Solo: A Star Wars Story – A (Spoiler-Free) Movie Review

Yes!  Yes!  Yes!

This is the Star Wars movie that I didn’t even know I wanted.

Solo: A Star Wars story is an action-packed heist movie that delivers ample nods to the past while absolutely solidifying itself in the present even as it provides electrifying hints of things to come.

I’ll be honest — I didn’t really want or need a Han Solo movie.  You can’t get any better than Harrison Ford, right?  So why even try?

But, oh, man, am I glad they tried.  Make no mistake — Harrison Ford has not been replaced, but Alden Ehrenreich is on his way to being a worthy successor.  Maybe it’s because I have no idea who this actor is, but he looks enough like Harrison Ford that I had no trouble with him in the role, and before too long, he undeniably made it his own.  Yes, he’s got similar cadence and speech patterns to what Ford used, but this is a younger, inexperienced, more optimistic Han, and so Ehrenreich gets to play with that a little.  And because I’ve never seen this actor before, I had no preconceived notions.  As far as I was concerned, I only saw Han Solo up there on the screen.

Though they hit all of the major touchstones you would expect, nothing unfolds quite the way we imagined.  I loved Han’s first time meeting Chewbacca.  I loved Han’s initial encounter with Lando.  I loved Han’s instant connection to the Millennium Falcon.  I loved the infamous Kessel Run.  However, even though you know these things are coming, all of it manages to surprise.

In fact, that’s the most wonderful quality of this movie — the entire thing is a surprise.  It’s thrilling, from start to finish.  They zig when you think they are going to zag, and somehow a character that’s been around for over forty years and recently died on screen still feels fresh and original.  They’ve pulled off the impossible!

The cast is absolutely the reason this movie is so memorizing.  The chemistry between everyone is indisputable.  Alden Ehrenreich’s Han and Donald Glover’s Lando are fantastic together.  (Of course, Glover’s got crazy chemistry with everyone in everything — he’s just got that kind of charisma.)  Han and Chewbacca are a team we immediately root for.  Emilia Clarke and Ehrenreich create real sparks.  Woody Harrelson and Ehrenreich work together very well as a sort of mentor and student, though, to be honest, I only ever see Woody Harrelson when he’s in a movie.  He’s kind of like Tom Cruise in that regard.  Even Lando and his robot partner, L3-37, connect with the audience in an unanticipated, authentic way.

Which brings me to my next point — Solo: A Star Wars Story is frenetic, suspenseful, charming, and funny, but it’s also got a lot of heart.  A lot of heart.  This is the first time I’ve every really cared about Han Solo as a person.  Yes, I worried about his safety in the past, but I never really thought about what made him tick.  In this film, he’s given actual motivation, backstory, and depth.  You get to see him evolve as a character.  You witness events that mold him into the space pirate we meet in A New Hope.  He enjoys a lot of victories in this movie, but he also takes some solid knocks — both physically and emotionally.

But, my gosh, the action!  Remember, Ron Howard has delivered some of our most revered movies that range from flat-out comedies to pure action films.  He’s done poignant moments amidst insane energy before.  This is the man who directed Backdraft, Apollo 13, Far and Away, A Beautiful Mind, and Rush, after all.

In the end, though, my favorite thing about Solo: A Star Wars Story is that it’s fun.  It’s really that simple.  This is a fun movie.  Even when things get dire, Han Solo is a fun character.  Chewbacca is a fun character.  Lando is a fun character.  Yes, there are a few heavy moments in this film.  Characters die.  The battles are intense.  But even during all of this, there is always an air of fun.

Furthermore, Ron Howard and the studio seem to understand what made us fall in love with Han Solo to begin with.  This is a youthful Han Solo, to be sure, but this is not a sanitized, clean-cut version of the character.  In fact, there’s a very specific moment near the end of the movie that tells the old guys like me that this is the Han Solo of my youth.  I won’t say any more than that, but if you were around for the originals, you’ll know it when you see it.

On that note, consequently, I would like to say that I took my nine-year-old daughter to see it and she loved it, too.  I think it’s really cool that I got to grow up with Han Solo, and now she will as well.  Harrison Ford will always be my first Han Solo, but for her, he was the old guy in The Force Awakens.  This man, Alden Ehrenreich, will be the Han Solo that she identifies with most, and that’s one-hundred percent okay in my book.  Today’s youth deserves these iconic characters just as much as my generation did.  I’m so glad they found actors who can carry the torches and maybe even outdo their predecessors.

I am all in with Alden Ehrenreich.  I will gladly watch him, Donald Glover, and Emilia Clarke in as many of these movies as they want to make, especially because they lay some groundwork for a story line that I’m DYING to see.  I won’t spoil it for you, but this movie ends on a note that will hook the Star Wars fan hard.

You might think there’s not much Han Solo story left to tell before he meets Ben, Luke, and Leia, but trust me when I say they have set him up magnificently for plenty of more adventure.

I can’t wait.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

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Han Solo by Majorie Liu and Mark Brooks – A Book Review

As you know, Disney bought Marvel some time ago, and then Disney bought the Star Wars franchise as well, so it only makes sense that Marvel would return to publishing Star Wars comics.  I have to be honest, I’ve been pleased with virtually every title Marvel has released belonging to the Star Wars universe, and Han Solo is no exception.

This limited series takes place soon after the first destruction of the Death Star.  The premise is rather simple – Han takes on a mission given to him by Leia, whom he seemingly can’t refuse.  He is to rescue some embedded Rebel spies posing as Imperial loyalists.  A famous space race is due to occur near the very planets he is to rescue Leia’s agents, and so Han will use the race as a cover for his real mission.  There’s only one problem – one of those supposed Alliance members is actually a traitor, but they don’t know which one!

Han Solo offers no backstory concerning the icon.  It does not touch upon the origin of his friendship with Chewbacca.  In other words, it steers very clear of any meaty topics the impending movie will likely address.

However, that’s not to say the book is a failure or boring.  Quite the opposite!  In fact, I think this book does a wonderful job establishing an important shift in Han.

I just watched Episodes IV, V, and VI with my young daughters, and I noticed that Han went from being a snarky, selfish pirate to a loyal, selfless hero rather quickly.  Of course, those are movies and have to operate by a different standard of pacing, but when watched in succession it’s a bit jolting.

This series showcases the struggle taking place within Han Solo.  He grapples throughout the book not only with doing the right thing, but also with introspection concerning why he’s doing the right thing at all.  Best of all?  Like Huck Finn, Han has a habit of acting heroically when he doesn’t have time to think.  There is a heart of gold under all that scruffiness, and this book makes a point to shine a spotlight upon it.

Furthermore, we hear a lot in the movies about what a great pilot Han is.  This book takes that to heart while illustrating Han’s skill on multiple occasions.  The race, called the Dragon Void, is designed to disable, even injure, the participants, and so Han must outrace, out think, and outmaneuver his opponents, all while dealing with the Empire as well as a potential traitor on his own ship.

But he does this with his usual swagger, charm, and aloofness.  Han Solo will never stand up front and center and declare himself a hero; he will typically do the right thing while self-deprecating and playing up an aspect of reluctance.  Because of this, the book helps bridge the gap between Han Solo of Star Wars and Han Solo of The Empire Strikes Back.  It hints at the good man into which Han will evolve.

It also works to establish a bit more of Han and Leia’s relationship.  Neither of these two individuals are likely to throw themselves at someone, yet, honestly, the movies progress their relationship along at a pretty fast pace.  The book does an excellent job of inching their romance along, slowly, awkwardly, even confrontationally.  But, by story’s end, there is a spark, an acknowledgement that an epic love story is about to begin.

The art, by the way, is very good.  Mark Brooks has truly captured the characters’ likenesses from film without making them appear too rigid.  His spacecraft are fun while appearing consistent with established mythology and his aliens are varied and interesting.  Best of all, he conveys motion well, especially in regards to the race.  It’s very important that comic book artists are able to literally move a story along from panel to panel, and Brooks manages to service Liu’s pacing well.

If you’re a Star Wars or Han Solo fan, this book will not disappoint.  I know on the surface it seems a little superficial with the clichéd race plot, but Liu offers some deeply interesting characterization and motivation for Han Solo that only enriches the character and grounds his actions in the films.

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Star Wars: Smuggler’s Run by Greg Rucka

For a book featuring a character called “Solo,” Han doesn’t have as big of a role as you may expect.

Set between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo agrees to take on just one more mission for the rebels at the behest of Princess Leia.  He’s tasked with rescuing a rebel named Ematt, one that may play a role in The Force Awakens.  Of course, it’s not long until Han finds himself at odds with a group of bounty hunters and the Empire itself.

Rucka perfectly captures the essence of Han Solo.  Charismatic but not always nice, this Solo hearkens back to the anti-hero of A New Hope.  Best of all, Rucka’s Chewbacca is a noble, trustworthy individual that operates as Solo’s conscience throughout the novel, as well as comedic relief.  There’s a reason we love this duo, and Rucka understands their dynamic masterfully.

I noted that there simply isn’t enough Solo in this solo adventure, and that’s because the chapters alternate between Han and an Imperial villain named Alecia Beck.  She is a commanding officer, merciless, and willing to do virtually anything to reach her objectives.  She stars in roughly 50% of the book, which makes me wonder if somewhere down the road she’s going to be a major player.  Perhaps one of the spin-off movies?  Maybe some future books or graphic novels? Only time will tell.

Because this is a young adult novel, it is incredibly fast-paced and short.  However, Rucka writes everything well, from novels to comic books to young adult books.  Star Wars fans of any age will appreciate this book and Han Solo fans will love it.  It’s definitely worth the brief amount of time it takes to read.