An origin story for an established character is always a difficult tale to tell. Solo: A Star Wars Story is no exception. Practically from the announcement of its existence, the film faced a tidal wave of critique, mostly revolving around the fact that Disney was telling a story no one in particular had asked for. But hey, somehow four Transformers sequels have been made, so Solo can hardly be called groundbreaking in that department. Or any department, in fact.
Most of the plot of the film is derived from the brief snippets about Han Solo’s backstory found in the original trilogy of Star Wars movies. This is not exactly surprising, given the propensity for such films to rely on nostalgia, but one might have hoped that the stories brought to life in the theater might at least be a bit more interesting.
Expectations are always problematic when it comes to movies, as films ought to be judged on their own merits, outside of any context they may have. However, when the title is “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” one might expect that the main character might be something like the Han Solo so many are familiar with. As such, trying to match the roguish charisma of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo is another problem the movie faces. An attempt to flawlessly recreate the iconic hero would more than likely come off as hollow and insincere, whereas the alternative of taking the character in a different direction would run the risk of making the character unrecognizable, and thereby alienating the audience.
As it stands, the film manages for the most part to navigate the Kessel Run of obstacles in its way. It is far from perfect, and makes more than enough missteps. Aside from the aforementioned issues, a villain from an early encounter in the story is thoroughly inconsistent and rather disappointing. The film also falls into a problem more and more evident in the recent Star Wars films. It takes a few too many blatant winks at the audience, whether it be on the origin of various paraphernalia, or an altogether on-the-nose social commentary. It does, however, bring up a question not considered since the original Star Wars film: What would a bar serve to droids, anyway?
Nonetheless, though not quite enough to cover for its flaws, the rest of the movie is entertaining summer fun. Alden Ehrenreich is a thoroughly suitable Han Solo, and Woody Harrelson capably plays his smuggler mentor, after a fashion. Dryden Vos, played by Paul Bettany, is an entertaining, if rather forgettable villain. The characters that actually shine the most are the somewhat enigmatic Qi’ra, played by Emilia Clarke, and the character who, oddly enough, bears perhaps the most resemblance to the Han Solo we all know and love: Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian. His true colors are shown to be a bit different by the end of the story, however. There are more than enough call-backs to the original stories, ranging from the lazy to the (admittedly) quite clever. Suffice it to say that you are not left in doubt as to who shot first.
The plot is part romance, part adventure, part heist, and part race against the clock, but whether due to poor writing or good chemistry, it is not the plot but rather the characters that are memorable. Though I am adamantly against the plague of sequelitis infecting the industry, I would not mind seeing a bit more about the more tantalizing details of the story. The film is not a classic by any stretch of the imagination. But neither is it a disaster. It is a thoroughly decent movie, and there is nothing wrong with that.