'Solo: A Star Wars Story' is a strange movie. Of course, we all will walk in to the newest adventure in a galaxy far, far away with preconceived notions about what we want to see. I loved 'The Last Jedi,' a brilliant departure from the norm for the franchise, but many people were less than thrilled with the earth-shattering changes that will reverberate through the saga for a long time. Only five months later 'Solo' arrives, an opportunity for Star Wars to reach back to its base, telling the origin of one of cinema's legendary characters.
Unfortunately, it's just ok. Fun, but lesser than what came before.
I enjoyed the time spent watching, but don't have a burning desire to see it again soon (for context, I've seen all the others at least four times each in the theater). It's an above-average heist movie, I guess, but it is far too overloaded with fan service for my liking. We see Han acquire nearly all of his signature quirks in this fill, be it his partnership with Chewie, his blaster, the Falcon...it's just too much. The Star Wars galaxy is big and complex, and moves like this only serve to make is feel too small (sort of like having Anakin create C-3PO). Everything doesn't need to be explained, but the memo never got to Lucasfilm on this one.
This rushed, compressed approach is also reflected in the film's characters. New faces come in and leave (or are killed) with little fanfare, and don't leave much of a mark. 'Rogue One' killed EVERYBODY, but you felt a kinship with those characters, and the loss meant something. The gravitas and sense of importance are missing here, which is odd, as the films before it are exceptional at creating those stakes. Hey, maybe that's what Lucasfilm was shooting for here - after the drama of 'The Last Jedi,' maybe they were looking for a breezy, light good time. Maybe it's me - I want grandiouse space opera from my Star Wars, not 'Ocean's 12' mixed with 'John Carter.'
So what's good about it? Many of the events in the film certainly change the way you look at Han, and it will be fun to revisit the saga with this new knowledge in mind. 'Solo' also pays off storylines from other films, television shows, and novels, and sets up potentially exciting adventures to come, with new faces and old alike in interesting positions by the end (some of these old faces are fun suprises, so don't let anyone spoil you on those). Plus, I mean, it's a Star Wars movie - AT-STs are stomping around, storm troopers are shooting and missing, and the criminal underground is taking advantage of the shadows. It's a surprisingly dark, dank film, which fits the subject matter, but is also decidedly smaller than the films before it - both in execution and ideas.
The actors are pretty good, with Alden Ehrenreich servicable but certainly no Harrison Ford, and Donald Glover doing a (IMHO) slightly too imitative version of Lando. He show have dialed it back a bit, but he's still great to watch. The rest of the crew is fine, with the real standout being Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the droid L3. Like Alan Tudyk's K-2SO in 'Rogue One,' she is a robot with more humanity and emotion than most of the carbon-based characters. She's a hoot, and I could watch a movie with her at the center any day.
Look, I'll take a mediocre SW movie over almost anything, but, the truth is, that's what we have here. It's fun, it's messy, but it's ultimately a disappointing ride. Better than Episodes I and II and that horrendous Clone Wars film, but that's about it.