All right friends, tonight I'm coming at you with a hot take: I thought Solo: A Star Wars Story was all right. It was not great, but I don't think it's an awful mess either. I have an interesting knowledge of the Star Wars universe; I have only seen one of the films start to finish, but my job has given me a lot more Star Wars knowledge than the average person who has seen only one of the films. On top of that, most of my coworkers really enjoy Star Wars, so I'm kinda of a second-hand fan if you will. So I was in a unique position to see this movie.
I knew a decent bit about Han Solo - the one Star Wars film I've seen all the way through is A New Hope. I also knew about Chewbacca of course, and had a slight knowledge of Lando as well. And to be honest, I don't think I needed to know much more. There were some in-jokes and references I could tell I didn't quite pick up on, and on the other hand, my vague knowledge of things and places made mentions of Tatooine and TIE Fighters click in my head.
So, in terms of special effects, scoring, sound design, costuming, all that jazz - I'd say this was top notch. The score had callbacks to original themes while integrating new pieces, which worked well. The planets and sets were all well-designed, and I found a lot of the ships had excellent designs both inside and out.
The casting was pretty good. This movie had quite a few characters that fall within the category of "funny guy but can also get serious when he needs to" but they were diverse enough in personality to make them all fairly interesting. Woody Harrelson and Donald Glover were both excellent choices. Emilia Clarke was also good, though I found her character to be a bit too trope-ish and uncomplicated, despite efforts to make her seem complex. (More on that later.) The part was well-acted though. And of course there's the titular Han Solo. I will be honest with you, I do not have a clue who played him. But I do think he was good. He was filling some huge shoes, and while I think Harrison Ford is iconic in the role in later films, this new guy wasn't half bad. He doesn't have the charm or the wit of Ford's Solo, but he's also playing a younger, more naïve Solo. Still, I would have liked to see a little more arrogant charm pulled off in that perfectly Han Solo way.
Here's my primary complaint with the movie: it has a simplistic script and characters with minimal depth. On the surface this movie is exciting and entertaining, but if you look closer, things start to fall into tropes, and badly. I've heard this film described as a heist film but in space, and if you've ever watched a heist movie, you know that they're not often character driven, or that the characters often fit a "role" and aren't much more complex than that. Solo is just that.
And from a feminist perspective, this movie...well, it fails in that regard. It doesn't even pass the Bechdel Test. Don't go into this expecting Qi'ra, the lead female, to be anything other than a love interest with questionable loyalty. Also, I say lead female, but in all honestly she's really the only female for nearly all of the movie.
So, do I recommend Solo: A Star Wars Story? Perhaps. If you want a fun action movie with some sci-fi elements, go for it. If you're looking for an iconic Star Wars movie, maybe not. It's got thrills and twists but it's unlikely to blow your mind. This may be a wait-til-it's-out-on-DVD kind of film.
However, one good thing did come from this viewing experience: It made me want to watch the other Star Wars films. I've felt a bit intimidated by the franchise since I didn't watch the movies growing up, and A New Hope never completely captivated me when I saw it. However, I have a newfound interest in the series, so I think I'm going to give it a try. If anyone wants to marathon all the movies with me, just tell me a time and place!