The younger folks in your life will like Solo a lot, as will any fans who really like deep lore. Beyond that, it’s just a fun Western-Heist movie. Grab the cheap seats on Tuesday, or wait for streaming.
The Good: Donald Glover, Joonas Suotamo, and when it is just having fun.
This is the first entry in the now 10-film-forty-year franchise to not be a Star Wars movie. And it’s kind of delightful.
That is to say, it isn’t about something big. The stakes aren’t huge. There’s no battle of good vs. evil, no ancient religions or mythical space wizards.
Solo is an outlaw Western. Some folks who are bad by circumstance try to outwit some folks who are bad by nature. There’s a train, miners, explosions, and shoot outs galore. And when it is doing this? The movie is a ton of fun.
There’s not much to it beyond this. Donald Glover is great, to the surprise of no one, though criminally under used.
Joonas Suotamo, who plays Chewbacca, does a great job taking what has been, if we’re being honest, a set piece, and making him a real character.
Of course, the biggest surprise is the titular character himself – Alden Ehrenreich doesn’t try to be Harrison Ford, instead making Solo something of his own. It’s not always perfect, but for the most part, it works just fine.
The Bad: It tries to be something to everyone – and fails.
Unfortunately, Solo doesn’t stick with its “just have some fun” attitude. It tries to do a lot, and it ends up suffocating the overall product.
There’s new characters introduced, there to shepherd in the story and allow for some dynamics to develop – and then they’re killed quite literally 5 minutes later.
There is a comedic relationship portrayed between Lando and his droid, but is then put forward as very touching and sincere.
The larger plot does this too. It’s a fun Western romp about a guy just trying to get back with his gal, until it’s suddenly not, and becomes a deep ideological fight between freedom and oppression.
The whiplash is severe, and while tonal inconsistencies are often overblown, this is one case where it applies well.
Also, a personal quibble: a lot of the scenes in the movie are shot in monochrome – this scene is blue, this one is red, brown, yellow, and so on. It depresses the visuals and costume work, both things that Star Wars has always excelled at.
The Ugly: Solo delivers a strangely coded feminine-droid, and makes fun of “SJWs.”
Phoebe Waller-Bridge voices L3-37, Lando Calrissian’s right-hand droid and the first feminine-coded one of the Star Wars franchise. And that’s pretty cool – theoretically.
In practice, for some unclear and somewhat uncomfortable reason, L3 is designed to have shapely swinging “womanly” hips with extremely long legs and walks as though on high heels. It adds nothing and plays no role in her plot.
Someone far more familiar and competent at applying queer theory to film might be able to correct me here, but there’s a whiff of “chose her own identity” in L3’s dialogue and plot. The exaggerated coding could be an intentional character choice, inhabiting tropes of her preferred “gender.”
But I doubt it.
There’s also a subplot involving L3 as a revolutionary droid, advocating for droid rights and their uprising against their oppressors. Again, cool in theory.
Instead, this plot is treated as a joke – it’s silly when L3 focuses on this, played almost like a sitcom laugh-track cut away. “Oh L3! At it again! [Insert laugh track, cut to commercial].”
So are they making fun of activists who focus on these issues, in a “silly SJW” fashion? Or is she supposed to be taken seriously, and the good guys are supposed to be obtuse? Or, third possibility, is she the “vegan friend who brings up that fact in every damn conversation” so we can relate to her?
The fact that it’s unclear is distracting, though kids will definitely love her personality.
“Board the Millennium Falcon and journey to a galaxy far, far away in Solo: A Star Wars Story, an all-new adventure with the most beloved scoundrel in the galaxy. Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his mighty future copilot Chewbacca and encounters the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian, in a journey that will set the course of one of the Star Wars saga’s most unlikely heroes.” – Rotten Tomatoes