Movie Review - Solo: A Star Wars Story

This film is essentially a prequel to Star Wars (1977). That would make this the fifth prequel and the 10th live-action, theatrical installment in the overall franchise. The previous prequel was Gareth Edwards' Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016). One criticism with that film is how it was basically like the recent Mission: Impossible movies but with less interesting, action set-pieces and less charismatic or engaging characters. This movie has similar failings. The action isn't as bad. Some of the sequences are just over-the-top and the characters here are slightly more engaging but by the end, I still couldn't care for any of the persons involved.

Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar and Beautiful Creatures) stars as Han Solo, a petty thief who becomes an intergalactic smuggler. The movie never really takes time to get to know him. His name could have been anything because all the movie cares about is having a young, handsome, smiling face to move from one action set-piece to another, showing how Han met two of the other iconic characters from both Star Wars and The Empire Strike Back (1980), but not really giving a damn about delving more into who they are and why they are.

Han mentions his father and not his mother, but he does so as just passing references as to not carry any weight. In Star Wars, we get a good sense of Luke Skywalker's home life and how he grew up, as well as what shaped him. That's not the case here. We're given a setup or premise for Han's introduction that feels very hollow. The film is in such a rush to get Han off his home planet that we never take the time to understand what his home life really was. He's supposed to be anchored by a girlfriend that he has, but that relationship feels hollow too. It's never fully fleshed out or given any substance by the end that makes us care about it.

Emilia Clarke (Me Before You and Terminator Genisys) co-stars as Qi'ra, the girlfriend of Han. Her introduction is equally hollow. She's simply Han's girlfriend. We never learn about her parents or where she came from or much of how she even met Han. She says they grew up together, so I guess their parents knew each other but the bond between them is never really solidified. She later tags along with Han for an adventure but the movie doesn't give them much interaction or much for her to do, so we never develop her connection to him. Yes, I'm sure she finds him cute and funny but so what? The two are separated for three years and we never learn what happened to her in those three years, which I suppose is saved for a future movie, which is lame.

Donald Glover (Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Martian) also co-stars as Lando Calrissian. We don't delve into his character either. Aside from a suave, card shark and gambler, the movie has no interest in his back-story or where he originated. This prequel only pays homage to him in caricature only and not fleshing out. When it comes to the other characters in this narrative, it's practically the same. The characters aren't delved or developed. They're all hollow, so we can't care about them.

In terms of revealing more about the Star Wars universe, this movie hints at things, which feels lame because it's supposed to prop up the characters. Yet, it only creates more questions than it generates answers. It's still unclear to me what the Empire is doing. Han joins the Empire in this movie as a soldier in its army, but that makes me wonder when in the timeline this movie is set.

Presumably, it takes place chronologically between Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith and what's been re-titled Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope because Han Solo is supposedly around the same age as Luke and Leia, if slightly older, but the ending suggests this film takes place before or concurrently with Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.

Spoiler alert!

Darth Maul is in this film. In cinema, Darth Maul died in The Phantom Menace, so his appearance here makes no sense if Han is the same age as Luke and Leia who were born in Revenge of the Sith, 13 years after Maul's so-called death. Therefore, Han is older than we thought or Darth Maul has somehow been brought back to life. If so, Maul's resurrection, which seems even more impossible than Anakin's resurrection, is clearly a setup for another prequel, one possibly focused on Obi-Wan Kenobi who killed Maul in The Phantom Menace.

Going back to what the Empire stands for, we see Han join the Empire and its army. In Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, it's revealed that soldiers for the Empire are biologically clones, literally manufactured on a cloning planet. It would make sense that the Empire would take volunteers, but given the need for order and absolute control, it seems odd that it would. When we see Han fighting in a battle, there's no context or placement to it, which is meant to be the point, but it's just yet another example of how this movie doesn't flesh anything out. It just zips along without much care.

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 15 mins.

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