Some of the biggest news stories surrounding the production ofSolo: A Star Wars Story over the past few years, have been about the removal of original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller deep into production. Rumors swirled around what happened, why they were removed, and what Lucasfilm was planning to do. However, it’s important to note that the only unique thing about the troubles during production for this movie is that you heard about them. These days every movie goes through growing pains, especially major studio franchises like this one. This isn’t even the first Star Wars movie of the Disney era to struggle behind the scenes. The Force Awakens was moved from a May 2015 release date to a December 2015 release date when extensive reworks on the script proved that it wouldn’t be possible to hit the original deadline. Rogue One had major reshoots just a few months before it’s release to restructure the third act of the movie. In fact, looking into the future a bit, the still unnamed Episode IX of the series already fired one director and was again moved from a May release date to a December release date next year. So while it’s easy to point to stories of trouble going on behind the scenes and directors leaving midway though production, it’s important to remember that this might not be as out of the ordinary as you might think, and evidence shows that it’s still possible for a troubled production to produce a great movie.
Han Solo has always been the most popular of the three main characters in the the original Star Wars trilogy, so whether you felt it was necessary or not, it’s obvious that he was always going to get one of these spinoff movies. Solo is also unique among the three in that his story before A New Hope still remains largely unexplored. That is until now. Solo opens up about 10-14 years before A New Hope where a still teenage Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is living in the criminal underworld on Corellia with Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) his girlfriend. Upon stealing a sample of spaceship fuel (called coaxium), Han and Qi’ra attempt to use the stolen goods to escape their living situation and trade it for passage on an offworld transport. Han escapes but Qi’ra gets caught, leaving Han alone and vowing to come back to Corellia and free her.
Han joins the Imperial Navy to become a pilot but three years later we see him as a grounds solder in the infantry, having been kicked out of the Imperial flight academy. Unsatisfied with life in the Imperial service, Han meets a gang of criminals lead by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) who have infiltrated the Imperial ranks to secure necessary supplies for their upcoming job. With this new, less legal, path laid out before him, Han takes his first steps toward the Solo character that we’re familiar with, jumping at the chance to ditch the Imperials and join up with Beckett and company for their heist. Along the way, Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) also show up as does Han’s eventual pride and joy, his ship The Millennium Falcon.
Ehrenreich is given the thankless task of trying to bring a character to the screen that has been beloved for forty years now, while working with the handicap of not being Harrison Ford. While some people would have probably prefered this movie star a seventy-five year old Ford pretending to be a twenty-two year old Han through sheer stubbornness, Ehrenreich does a good job of bringing to life a character that feels like the Han Solo we’ve become familiar with. He does a good job portraying the character without resorting to simply doing a Harrison Ford impression. This is clearly a Han Solo that isn’t yet the character we know from the original trilogy, but it’s easy to see how the character Ehrenreich portrays is on the path to one day become the Solo we all know.
Like Ehrenreich, both Suotamo and Glover have to create new versions of characters that fans already love. Suotamo has the advantage of performing under heavy hair and makeup, and it’s likely that those who are unaware may not even realize that Chewbacca is being played by a different actor at this point. Donald Glover however might be the best of the three actors at not only reviving a beloved character from the past, but doing it in a way that feels fresh and exciting. Though Glover’s Lando is not a main character of the movie by any means, his time on screen is a very compelling argument that one of these Star Wars spinoff stories needs to be a Lando focused movie.
Solo: A Star Wars Story exists in an interesting place in the Star Wars franchise. It’s a prequel that doesn’t really need to exist, we get the entire Han Solo character arc we need from the main series, but it doesn’t hurt anything by existing. It really feels like a standalone story, and perhaps because of that, because of its distance from the rest of the franchise, it ends up being an exciting and somewhat different movie. Just like Rogue One has the feel of a war movie set in the Star Wars universe, Solo feels like a cross between a western and a heist movie. It gets to play with its genre and see what can still fit as a Star Wars movie. Yes it has familiar characters and a few places we’ve heard of before, but there are new characters, new factions, new relationships, and new stories. Some have complained that Star Wars feels like an empty galaxy because everything important keeps happening to the same family on the same three planets. Solo, if anything, makes the universe feel like a much bigger place. Yes, we know where the characters are all going to end up, but this feels like just one of the dozens of adventures Han and Chewie go on before winding up meeting Luke and Ben on Tatooine.