Thursday, May 23, 2024

‘Solo’ Film Review: ‘A Star Wars Story’ Reaches Fun Heights

*In a line that will be familiar to anyone who has seen the trailers, during “Solo” the titular hero (played by Alden Ehrenreich), confidently says, “I’ve got a good feeling about this”.

While, at first glance, this was simply a cute play on the iconic “Star Wars” line – used in virtually every film – “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”, the line, used in THIS film, takes on a deeper meaning.

Because this film goes in the complete opposite direction of all the recent “Star Wars” films and as a result, is one of the most crowd-pleasing entries in the entire film series.

First, there is Ehrenreich’s performance in the role immortalized by Harrison Ford. Those reports that Ehrenreich was a disaster as an actor? They are as erroneous as anyone in the film not taking this younger version of the character seriously.

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Donald Glover, Thandie Newton @ “Solo” premiere.

Right from the get-go, Ehrenreich exhibits the mannerisms and reactions that could only belong to arguably the most popular character in the “Star Wars” franchise. However, he also makes it clear he is inhabiting Ford’s solo, not doing an impression, by having this Han be slightly more idealistic and less world-weary, which makes for a lot of growth for him and fun for fans.

Yes, as the film becomes a heist movie, there may be some who say there is not enough at stake. But there is something refreshing in director Ron Howard putting character development first. The prequels and the previous three Disney “Star Wars” efforts all had plenty of spectacle and effects… and that didn’t stop the majority of those films from being too-serious disappointments.

Howard brings to life a roguish, coming-of-age Han Solo in such an exuberant manner, you will see why George Lucas, before selling LucasFilm to Disney, first wanted him to develop a “Solo”  film and why Disney fast-tracked it. He saw the potential and, though it took a curvy road to get there, Howard was the right man for this job.

That is not to say that there aren’t some dizzying, cool action pieces or magical effects at times, because there are. But Howard never loses sight of the fact that this is Han Solo’s story – and everything else in the film either revolves around or organically grows from exploring him first and foremost.

Howard has such an expert touch, in a few minutes of screen time, Thandie Newton’s criminal Val is more powerful and memorable than Zazie Beetz’s Domino was for a full film in “Deadpool 2”.

Howard clearly cares about such concepts as story and character (take notes, JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson).

As a result “Solo” allows us to see how the hero meets his best buddy Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and his “frenemy” Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), the latter of which he matches wits with in a poker game right out of James Bond. With Howard’s deft direction, these characters not only exist to help Solo grow – but we see them develop as well. How Solo and “Chewie” realize they have a special bond is quite entertaining.

One quick word on Glover’s Calrissian. The “pansexual” headlines that have hit the web the past week? For those who would go or stay away from the film for that reason, in this film that description simply is meant to explain his seeming attraction to…a DROID, with a female voice nonetheless. So don’t believe the hype.

Something that has not gotten nearly enough praise is Emilia Clarke’s outstanding performance as Qi’ra, who grew up with Solo and were “partners in crime” together while trying to survive. When they are separated, Solo is motivated to find her again – and he does, years later.

However, with Qi’ra seemingly the right-hand woman of crime lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), the question Solo and the audience must answer is, ‘Is she just trying to survive? Or, being able to enjoy power and wealth, is this kind of life an indicator of who she really is?

Solo’s mentor Tobias Beckett ( a perfect Woody Harrelson) warns him not to trust anyone. But is he talking about Qui’ra – or himself?

Emilia Clarke

It is ironic that Clarke’s Qui’ra – the first non-lead in the Disney “Star Wars” films – is easily the most compelling, real, interesting female character we have seen in the franchise in a long time, challenging even Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia. She is not afraid to look sexy or get her hands dirty and comes across as a woman of mystery that will resonate much more with audiences than the Mary Sue that is Daisy Ridley’s Rey, the backstory-less Jyn Erso, the whiny and weak Princess Amidala and is light-years superior to Captain Phasma, Vice Admiral Holdo and the abomination that is Rose Tico.

Qui’ra could easily support a film of her own. The beauty of “Solo” is that the same can be said for many of the characters presented here. Top it off with the fact that Bettany is obviously enjoying playing a rich villain as a nice break from his robotic Avenger, Vision, and all the ingredients of a crowd-pleasing hit are here.

This is a fun, rollicking adventure that has no after-credits scene, but has an Easter Egg near the end that will have fans losing their minds and demanding a “Solo” sequel.

Before seeing the film, I would have thought such a project to be ridiculous. But now? Whatever it takes to see these characters (those that survive, anyway) again, fans should be happy with.

“Solo” is the kind of film that exemplifies what “Star Wars” is all about.

Grade B+

*Posted By Jerome Maida

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