A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....
I wish that this could just all be scrolling text from here on out, but as we all know, that can get super annoying, and somewhat difficult, to read. So thankfully, much like Solo: A Stars Wars Story, this story does not continue that trend.
Before I get too far into this review I'd like to preface that I am not, by any means, a big Star Wars nerd. Of course I enjoy the movies, but I was never that into them as a kid. It wasn't until college (so relatively recent) that I really started to fall in love with the movies and characters. But even now I would only consider myself a casual fan to the point where I only own a few graphic t-shirts with the Millennium Falcon plastered on the front.
Plagued from the start, the film only made $110.3 million as of May 29. This is a very low total for a Star Wars movie in its first week of release. The film is said to have a budget upwards of $250 million, so it will need to bring in $500 million to break even.
One thing that struck me to be quite interesting was that Solo was not marketed very well, almost as if Disney were preparing for it to be a flop. A lot of rumors surfaced that Alden Ehrenreich (Han Solo) needed to take acting classes while the movie was still filming. These rumors made me feel a little uneasy. Han Solo is one of my favorite characters, so I really wanted to see this movie succeed. It also suffered from it's placement before even hitting theaters. Disney poured a *expletive*-ton of money into Avengers: Infinity War, and we all know how that turned out. Being the follow-up to that blockbuster monster was already a tough spot to be in, but throw in the release of Incredibles 2 next month and the Disney marketing team has their two biggest bases covered for the year.
All of these factors led to very little optimism for Solo on my end. Though, when I went to see the movie this past weekend I walked out pleasantly surprised. It honestly reminds me a lot about the way Disney handled Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales last summer. Little marketing and fear of over-saturation led to people to shy away from seeing the film in theaters, but those who did, more often than not, were pleased with the outcome. By no means is Solo a mega-hit that is going to break box office records (not that anyone expected it to), but it is absolutely a fun summer movie!
*WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD*
A standalone story set prior to the events of Star Wars Episode IV, the movie explores the adventures of Han Solo and friends as they embark on journey through the criminal underworld. The film begins as Han and his lover, Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke), escape from the local gangs and bribe an Imperial officer with some stolen coaxium (hyperspace fuel) so that they can begin a life in freedom. Though things soon take a turn as the gangs are able to prevent Qi'ra from escaping, leaving her stranded on the world of Corellia (or so we are led to believe). So setting up the reason that Han must become a pilot - so he can return to Corellia and save his lover.
The film then fast forwards three years into the future, where we learn that Han has ben expelled from the Imperial Flight Academy due to insubordination and becomes a member of the infantry. He then encounters Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his team of criminals, while they are posing as an Imperial soldiers. Han calls them out as frauds and is thrown into a pit to become a beast's lunch.
This isn't any beast though - as this becomes the story of how Han meets his Wookie sidekick, Chewbacca. It seems as though Chewie does have the intent to eat Han, until he realizes that Han is able to speak the Wookie language. The two use this bond to escape the pit, and join Beckett and his team of criminals on a mission to steal a haul of coaxium.
The plan is foiled after a a group of Cloud Riders, under the direction of their leader, Enfys Nest, attempt to steal the same shipment, leading to a somewhat lackluster battle that leads to a massive coaxium explosion. After the heist fails, Beckett reveals that the job was meant to be completed for criminal boss Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) of the Crimson Dawn. Of course this sets up the films main protagonist.
When Beckett, Han and Chewie go to meet Vos in an attempt to reason with him, Han encounters Qi'ra, who is now working for Vos and Crimson Dawn, who joins the team after a settlement with Vos over the failed coaxium delivery.
The team needs to find a ship, so Qi'ra leads them to Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Han challenges Lando to a game of sabacc (alien poker) with the wager being for his ship, the Millennium Falcon. Han loses after Lando cheats, but Lando (along with his droid, L3-37) ultimately agrees to join the mission in exchange for a cut of the profit.
The team heads to the planet Kessel where they plan to steal the coaxium. L3 unleashes a droid-slave revolt. This distraction allows Han and Chewbacca to steal the coaxium as the battles ensue. L3 is badly damaged, and Lando is injured as he attempts to save her in the escape, leaving Han to pilot the Falcon. L3's navigation system is put into the ship after she is too damaged to live on as a droid, and the team lands on Savereen to complete the deal with Vos.
They encounter Enfys on Savereen, who has been tracking the team since their failed mission on Vandor, reasons with them and explains why her people need the coaxium to prevent the Empire from gaining power. Han becomes sympathetic and attempts to help Enfys. Lando flees the scene in the Millennium Falcon. Vos sends his people to kill the Cloud Riders, but they turn the tables on him and destroy his army, leaving him defenseless. Han attempts to take the coaxium, but Beckett crosses him and turns him over to Vos. Beckett then takes the coaxium and Chewbacca hostage.
Qi'ra then kills Vos and sends Han after Beckett. When she is alone, Qi'ra contacts Vos's superior, in an awesome, jaw-dropping cameo that we learn to be Darth Maul, and informs him of the missions failure and that she will claim Vos's position.
Han then catches up to Beckett and kills him before handing over the coaxium to Enfys. She offers for Han to join the rebellion, but he declines. She gives him a tube of coaxium so that he is able to buy his own ship. Han then finds Lando and challenges him to another game of sabacc with the same implications - winner gets the Falcon. Though this time Han Lando to cheat and steals his extra card, leaving him the winner fair and square, and claiming the Millennium Falcon as his own, before leaving to travel to Tatooine, where a gangster is said to be putting together a crew for a heist.
Overall, this was a very fun movie. Ehrenreich's Han Solo was just as cool as I wanted him to be, though it took a bit for me to be convinced that he was truly Han Solo. But after thinking it through after the movie, it really just showed fantastic character development.
I was most looking forward to seeing Emilia Clarke and Donald Glover because I am a huge fan of their previous work. Neither one disappointed. I would have loved to see Glover spitting bars at the nightclub, and it would have been immensely awesome and strategic if Clarke could have summoned her dragons for some help, but I guess those wishes are for a different time and place.
The cameo of Darth Maul could be confusing to some, including myself, considering that he was assumed to be dead after Episode I. Thankfully, I was accompanied to the movies by my girlfriend and her Star Wars loving brother, who explained to us that in The Clone Wars animated TV-series, this storyline is explained. After being cut in half, Maul survives his fall into the pit in The Phantom Menace, and eventually gains a pair of robot legs (which can be seen in the film).
This cameo, along with the rumors that a Boba Fett origin story could be in the works for the future, draws a lot of speculation that there is still a lot of area to be explored in the timeline between Solo and A New Hope. Regardless of the fact that this movie has not done well to this point, I think that Disney could use intrigue to spawn a whole new saga of films, and honestly, I wouldn't be too against that. Bringing back Darth Maul opens up a lot of potential storylines and could be a lot of fun to connect everything together even more down the line.
I'd give this movie a solid 7/10. I went in with low expectations, and those expectations were exceeded. The cast delivers a fun ride through the galaxy. If you're looking for something to do on a rainy day, I recommend that you check out this movie... even if you have to go solo... See what I did there?