Comic droids, globetrotting, nods to the past, wisecracking characters if this sounds familiar to you then that’s because the last four Star Wars movies have all contained aspects of these tropes in them. Familiarity is becoming a problem especially as Star Wars movies begin to come at you thick and fast. As evident with the film’s troubled production history, Disney is averse to taking risks (even if The Last Jedi took some, albeit wrongheaded, risks). This, part in part, has created the somewhat subdued anticipation, and reception, of the latest Star Wars spin-off.
Solo did have a troubled production history, but that does not mean the film was going to be terrible (Rogue One was superb despite its own productions issues). Ron Howard reshot 70% of the film after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were let go due to creative differences with Disney and whilst the films zips along nicely it does feel a bit disjointed and uneven in places. For example, when Solo joins the Empire Flying Academy, the film skips ahead three years, completely skipping this aspect of his life. All we are given is one line the dialogue explaining Solo had a mind of his own and was kicked out.
Another issue is that it feels as though there is very little jeopardy. The main mission is a risky plan to steal unrefined Coaxium from the mines on the planet Kessel. It’s risky because unrefined Coaxium will explode when not quickly processed, however, the film doesn’t make the most of this tense life or death situation (think Wages of Fear as the perfect example of tension concerning transportation of highly dangerous substances) and makes transporting the Coaxium somewhat of a doddle.
Despite its flaws, it’s fun when it’s on even if unsubstantial in the grand scheme of things. Effectively serving as an average heist movie set in the Star Wars universe it adds a little backstory to the one of the series’ most iconic characters, including his friendship with Lando Calrissian (a superb Donald Glover) and how Solo won the Millennium Falcon.
Alden Ehrenreich plays the titular character and does an impressive job capturing some of the character’s mannerisms, especially the Han Solo smirk. However, the charm of the film is Solo’s meeting and growing relationship with Chewie. It says a lot about these two characters’ enduring popularity that people are more interested in Solo’s relationship with a walking carpet than his romantic relationship with Emilia Clarke’s Qi'ra.
For 99% of the film, Solo is lacking in surprises (there’s that 1% that is surprising) as it copies a similar format established in The Force Awakens. Still, it’s fun when it’s on.