The Cast is Excellent
Out of every actor who has joined the Star Wars franchise since its revival, Alden Ehrenreich may have had the hardest and most thankless task in playing the young Han. Everyone knows what Han looks, sounds and acts like, thanks to the iconic work of Harrison Ford, and the love for that portrayal stretches across generations. Asking any actor to step into those shoes and evoke a pop culture legend while making the part their own is an impossible objective. On-set rumors made much of the story of Ehrenreich having an acting coach help with his performance, a common occurrence on any movie. Ultimately, Ehrenreich knocks it out of the park, imbuing just enough Harrison Ford style charm into his performance while nailing the dorky sweetness of a younger, more idealistic Han.
He’s also surrounded by actors of immeasurable charisma: Donald Glover’s Lando is electric in his magnetism, Woody Harrelson’s brand of slacker heroism is perfectly used, Phoebe Waller-Bridge as droid L3-37 is a comedic delight, and Paul Bettany’s giddy scenery chewing is perfectly suited to the film.
Why Han's Origin Story Works
Many critics and fans wondered why Han Solo needed an origin story to begin with. With such an expansive universe at their fingertips, was it really necessary to focus on someone we’ve had four movies with already? Questions of necessity don’t feel relevant to the story at hand, although it certainly seems to have affected the conversation around Solo. However, the way that the film approaches Han’s roots is fascinating and more deftly handled than it’s getting credit for.
Han’s origin is at its weakest in those moments when it feels like the screenwriters are ticking off boxes: Here’s how Han Solo got his name, here’s how he met Chewie, and so on. The need to hit these marks, which is completely expected in a film of this magnitude, exacerbates claims of the film’s supposed lack of reason for being. That mentality ignores how these moments are nowhere near as dominant in the narrative as various reviews would have you believe, and it overlooks the dexterity with which Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan show the evolution of young Han’s motivations. Before he became the sardonic anti-hero that we see in A New Hope, he was an idealist whose heart always skewed towards doing the right thing. In-between bouts of geeky awkwardness, he demonstrated his skills and drive, but remain rooted in a starker view of good versus evil. As much as he wants to believe he’s a devilish rogue with no concern for the law, he cannot help himself from trying to be an old-school hero. Solo doesn’t show Han’s full descent into cynicism, but through his actions and motivations, the seeds of it are planted for future installments, and it makes for some of the film’s most rewarding moments.
Star Wars fatigue will inevitably hit audiences, as many critics have noted, and various Solo: A Star Wars Story reviews feel like the first hints of that phenomenon. Yet all that does is downplay the successes of the film itself, one that has fought past a messy production and creative drama to emerge as a rollicking adventure that can stand proudly among the best films in the series. It’s near impossible to talk about Solo without weighing in on its accompanying baggage, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. This is a film that deserves a critical evaluation that goes beyond whether or not people think it’s necessary, or how much they crave the mythic version Lord and Miller would have made. Solo: A Star Wars Story is by no means a critical disaster, but in the context of this franchise and these critical conversations, it most certainly deserves better.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019