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