Having had the chance to see Solo: A Star Wars Story a couple of times, and having had a few weeks to consider my thoughts on the movie, I can safely say I was wrong not to look forward to its release. Mostly, at least.
As disappointed as I am with the hateful rhetoric too many Star Wars “fans” have taken to spewing across the Internet since the release of The Last Jedi, I still hold Star Wars in a special place in my nerdy heart. I grew up with Star Wars and many of my favorite movie-going experiences have revolved around going to seeing Star Wars movies with loved ones. My earliest Star Wars memory is going to see the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back as a double feature with my father. The first movie I took my oldest kiddo to was The Attack of the Clones. We made two family expeditions over winter break to watch The Force Awakens at IMAX. My absolute favorite Star Wars adventures have come from taking a loved one to see their first Star Wars movie as I did with Return of the Jedi and Rogue One.
Solo continued that tradition of sharing with my loved ones, and in that regard alone, Solo was worth every moment, but I also enjoyed being proven wrong. Solo: A Star Wars Story was a great entry in the franchise, and would probably find a spot on my top five list of Star Wars movies. I was not looking forward to Solo‘s release. Much has been made of the movie’s troubled production, and that was definitely a concern after The Last Jedi‘s troubled production was apparent at that movie’s seams, but I was one of those reassured, even buoyed, when Ron Howard was brought on to rehabilitate the movie. His work as a director may usually only range from average to good, but he is rarely terrible, and he has run in the Lucas-Kasdan-Kennedy circles as long as almost anyone in Hollywood. There are some tonal inconsistencies that still hint at the movie’s troubled production, and the movie’s pace can drag a bit in spots trying to lay its own groundwork that carry the whiff of last-minute rewrites, but none of this detracts from an all-around enjoyable adventure.
Much was also made during the movie’s production of concerns about Alden Ehrenreich’s acting. Given the history of laughably bad performances in Star Wars movies, this was a far more troublesome worry, but one that proved unnecessary. No one was going to deliver a better performance than Woody Harrelson, an actor who effortlessly lights up the screen no matter what he is doing, and it was widely, and rightly, understood that Donald Glover was perfectly cast as Lando Calrissian, but Mr. Ehrenreich does a fine job portraying everyone’s favorite scruffy nerfherding rogue. Especially after watching the movie a second time, I realized that Mr. Ehrenreich does a better job through his performance of showing the arc of the titular character’s early steps into stoic independence and cynicism than the story being told.
The primary reason I was unenthusiastic about Solo, was that the last thing I wanted was a series of “young” Star Wars movies. Part of this concern was typical prequel worry. Prequels rarely work out well for any series or franchise in any medium, shoehorning in story beats that did not need elaboration and cameos from characters that were better left to their own story arcs. Rogue One had shown that the creative team at Disney and Lucasfilm had a template for telling compelling prequel stories without falling too deeply into these traps. Unfortunately, Solo looked like it was going to jettison that template, and the only thing worse than a overly self-referential prequel is a prequel centered around a young version of a character. Young Indiana Jones. Young Sherlock Holmes. Young MacGyver. Any example you can name is probably complete crap. I was not only unconvinced that Solo would be a decent movie on it’s own, I was terrified that it would be a huge success and launch a hundred more “young” Star Wars movies devoted to every two-bit character to tromp through the franchise’s 40 year history. Solo doesn’t completely avoid the prequel pitfalls I worried about, but ironically, Solo left me wanting sequels with more young Han Solo and more young Lando Calrissian, and hopefully even a storyline that ties in some young Boba Fett and some young-ish Obi Wan Kenobi on the way to bringing down the big bad revealed at the end of the movie, even as the movie’s disappointing box office makes all of this highly unlikely. Maybe I will get lucky, and be wrong about Solo: A Star Wars Story one more time.