I was very excited when Disney purchased Lucasarts with the express purpose of making more material in the Star Wars franchise. I grew up reading the novels and playing the video games of the 90s, so the prospect of there being more stories in that universe is something I am all about.
So far, I’ve enjoyed all of the new films, but I’m aware that what those films are delivering isn’t necessarily what I’m looking for with new Star Wars material. Solo: A Star Wars Story, on the other hand, totally is.
Solo is a standalone story connected to the ‘episode’ films only in that it stars Han Solo, Chewbacca, and features Lando Calrissian. It features no Jedi. Let that sink in. No. Jedi. Anyone else who was keen for the since cancelled video game Level 1313 before that went off the rails likely shares my enthusiasm for finding out more about the Star Wars away from the Jedi. It even bugged me that Rogue One couldn’t bring itself to stay away from the Force, even if Donnie Yen wasn’t a Jedi in title.
The film follows Young Han from his last days as a thief on his home world of Corellia to a brief stint in the Imperial Military before deserting and getting tangled up in a heist involving Lando, the Millenium Falcon, and the famous ‘Kessel Run’.
Between Alden Ehrenreich as Han, Donald Glover as Lando and Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, it’s Donald Glover who absolutely nails the feel of his character. You can absolutely believe him growing into Billy Dee Williams in Empire Strikes Back, although the film seems a little fuzzy on how many years that involves. As Han, Ehrenreich gets very close to the mark, but almost feels like someone else’s memory of Han, so the scene where Lando is seen dictating his memoirs casts an interesting slant on it all: Is this Lando’s version of what happened? Pieced together from what he knew of Han’s past?
Taking over from Peter Mayhew, Joonas Suotamo presents just as compelling a character in his Chewbacca and seems to relish the opportunity to really show the strength and ferocity of an enraged Wookie. The Kasdans also provide some lovely character moments for him, although you have to appreciate the challenge of writing around a character with such distinct language and physicality restraints.
As new characters Beckett and Val, Woody Harrelson and Thandie Newton are solid additions to the Star Wars universe and I would definitely enjoy seeing more of them prior to this story as their chemistry together is just so lovely. Similarly, Emilia Clarke and Paul Bettany as Qi-ra and Dryden Vos are note perfect for their roles. Clarke brings a wonderful complexity to her character’s choices and Bettany leans right into the abusive manipulations of a classic gang boss archetype.
I would like to make a special mention of John Powell’s score for the Corellian Spaceport and the Marauder theme. These two pieces of music fit perfectly within the existing ‘tone’ of the Star Wars music, as established by John Williams, and bring new elements in which I hope become common to the franchise as a whole.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fun ride through the world of Star Wars without trying to be part of the grand mythology and a fun heist all rolled into one. It contains some lovely character moments, solid world building and gorgeous visuals. I want the image of a Star Destroyer in the Maelstrom printed out and hung on my wall, I love it that much.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is in cinemas now.