REVIEW: Learning everything about ‘Solo’ didn’t make for compelling cinema

Audiences get to see the backstory of the legendary space cowboy in “Solo,” but that wasn’t necessarily a good thing with this feature.

As the title implies, “Solo” is about the outlaw, this time played by Alden Ehrenreich. The film details how Han went from an orphan on a dilapidated planet to a pilot academy dropout and then to a man surviving in the criminal underworld.

The latter comes about when Han begins working with a man named Beckett (Woody Harrelson), who needs a crew for a heist mission. Through a series of events, the crew becomes rounded out with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), his childhood friend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover).

A major issue with “Solo is that for much of its run time, it felt like watching a checklist was being marked. The movie shows how Han met Chewie, how Han got his name, how Han got his blaster, and so on. It was as if the movie was more concerned with making sure an audience got to see every detail of how Han either received something or became known for something.

The problem with this is it felt that the story was written around that checklist, so rather than just taking a random chapter of the character’s life and showcasing it as its own movie, “Solo” zig-zags to either show how Han did something or says a line as if to wink at the viewers.

In that sense, and I hate to say this, but it felt similar to the prequel trilogy, in the same way those films seemed to be more focused on explaining every event that was discussed in conversation during the original trilogy.

On top of that issue, “Solo” seemed to play things way too safe. Most of the film’s drama comes from a run-of-the-mill relationship between Qi’ra and Han. That relationship just felt artificial, as if it were filler for the movie. As a whole, “Solo” just isn’t very compelling from a narrative standpoint.

It actually makes one wonder what the film would have been like if the two original directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller weren’t fired for creative differences. It’s forever unknown if that film would have been good or not, but it would have likely been more outside the box than what Director Ron Howard did by taking over the project.

As for the acting, the big question was how Ehrenreich did in the role of Solo. From this perspective, it was a bit hit and miss. Ehrenreich is a charismatic actor who does bring charm to his roles and this was no different. Ehnrenreich is fine as a leading performer and does have some good moments here.

However, I can’t say that I ever truly bought Ehrenreich as the future Han Solo. It never came across that I was really watching a younger version of the character. Unlike, say Chris Pine as a young Jim Kirk in the 2009 “Star Trek” or even Ewan McGregor as a younger Obi-Wan, the Solo here seemed detached from the one that most audiences know.

The other performers here are all fine, with Donald Glover actually being a good standout. With Lando, I did believe it to be a younger version of the character, which helps the movie’s case. Harrelson and Clarke are also on point here, but I don’t think the story’s execution did them many favors.

Now, in all fairness to this flick, Howard and his crew were serviceable enough in creating a film with some entertaining moments. There are scenes here featuring the Millennium Falcon that are fascinating to watch, especially in the film’s climax. Although, some moments seemed like they were shot too dimly, with a few of the settings being especially dark.

At the end of the day, “Solo” just uses a by-the-books heist film format to over-explain the character’s origins. The movie is entertaining enough to hold one’s attention for its two hour runtime, but isn’t as engaging as some of the other entries in the series and as a result is rather forgettable. 2.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

2 thoughts on “REVIEW: Learning everything about ‘Solo’ didn’t make for compelling cinema”

  1. “as if the movie was more concerned with making sure an audience got to see every detail of how Han either received something or became known for something.”

    wasn’t that the whole point of this movie existing in the first place? Prequels are born because enough fans asked loudly enough and often enough “but how did that guy get that thing?”


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