Instead of building a spin-off of Leia Organa who’s been a rebel since a teenager and became a general on top of being a princess, Disney decided to select Han Solo for the escapist thrills he can provide as a smuggler.
In fairness, the movie does provide escapist thrills as prescribed. Han Solo gets himself into trouble. He has a love interest, somehow gets a mentor, and eventually meets his future co-pilot and frenemy in the original trilogy. There’s pew pew skirmishes, sleazy joints, and the famous Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. It’s a fun movie with enough derring-do and references to keep you preoccupied.
The practical effects are on par with the original Star Wars movies. CG is only used to enhance scenes as needed. The worldbuilding is detailed, with dark – though at times makes everything hard to see – cinematography and grubby aesthetics. In one scene Beckett is introduced in the middle of a battlefield, his blaster swinging silhouette against an orange-tinted foggy backdrop.
All of this though is done through safe and staid storytelling.
At its core, Solo is a predictable B-movie heist story packaged as an action-adventure. Given the choices made by other films, a popcorn flick is not what you would expect from a Star Wars movie. A popcorn flick stars The Rock in some mind-numbing potboiler premise. Worse young Han Solo’s origins story is, for the lack of a better word, “meh”.
He basically just wants a ship to go back to Corellia, reunite with Qi’ra, and together escape the hard-knock life. It turns out that your amoral smuggler was just a simple-minded dude who became a criminal because of love. There’s not much to care about this love story and Alden has more chemistry with his jacket than anybody else. The plot just moves from one action beat to another.
It doesn’t help that Harrison Ford proves to be irreplaceable as Han Solo. No matter how many times the movie shows us the dice or how often Alden Solo smirks, he’s decent but can’t measure up to the original. Alden looks like the same age as Harrison in 1977 but he’s playing a different Han Solo, so there’s an instant disconnect there for fans who have expectations.
What you get is a bland dude that’s overshadowed by the rest of the cast.
Donald Glover as Lando easily steals every scene he’s in that this movie might as well be Lando and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Paul Bettany is perfect as Dryden Vos even though he’s a caricature villain. Woody Harrelson goes through the motions as Beckett but still decent. Emilia Clarke is good enough with minimal use of her eyebrow acting for Qi’ra. Even L3 and Chewbacca are more memorable.
In the end, Han Solo eventually gets the Millennium Falcon and doesn’t provide any compelling reason why this movie needs to exist. It doesn’t even give us a good reason why we should care about this guy. The backstory that he fills in isn’t even important enough in the first place. Of course, there’s going to be a sequel, with our heroes headed to a familiar place.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is nothing more than a potboiler for Disney.