This sub-title might come as a surprise after Disney fired everybody’s director darlings Phil Lord and Chris Miller, which resulted in a PR disaster, leading everyone to believe that Disney is afraid to taking risks -and maybe deservedly so. Even the first trailer, which arrived unusually late, after extensive reshoots, wasn’t overwhelming. However, even if the relatively quiet (for Star Wars dimensions) PR campaign might have hurt the financial success (and naysayers will see themselves confirmed since that isn’t exactly a sign of trust in their own product), I think it has benefitted some people’s expectations in that they can be surprised about this newest spinoff instead of being overhyped.
Reminiscing Alden Ehrenreich’s breakout performance in Hail Caesar and his character’s (greatly acted) inability to recite a rather simple line (“Would that it were so simple”), Alden Ehrenreich indeed manages to pull off the unexpected and makes it look very simple to portray one of the biggest icons in popular culture and movie history in general, which, in turn, ironically is an essential part of Han’s character, making something look effortless in the face of absolute lack of plan. He also succeeds in capturing Han’s charisma and his cheeky, having-a-mind-of-his-own, 0-f*s-for-authority personality without feeling like a scam. The character design matches the original trilogy rather well and while it does not always explain the origin of some character traits, the viewer buys this younger version that will turn into our favorite good-hearted, quick-witted outlaw.
The movie opens with a more than solid first act. The escape sequence on Corellia, which is a pretty interesting planet and a cool addition to the universe, was very riveting as was the biggest action sequence with the train on Vandor after his first encounter with Woody Harrelson’s Tobias Beckett and a brief, weirdly un-Star-Wars-like (because gritty and muddy) scene about the war of the Empire. We learn how Han got to know Chewbecca as well as his blaster, and his rapidly growing relationship with Chewbecca is one of the more interesting and relevant elements of this prequel story.
A problem of prequel stories is that the viewer knows the termination the film is heading towards and hence, the journey there has to be interesting, or otherwise the de-mystification of elements originally intentionally left vague to enrich the universe results in disappointment. As mentioned above, I don’t deem that problematic with Chewie nor do I for the encounter with Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover, perfectly cast, is clearly having fun with the bravado and sexual ambiguity of the role). However, I felt the Kessel run was rather underwhelming given the less than thrilling realization in this spinoff. It was not a bad action sequence per se but unworthy of the legendary status it has to live up to. In contrast, I feel there are some very cool references to the main saga. Albeit seldom subtle, this fan service makes me smile or chuckle, except for the rather disappointing surname explanation. However, there is a pretty surprising reveal, which fascinated me immediately.
Other than incorporating old elements, there a number of new characters introduced. In addition to the aforemnetioned Tobias Beckett, Lando’s droid L3 (voiced by Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge) is hilarious and Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos makes a decent antagonist. Emilia Clarke’s Qi-Ra works best on screen together with Aldenreich and might not be tantamount to Han’s development but makes the viewer understand him a little bit better.
In general, the film is rather funny, which fits Solo’s personality as it not only comprises the adventurous side but also Han’s nimble mind and his humor. They pull off his arrogance quite aptly and also his banter with Lando or Chewie are quite entertaining. There might not be any stakes due the film being a prequel for Han and Chewie but the movie never dragged or felt overly predictable. If the premise interests you, you get a light-footed, entertaining adventurous movie, which some may have liked better as a whole than The Last Jedi.
all images (including title image): © by Disney, taken from the official homepage