I am not ashamed of saying that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is my favorite Star Wars film to date. I love the film's cast of new characters, darker tone, and it's amazing third act. I left the theater excited for the future of Star Wars and what amazing things were to come under the Disney umbrella. Now a little over a year has passed since that night and now I'm left wondering what the hell went wrong. After the divisive nature of Star Wars: The Last Jedi left me and many others scratching our head at what the hell just happened, I was one of the few that thought Solo: A Star Wars Story might be the pallet cleanser the franchise needed after something so drastically different. I thought that maybe, just maybe, that Solo: A Star Wars Story could be just what the doctor ordered and help bring balance to the fandom. I was absolutely wrong.
Solo: A Star Wars Story stars Alden Ehrenreich alongside Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, and Paul Bettany. Oddly enough, this story was original created between George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan (writer for Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Force Awakens) back in 2012. Kasdan stayed on and is credited as the main writer of Solo alongside his son, Jonathan Kasdan. The film takes place sometime after the events of Revenge of the Sith but before the events of Rogue One and A New Hope. Han (Ehrenreich) is struggling to find his place in the galaxy and before he hits rock-bottom, he stumbles across a crew of smugglers (played by Harrelson & Newton) who he and his partner Chewbacca team up with. This band of scoundrels take part in a heist given to them by Crimson Dawn, a crime syndicate controlled by Dryden Vos. It is up to Han and company to complete the job or their lives will be over.
Let me start off with one of the biggest gripes coming into this film which is the departure of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller from the director's chair (or chairs I guess) and the arrival of Academy Award winner Ron Howard. Like Justice League, this film saw a change in direction midway through production. I can happily say that unlike Justice League, it is very hard to tell what scenes could possibly be Lord and Miller and which scenes are the reshoots from Ron Howard. It might be completely possible that this film was completely reshot with Howard's image but I doubt that there was absolutely no usable footage under.
Next up, the casting of Alden Ehrenreich as the infamous smuggler, Han Solo. Does he fill the jacket and low-cut shirt that Harrison Ford made famous back in 1977? There are moments where I believe that he does live up to the part. What parts that might be? Sadly, it is the ones where he's not talking. I believe that Alden did a great job at capturing the mannerisms of ticks that make up the character Han Solo. I even believe that the script has some good stuff for Ehrenreich to go off and make his own. For me, what kept standing out to me is his voice. Maybe I'm in the minority here but I just didn't like his take on the voice of Han Solo. It came off as trying to do a Harrison Ford impression. I just wish that he took a page out of Chris Pine's book with a younger version of Captain Kirk and made it more his own.
Although Ehrenreich could have been better, I think the rest of the cast does a better job than expected. I was surprised that Emilia Clarke actually showed up in a performance that was not the mother of dragons. While there are some moments where she channels her Khaleesi swag, they work because they service the character and I'll give her a pass. Even Woody Harrelson, the last person I thought I would ever see in a Star Wars film, does a pretty good take on Han Solo's semi-mentor figure in the film. I do have some issues with his character in the film but those issues stem from writing problems and not from Harrelson's performance. Finally, can we thank Disney for listening to our prayers and casting Donald Glover as Lando? Seriously, the moment he shows up in this film, he oozes the charisma and charm that Billy D. Williams introduced with his appearance in The Empire Strikes Back. Everything about what Glover does with the role is perfect. He doesn't just try to impersonate Billy D. Williams, he literally becomes a younger Billy D. Williams. The perfection of his performance makes it that much more frustrating when watching Ehrenreich play Han Solo. When you try to come to peace with his performance and say to yourself "It's just not possible to become Harrison Ford" you look across the screen and see Glover doing just that with his character.
No matter how talented a cast is, it can only go as far as the movie's script allows them to go and this movie lives and dies by the script. The story within Solo: A Star Wars Story might possibly be the most erratic Star Wars story to date, and yes, I'm including the prequels in that statement. While the prequel films might have been bad, they were consistent bad throughout mostly. We had to deal with Jar-Jar from beginning to end with The Phantom Menace. We had to deal with the horrible romance between Anakin and Padme from beginning to end in Attack of the Clones. In Solo, we have some moments and reveals that I believe live up to the moments that they are hyped up to be. At the same time, there are elements of this story that are complete head-scratchers with some that make you completely roll your eyes. For every moment that makes you enjoy Solo: A Star Wars Story, there is another that makes you wish that you never saw that scene ever.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is not a good film but having a director change and months of reshoots and still putting together something watchable is something I can applaud. Solo is nowhere near the production dumpster fire that Warner Brothers threw on the screen and called Justice League. Justice League and a lot that did not work but this film has a lot that does work. The visuals in this film might be some of the best visuals you'll ever get from a Star Wars film. Some of the major events that we know happen in Han's life happen in this film. Ron Howard and company could have easily dropped the ball on these events and set this film up for disaster before the credits rolled. The fact that they did a great job with those moments allow me to give this film a past. Very rarely do we get a origin story to a firmly established character that's successfully shows the moments that make them become who they are. Almost all of these moments for Han Solo work very well. What doesn't make this film work are some of the core story elements like the Cloud Riders and their leader Enfys Nest. Overall, if you're a fan of Star Wars, Solo is worth taking a shot at. Many Star Wars fans have sat through the prequels many times and if you can handle those horrible films, you can definitely handle this mediocre one.