the character as seriously, except when filling some gaps of his background.

While ‘Rogue One’ was focused on a big war event, ‘Solo’ goes the other way. Gone are the Rebellion and the Empire. Prepare to embark on some fun adventures that aren’t really important for the main events of the saga, but they are still tons of fun.

It is very difficult to watch ‘Solo’ without taking into consideration the western genre. Some motifs include people struggling in poverty, gangsters, gambling, train chases, bounty hunters, Indians attacked by cowboys to take their goods, uncommitted love, horses (the Falcon fits this purpose), and life debts. The more you understand these tropes and motifs, the more it makes sense many of the decisions Lawrence and Jon Kasdan did to develop the character.

Young Han, as portrayed by Alden Ehrenreich, is the total opposite of the smuggler from the original trilogy. While Han in the original trilogy ends up as the bad guy in a world of good guys, Han in ‘Solo’ is the good guy in a world of bad guys. He has the heart of gold, filled with innocence and few experiences that have given him a bad feeling about things. He’s struggling, trying to survive, doing his best to become a pilot and save the love of his life, only to be turned down by mostly everything he believes in. This contrast is mirrored with Lando and Q’ira, two characters that have had more experience in this hostile world. As the plot moves forward, we see how Han slowly morphs into the smuggler we know as portrayed by Harrison Ford.

This Star Wars Story doesn’t have the stakes that the saga films or ‘Rogue One’ do, and that’s fine. It has enough adventures to establish the characters, the kinds of adventures we’ve heard from lines of dialogue or the expanded universe. If you compare this movie to any origin story from the MCU, ‘Solo’ has more adventures that the character goes through instead of a single big event. The Kessel Run could be the main event, but there are other action scenes that also have the power that some Marvel origin stories lack. This is the first Marvel-like origin story from Star Wars and it has its own identity.

Because we already know that Han and Chewie are still alive, the film never plays that card too hard. They have some death defying moments, but the movie never takes these moments too seriously. They have enough tension to keep you on your toes. One of my favorite moments of the movie is when they use the coaxium to turn the engines of the Millenium Falcon and it fails the first time; that’s the kind of thing that the Corellian ship always do, but we know that everything will be fine at the end.

This is the movie with the fewest references of the Force, the Jedi, and the Sith except that unexpected Darth Maul appearance. This makes sense for the character because Han doesn’t believe in any of this, but it also allows the movie to be its own thing. In many ways, ‘Rogue One’ shoehorned a but too much the Force with Chirrut as a character. ‘Solo’ doesnt care about the Force; it only cares about smuggling, corruption, gangs, and survival. It is the world in between the Rebellion and the Empire.

Which leads us the the Darth Maul cameo. I can’t hide the fact that my jaw dropped because this appearance made two things clear:

  1. Lucasfilm isn’t scared of talking about the prequels.
  2. Lucasfilm is taking advantage of the animated series.

Some people won’t understand his appearance or how he’s even alive, but it doesn’t matter. People still enjoy the Marvel movies without understanding many of the nods and references of other characters or movies. These moments are for the fans who enjoy when different stories relate to other characters of the universe. Besides that, the scene gives Q’ira the motivations she need to get rid of her past and stay in the game as stated in her dialogue.

With the directorial transition of Lord & Miller to Ron Howard, the film has very few moments when you could see the seems between the original footage and the reshoots. Some bits of comedy seen taken from the original concept, but you can barely see the difference between one shot and the next. This is achieved thanks to Bradford Young, whose great cinematography keeps a consistent visual storytelling that blends in with the plot. The film starts with monochromatic tones, with blue, yellow, and red as the main colors. During the war times of Han, the colors are very grayed out. As the plot moves forward, Han’s reality start to be colored by his experiences, with more eye candy tones that fill the frame.

Lawrence Kasdan knows a thing or two about Star Wars after writing The Empire Strikes Back, Return Of The Jedi, and The Force Awakens. Besides, he wrote the very first Indiana Jones film, Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Teaming up with his son Jon, the plot moves from one action to the next with a clear storyline. Every ten minutes, something happens and the characters go on to the next adventure, just like an Indiana Jones film. As for Jon Kasdan, fans need to thank him for all the deep cut references in the movie, including the mentions of the expanded universe novels as well as the appearance of Darth Maul.

The questions from Han’s past are answered in such a casual way that allows the movie to deliver these moments without feeling like a Han documentary or Wikipedia article. I chuckled at how he got his last name, the Chewie introduction was a pleasant surprise, and had a great time as the Millenium Falcon turns into the piece of junk we all know and love. The movie is smart at doing some nods to the other films with some lines of dialogue, but it will only get the attention from the fanbase. The references don’t alienate the audience, but they wink and nod to fans of the Expanded Universe and the saga films, like that big gangster whose putting together a crew on Tatooine.

Michael Giachino had a tough job with Rogue One’s score; any composer will have a tough job trying to put on the shoes to keep up with John Williams’ masterpiece. But here’s John Powell doing an amazing job at blending his compositions with the arrangements of John Williams. The music at the very beginning got me pumped for the film as I clearly recognized Han’s theme composed by John Williams. John Powell blends his own notes with some better known pieces. During the Kessel Run, you can hear in the background some of the notes of ‘The Asteroid Field’ from The Empire Strikes Back, as well as the Millenium Falcon theme. It bows to the masterpieces of John Williams throughout the films, but John Powell takes his time to pump his own notes. He’s really smart at blending different styles of music. From ‘Chicken In The Pot’ from Dryden Vos’ yacht to Enfys Nest’s theme in ‘Savareen Stand Off’, Powell works with different styles of orchestration to establish these scenes.

The final veredict is that this is a fun movie that anyone, including non Star Wars fans, could watch. It is the first of the new films that could be an entry point for any Star Wars fan, showing the importance of doing these origin stories every once in a while to bring attention from new audiences. If this is part of their strategy, then its a smart move. Marvel has shown how different origin stories can attract new moviegoers that later watch more of these movies for the payoff, like it happened with Infinity War. The next few weeks will dictate if the initial response from ‘Solo’ could bring more people that were on the fence or believed that you had to be a hardcore fan to watch it. Even though is is a joy for galaxy connoisseurs, any moviegoer enjoys a good heist film filled with twists and turns.

Author: Rafael Gorrochotegui

Creo en la creatividad como un estilo de vida.