Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

PLOT: A young soldier named Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) joins a band of smugglers, led by a mastermind named Beckett (Woody Harrelson) who ropes him and his new pal, Chewbacca, into a dangerous heist for the galaxy's most powerful gangster.

REVIEW: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY comes to the screen under circumstances that are very similar to the saga’s last spin-off story, ROGUE ONE. Like that, this suffered from a great deal of behind-the-scenes turmoil, with Ron Howard famously stepping in at the eleventh hour, taking over for Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (they share an executive producer title, while Howard takes the sole directing credit). In this case, I’d wager most of the finished product belongs to Howard, with it feeling very much like one of his films, meaning this is a proficient, well-made film with some moments of genuine inspiration, even if it likely won’t set the world on fire.

Many have questioned whether a Han Solo origin story was even worth telling and having watched the finished film I’m not entirely convinced it was, even though it’s a fun ride. Part of it is because of the thematic similarities to GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, which did something just like it in a fresh new way, and another is the casting of the lead. It’s really hard casting someone who could believably remind you of Harrison Ford, and that it’s such an iconic part doesn’t do Alden Ehrenreich any favors. He’s a good actor, but he’s got a distinctly different energy than Ford. He’s never bad in the part, but not for a second was I convinced he was playing the same character Ford does.

Lucky then that the rest of the cast is so rock solid. It’s nice having Chewie be front and center, with the bond between him and Solo getting a nice build-up. Like many, I was also impressed by Donald Glover’s turn as Lando. If I didn’t buy Ehrenreich as Ford, I sure did buy Glover filling Billy Dee Williams’s shoes, with him doing a great job mixing in nods to the way he was originally portrayed, and working in bits of his own.

Woody Harrelson also has a nice part as Beckett, the thief who takes the young Solo under his wing and shows him the ropes. Harrelson seems to be having a blast in the part and owns the screen when he’s on it. His chemistry with Thandie Newton, who plays his love interest, is solid too. Like Harrelson, Emilia Clarke also benefits from being able to play an original character, as Solo’s love interest, a fellow Corellian runaway, with her injecting the part with some real pathos. She fares much better here than in other leading roles she’s played outside of “Game of Thrones.” Paul Bettany also cuts a fine figure as the gangster baddie, while “Fleabag’s” Phoebe Waller-Bridge steals scenes as Lando’s amorous droid.

Another interesting thing about SOLO is that the tech credits feature several new additions to the franchise, with John Powell contributing a playful score with nods to the John Williams’s themes, while Bradford Young’s cinematography is suitably dark. That said, seeing this under less than ideal projection circumstances, as happened to me at the press screening, will make some of the action indecipherable. Young shoots beautiful films, but they require impeccable presentation.

Again, SOLO isn’t going to wow fans that’ve no doubt never been too high on the premise anyway, but it’s a good, entertaining take on the character. It’s well done, and Howard makes it all come together nicely. Ehrenreich isn’t going to make anyone forget Harrison Ford, but as a new addition to the saga, it does its job well enough.


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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.