Despite its two-hour and fifteen minutes running time, ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ goes by in a blink of an eye. The sci-fi adventure and the second spinoff from the Star Wars franchise is a whole lot of fun that doesn’t delve in too much into the mythology of the modern epic. And this is a good thing. While it does show a lot of Han Solo’s past and where certain affectations and items that we’ve seen in the Star Wars films originated, the film never feels like it’s trying to explain the character to us.
‘Han Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is just a fun adventure of a rogue who finds his footing in this universe and it just so happens we know the instrumental part he plays in the larger scheme of this world.
The film steers away from unnecessary drama and doesn’t try to infuse the character with the significance of the character in the Star Wars franchise. There are very subtle nudges and winks that any follower of the series would catch on, but these are not impressed upon us, and are done in a sort of throw-away manner that gives this film its own space to breathe.
The narrative moves very quickly, exchanging dramatic beats with quick rundowns of Han Solo’s escapades as a young thief in a ghetto planet protected by a domineering mother of thieves type character. We are introduced to the first love of his life, Qi’ra, and in his journey to becoming the rogue we know him to be, we witness his first meeting with Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian, and the band of interstellar thieves, led by a man called Beckett, who becomes a sort of mentor.
At first, I was a little turned off by the film’s lack of emotional weight and dramatic tension. The film moves from big action sequences to a terrific train heist on a frozen planet, to more thrilling adventures, and I realized that this is all the movie needs to be. ‘Han Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is not the space epic that ‘Star Wars’ has become. It’s a story about a rogue, coming into his own in a world surrounded by an authoritarian regime, rebels, and various crime syndicates making a profit at the underbelly of this universe.
While the film is a whole lot of fun, it maintains the Star Wars tradition of questioning the status quo, the liberal ideals found in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ and ‘Rogue One’ are at play here and the world of the Star Wars universe is clearly defined. But this time, it is through the lens of the crime world. Where do they fit in and how does Han Solo shift from smuggler to hero in the series becomes the film’s narrative center.
Alden Ehrenreich is charming as the young Han Solo. He captures Harrison Ford’s confidence but plays out his swagger with less practiced ease. It’s really Han Solo before he becomes the man we know him to be. Emilia Clarke brings a warmth and softness to Qi’ra, which is a pleasant surprise. She’s a marvel. Woody Harrelson is perfect casting for Beckett as is Donald Glover for the smooth and suave Lando Calrissian.
‘Han Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is never bogged down with the ambition to live up to the epicness of the films it branched out from and this is how it succeeds. It’s a fun look into the criminal underbelly of this universe and the film is directed in a way that just allows you to sit back and enjoy yourself. It’s definitely a refreshing change from the pronounced statements of many blockbusters on the cinema.