Leaving the theater in my rickety 2002 Toyota Echo, high on “Solo” vibes, made me feel like Han Solo. That suave vibe that makes you want to be like the pilot is arguably this prequel’s primary strength among various significant weaknesses. Not unlike my car, the film itself feels rickety at times, threatening to collapse under its own weight. There are fantastic moments that propel it forward, but not enough to make up for its weighty mistakes.
Let’s face it, we did not need this movie. Han Solo does not need an origin story, the appeal of his character is that he just is the way he is, but here we learn the reason behind his entire personality; in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, Han Solo was a true rebel without a cause, but that’s partially taken away here when he’s given, well, an actual cause. Nevertheless, “Solo” slightly exceeded many expectations, including my own, in several ways.
For one, the performances were good. Woody Harrelson and Emilia Clarke as Tobias Beckett and Qi’Ra, respectively, each gave a solid performance despite almost never reaching emotional extremes or taking risks. When Donald Glover began his Lando Calrissian impression, it came off as a slightly awkward impression; Glover seemed to be trying a bit too hard to be super suave, but eventually he seemed to grow more sure of himself and, in the end, proved to be a great choice. Of course, no one can be the Han Solo except Harrison Ford, but Alden Ehrenreich was awesome. He looked very confident in his own performance and charm, never pushing too hard to be Ford. Ehrenreich’s performance was what could have brought the movie way down, but thankfully pushed it up a notch.
Another really good element of “Solo” was, as I mentioned, its visual appeal. Director Ron Howard is known for his good eye, and this is no exception. Almost every scene had a clear tinge and shade (almost always something dim) that added to the feel of the whole thing. If Han Solo was going to get a solo movie, it had to look as good as this. One of my favorite parts was when Solo finally got to pilot the Millenium Falcon; you can’t help but think “finally” along with him as he shuffles into the pilot seat with just enough time for a sly grin. If there was one thing “Solo” did justice to, it’s Han Solo’s love for flying.
All that said, “Solo” did have significant problems. For one, the whole thing was way too long. Like the pilot himself, the story seems to improvise as it goes along, adding several twists and turns that keep it going for even longer than it should. While the galactic battles and heists are what we came to see, some of them have too much going on for too long that they can even border on boring. The characters, though well-acted, are difficult to connect with and worry over; this isn’t helped by some of the bigger action scenes as, in all the blasts and explosions, the characters just get lost in the mix. The romance, between Han and Qi’Ra, also could have worked wonderfully(as I believe it did in the beginning), but was heavily damaged by the strange fluctuations in Clarke’s character; still, Ehrenreich was good enough to make us believe that Han wanted to be with her more than anything.
The quality of “Solo” comes mainly in moments; moments like Han Solo’s first flight on the Falcon, his first meeting with Chewie, and his last gamble with Lando. It’s very difficult for it to be consistent and steady in anything except its acting and style, and, in my humble opinion, the final act staggers gravely. There is enough good moments to propel it forward to the status of an average movie, but take these away and “Solo” crashes spectacularly.